• Mon, May 6 2013

International No Diet Day: A Compendium Of Terrible Vintage Diet Ads

In celebration of “International No-Diet Day,” let’s take a look at some truly awful weight-loss advertising of yore. These vintage diet ads from magazines and newspapers espouse novel ways to “wash away fat” and “reduce your flesh,” and assure us that popularity and “slender ankles” can be ours if only we buy whatever snake oil, fad or better-living-through-chemistry creation they’re selling.

If you think today’s diet ads are particularly bad, just give these a gander. For much of the 20th century, marketers didn’t really bother with little things like subtlety, political correctness or even the barest minimum attempt at avoiding body shaming.

While there’s still plenty of wtf? weight-loss marketing around these days, you’d be hard-pressed to find ads that start by addressing “Fat People” or “Fleshy People,” or one advertising that “ugly fat makes you old before your time.” Um, I guess that’s progress?

1. Madame Nordica’s weight-reducing bath powder! From 1913.

Madame Nordica's weight-reducing bath powder!

Via CharmaineZoe on Flickr

2. The now infamous “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” campaign encouraged women to smoke cigarettes as a way of curbing food cravings.

reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet vintage ad

3. Fat cigarettes will make you fat, but our special, slim lady cigarettes …

Virginia Slim Cigarette Diet Ad

4. Another ad in which Lucky Strike attempts to fat shame ladies into smoking.

Lucky: It's toasted, and you'll get fat unless you smoke 'em

5. Reduce your flesh with weight-loss corsets, socks and muzzles.

reduce your flesh with diet socks and a muzzle

6. Bile beans! A couple of them taken nightly “enables to you ‘slim while you sleep.’” Everyone knows “slenderness is the way to health, beauty and fitness,” obviously, so “start with Bile Beans to-night and make sure of looking and feeling your best in 1940.”

Bile Beans vintage diet ad

Via Fit Villians on Facebook

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  • Eileen

    I did not realize that fat ankles were such a big concern.

    • http://twitter.com/enbrown Elizabeth

      I guess if it was the only thing visible beneath the hoop skirt ….