I have recently been on a health kick, and I just have this feeling that this one is going to stick (I just laughed aloud, because I say this every time. But I REALLY mean it this time. Swear). All of my smart eating choices and exercise routines have gotten me thinking, though: Were women always so obsessed with having abs and being toned? (Not to say that all women are now, but it is an obvious trend for women to step up their muscle game). I know the answer is no, but I wanted to know more about the role of exercise and health through the decades. I also wanted to take a closer look at what was considered the 'ideal' figure for each decade. So, without further adieu, lets get started on this history lesson. (Feel free to just look at the pictures).
I've decided to start with the 1940s. In today's society, there is a lot of body hatred. We see it mostly take the form of people hating on those that are obese. Especially women. Why don't we take a little trip back to the 1940s? Look at these two advertisements! You could flip through any magazine and see these adds like these sprawled across the pages.
Photos via www.about-face.org
I'll say this just once: There is no right or wrong body type. You have what you have, so work with it!
Okay. So its obvious that this is the antithesis of the ads being run now! Back then, all ladies wanted to be more shapely and show off that 'attractive flesh'. Women also were told to avoid doing anything too strenuous, since forming muscles or exerting yourself to the point of sweating was very unfeminine. So, naturally, if they were overweight, they turned to machines to do all the work for them. Makes sense. Many overweight women spent LOTS AND LOTS of money on machines that promised weight loss. A typical machine that promised weight loss was essentially just a platform with a band that you would wrap around yourself. The band would then vibrate around your middle and bum, and promise that you would lose the weight in no time. Yeah, I think we all know how well that works. Another thing that was different in the 1940s, was the leisure outfit. Sure, you could wear your leisure outfit to 'work out' on your exercise machine, but you best believe you would never wear that bad boy out. As a woman, 'work out' clothes were not permitted to be worn outside the house. See, this is where I'd be screwed. My entire life can be summed up in a pair of Nikes and black running tights. Not being able to wear that sounds like my own personal hell. Lets move on to the 1950s, shall we?
During the 1950s, things started to change! Numerous organizations took the initiative to inform people of the consequences of low fitness levels. All of these organizations with acronyms that all seem too similar to me, began to give a sense of legitimacy to the idea of fitness as a healthy way to live. Children were exposed to a sort of national physical exam that tested their lower body strength, and sadly, about 50% of children failed this. Women were about the same as they were in the 40s. It still wasn't considered lady-like to sweat and the idea of a woman gaining muscle mass was still found unattractive. The woman in the 1950s became known for 'restricting'. The idea of cutting back a lot on your food intake took off in popularity. Weight loss rather than gain began to take off during the 50s. Check out this advertisement for ways to 'reduce':
Okay. On to the 1960s. Wanna hear something pretty cool? In 1961, a woman in New York started inviting her friends over to her house to talk about the best way to lose weight. They all experienced such good results working together, that in 1963, her little club became public under the name 'Weight Watchers'. Get it! Also, the 60s saw the invention of the artificial sweetener, which brought about a lot of 'diet' items.What up Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, I appreciate you, but I don't drink you because I only do it big. The 1960s also saw an influx of exercise records. Why not keep your feet still and twist that midsection to whittle away the pounds? Sounds good. I'm in!
Photo via fitsugar.com
Ah. The 70s. Wanna have a Tab Cola? Heck yes you do! In the 1970s, they advertized this soda as a great way to lose weight. Another diet trend that was making the rounds was the grapefruit diet! This basically stated that you need to eat one full or half grapefruit with each meal. This low carb diet originally started in the 1930s, and reinvented itself many times over. I've never been particularly interested in the 1970s (sue me), so lets get a move on to the 1980s.
This is all you need to know.
I hope you all enjoyed this brief history lesson. If you didn't, at least you got to treasure this last picture. You are all very welcome.
Until next time...