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.
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.
3. Fat cigarettes will make you fat, but our special, slim lady cigarettes …
4. Another ad in which Lucky Strike attempts to fat shame ladies into smoking.
5. Reduce your flesh with weight-loss corsets, socks and muzzles.
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.”