Calories & Corsets: A History of Dieting over 2000 Years by Louise Foxcroft - review by Joan Smith

Joan Smith

More of Jesus, Less of Me

Calories & Corsets: A History of Dieting over 2000 Years


Profile Books 240pp £14.99

A book about dieting is almost bound by law to have a picture of a woman on the cover. But Louise Foxcroft’s entertaining and occasionally stomach-churning history of the subject is a revelation about the weight problems of men. Daniel Lambert, who was born in Leicester in 1770, was just over five feet tall and weighed fifty-two stone; when he died, at the age of thirty-nine, he was rolled through the streets in a wheeled coffin to his grave: ‘Corpulency’, it was said at the time, ‘constantly increased until the clogged machinery of life stood still, and this prodigy of Mammon was numbered with the dead.’

Dr Johnson struggled with his weight, getting fatter and fatter as he got older. As for Coleridge, I’m not sure I will be able to think of the poet in future without shuddering over his own graphic description of the consequences of over-eating:

Weight, Langour, & the soul-sickening Necessity of attending

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