Τετάρτη, 4 Ιανουαρίου 2012

Lord Byron: The celebrity diet icon

Another new year and another host of celebrity dieters, but it's not a modern phenomenon. Lord Byron was one of first diet icons and helped kick off the public's obsession with how celebrities lose weight, says historian Louise Foxcroft.
Lord Byron



There has never been any shortage of celebrities who have followed diets, endorsed them or tried to sell us one of their own devising, even back as far as the 1800s.
The "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" Lord Byron was thought of as the embodiment of the ethereal poet, but he actually had a "morbid propensity to fatten". Like today's celebrities, he worked hard to maintain his figure.
At Cambridge University, his horror of being fat led to a shockingly strict diet, partly to get thin and partly to keep his mind sharp. Existing on biscuits and soda water or potatoes drenched in vinegar, he wore woolly layers to sweat off the pounds and measured himself obsessively. Then he binged on huge meals, finishing off with a necessarily large dose of magnesia.
Ιn 1806 Byron weighed 13st 12lbs (88kg), but he was under 9st by 1811 (57kg) - a huge weight loss of nearly 5st (32kg). We know all this from records at Berry Bros & Rudd, a wine merchants of St James's, London.
Here, stylish men-about-town weighed themselves on hanging scales, as personal bathroom scales were an early 20th Century phenomenon. The Regency dandy, Beau Brummell, weighed himself there over 40 times between 1815 and 1822. He went down from 12st 10lbs (81kg) to 10st 13lbs (69kg).
At the infamous Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva, in 1816, Byron was living on just a thin slice of bread and a cup of tea for breakfast and a light vegetable dinner with a bottle or two of seltzer water tinged with Vin de Grave. In the evening he stretched to a cup of green tea, but certainly took no milk or sugar.
To suppress the inevitable hunger pangs, he smoked cigars. By 1822, he had starved himself into a very poor state of health, even though he knew that obsessive dieting was "the cause of more than half our maladies".

Because of Byron's huge cultural influence, there was a great deal of worry about the effect his dieting was having on the youth of the day. Dr George Beard attacked the popular Victorian association between scanty eating and delicacy of mind because impressionable Romantics were restricting themselves to vinegar and rice to get the fashionably thin and pale look.

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