Woman's Day Magazine Diet Smackdown: Does 1956 or 2013 Give Better Dieting Advice?

Diet Advice in Woman's Day Magazine: February 2013 vs February 1956

As a long-time collector and reader of vintage women's magazines, I can honestly say that I find them to be far more entertaining and practical than any present day periodical. I thought it would be fun and hopefully enlightening to compare diet advice between two February issues of Woman's Day, one from 1956 and the other from 2013.

You'll notice that the 1956 copy has a photo of a puppy, but it's not a famous pup. Vintage Woman's Day magazines usually had photos of cute pets, kids or pretty scenes instead of a celebrity. Not only did they have no relation to any of the articles inside, but it was also rare to find one promoting a reducing diet on the cover, or anything at all:

What a contrast to today! Also, I have compared some of the basic categories in the magazine's  contents. First is from 1956, the second from 2013:

Price: .07 / $1.99
Pages: 134 / 158
Categories: Articles and Fiction, Home Workshop and Decorating, Needlework, Fashion, Food, The How-To Section, Monthly Features / Embrace the Day, At Home, Your Style, Cookbook, Money, In Every Issue, Heart and Health Handbook
Ads for Prescription Meds*: 0 / 11, many of which are at least two full pages each
Ads for Diet Pills/Shakes/Weight Reducing Products*: 1 / 9 (One is for cats)
*Approximate as I may have missed some ads.

So what are Paula's 6 new rules of eating to lose weight and stay slim?
  1. Moderation, Not Deprivation
  2. Portion Control
  3. No Diet Food
  4. Eat Slowly and Enjoy It
  5. Rethink Your Plate
  6. Don't Eat Carbs Alone
Ms. Dean claims to control her sweet cravings by sucking on a preferably butterscotch "See's Lollypop" after dinner. I went to See's website and couldn't find an ingredient list for their products; only an allergen list and explanation that they use corn syrup but not high fructose corn syrup. According to this Candy blog, See's lollipops are 70 calories each, and this amazon.com listing states they are made with "heavy cream, butter, and rich butterscotch." I fail to see how this is a good "substitute" for a sweet craving. It IS a sweet with added fat!
    Ms. Dean also states that "rethinking her plate" means that when she eats out she orders coleslaw instead of fries. According to fitday.com, one cup of coleslaw has 195 calories and 14.6 grams of fat, whereas one cup of french fries has 152 calories and 7.8 grams of fat. Not only would fries be the less fattening of the two, but an even leaner choice would be a baked potato or salad without dressing.

    One last comment on her advice is that she suggests you try "new" vegetables like Brussels sprouts: "They're selling them in those microwave steam bags, so I steam them, then put them in a frying pan with a little butter and olive oil until some of the outer leaves start getting a little brown." Why add unnecessary fat? They taste wonderful lightly steamed!

    Ms. Dean makes no mention of counting calories or measuring portions scientifically other than by sight (a "fistful" of meat.) She suggests that you focus on "fun activities" like painting because you can just "sit down" and forget about everything else. While losing oneself in creative pursuits seems like a healthy outlet and a way to avoid overeating, sitting more generally isn't a good way to lose weight or stay in shape.

    Did you enjoy this blog post? I'll be writing more "then" vs "now" entries!

    Woman's Day magazine excerpts © Hearst Communications.


    1. I really liked this post! I find that most of the "new tricks" in a lot of magazines today are all rehashed versions of the same hints - and none of them focus on the right things. I've made it a game now when I go to the grocery store to look for all the "lose weight fast with this magic trick" headlines on the magazines - it's more fun than it probably should be!

    2. Great post. I absolutely despise current "women's magazines" because they are so shallow- seems to me there's a lot more (and better) info in the old ones. And really, Paula Deen is held up as an expert in weight loss? Really?!

    3. Good morning Averyl,
      I love the look of the older magazine, simple and sweet, the new version is too busy and looks stressful!!
      I think this is a pretty neat topic, I would like to see more. It would be even cooler to see a new magazine be wiser then its older counterpart...but doubtful! haha!

      All the best, Michelle

    4. Angela, I also have fun reading some of the headlines. I'm glad you liked the post- thanks!

      SusieQT I agree with you about current magazines. And I'm with you- Paula Deen, diet expert!?

      Michelle, hello! Glad you like it! I've yet to find anything evolved in a current women's magazine!

    5. Love this post, Averyl, keep them coming!
      Now I want to go find some of those lovely magazines myself. They're such fun to read!

    6. Such fun reading your posts- like Marisa said, keep 'em coming!

    7. Another one here who loves the comparison!

    8. Ha! That was great! I love that brussel sprouts are 'new'? Lol! ..And I'm pretty sure that whole 'steam in the bag' thing is cancer waiting to happen. I guess that lollipop replaces what?... cheesecake? Oh Paula!

      1. I agree. Besides not owning a microwave I won't eat food that's been cooked in plastic for that reason! Your comment made me laugh. Thanks!

    9. I agree, on the microwave steaming in the bag stuff. My dad was a chemical engineer and when we first got a microwave he was always warning us about plastics in the microwave. Glass and waxed paper were the only "ok's".

      I also LOVE old magazines, the series stories, all goodies. Now they all look the same. Blah.

      1. I do my best to avoid having any of the food I eat come in contact with hot plastic. Remember when frozen dinners came in aluminum trays?

        "Blah" is right!

    10. Hi Averyl,

      I know this is an older post, but I couldn't help but add a comment re microwaves. Good for you - and others - for not having them! I haven't had one since my ex-husband moved out and took it with him in 1996. Twenty years later and I can't imagine life WITH one. Cooking from scratch is so much tastier and, no doubt, healthier.

      While there are over-the-stove models, many sit on counters. I LOVE the open look I have on my kitchen counters with no appliances at all...my small coffee maker is stored away, and I usually use a cone pour-thru (Melita style) filter holder to make coffee. No appliances, just a small calendar, tea pot, and Mason jars with tea bags. The tidiness is welcome after coming home from a chaotic workplace.

      Thanks again for a great blog!



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