Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

The History of Obesity: How Did We Get HERE?

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Diet and Health: With key to the calories. Lulu Hunt Peters, 1918

Obesity levels in the US had remained between 12  to 14 percent from 1960 to 1980. After 1980 – and especially after 1990 – obesity rates grew dramatically. The low-fat diet craze had begun in earnest, and low-fat diet books and programs multiplied and thrived for the next decade.

Weight loss support groups began to be popular, one being TOPS (Take off Pounds Sensibly) and if you maintained your desired weight, you graduated into the KOPS group (Keeps Off Pounds Sensibly). There were weekly meetings where women shared their successes and challenges and a “weight-in.   If at the weekly meetings, the scale revealed that the person had gained weight, they had to stand in the “pig” line and and as a group were made to sing the following to the tune of the Yale “Wiffenpoof Song”:


We are fat little pigs who ate too much, fat, fat, fat

We are stout little pigs who can’t resist food, food, food

Pounds can be lost if you’re really sincere

Pledge to TOPS for a year

Willpower helps us to be KOPS


And then they paid a fine. Talk about fat shaming!

Diet and Health: With key to the calories. Lulu Hunt Peters, 1918

The dietary guidelines went into overdrive with the advice to eat more carbohydrates. Food companies promptly began to take the fat out of their products and replace it with more sugar. By 1990, the Food Guide Pyramid recommended 6-11 servings a day  from the Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group. Problem solved?

You can guess what happened – OBESITY, THAT’S WHAT!! Now what?


One thought on “The History of Obesity: How Did We Get HERE?

  1. TOPS was formed in 1948. TOPS group meetings now have private weigh-ins before the meeting. And they offer awards for the “best loser” or meeting goals. Source: TOPS Website.


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