Chapter

The Triumph of the Will

Helen Zoe Veit

in Modern Food, Moral Food

Published by University of North Carolina Press

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9781469607702
Published online July 2014 | e-ISBN: 9781469612751
The Triumph of the Will

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This chapter focuses on Nina Putnam's weight loss narrative, which touched upon many of the themes underlying Americans' changing ideas about bodies and bodily mastery in the 1910s through the 1930s: the open deprecation of the overweight, the difficulties of dieting and the preeminent importance of willpower in doing so successfully, the joy in being thin, and the centrality of thinness to sex appeal and marital happiness, particularly for women. Weight loss testimonies were not new. They had appeared in the mid-nineteenth century in a few tracts aimed at men, most famously in William Banting's popular Letter on Corpulence, first published in 1863 and then many times thereafter. However, it was only starting in the 1910s, as thinness became the dominant beauty ideal for both men and women, that weight loss narratives saw their full flowering as a popular new kind of success story, a kind of success obtainable by almost anybody, in theory.

Keywords: Nina Putnam; weight loss; dieting; William Banting; beauty ideal

Chapter.  10426 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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