William Banting’s Belly Off Diet

The Belly Off member from the 1800s who created a revolutionary diet


Leigh Schaller |

Back in the 1800s William Banting was just a regular undertaker struggling to shed his belly, despite living what he describes as an active life. When he eventually succeeded in shedding the kilos, his diet would go on to became the basis for weight loss advice until the 1950s, before later influencing the Paleo Diet and Noakes’ High Fat low Carb diet.

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Location: Brompton Cemetery, London. (Formerly from Kensington, London.)

Occupation: Undertaker

Weight Loss: 16 kilograms

Time to Goal: Nine and a half months

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Here is a short version of his story taken from an open letter he wrote describing his Belly Off success titled, Letter on Corpulence.

“..my corpulence and subsequent obesity was not through neglect of necessary bodily activity, nor from excessive eating, drinking or self-indulgence of any kind, except that I partook of the simple aliments or bread, milk, butter, beer, sugar and potatoes more freely than my aged nature required.”

Initially Banting was told that he needed to get more exercise if he wanted to lose weight; so he turned to some early morning rowing.

“I had the command of a good, heavy safe boat, lived near a river and adopted it for a couple of hours in the early morning. It is true I gained muscular vigour, but with it a prodigious appetite, which I was compelled to indulge, and consequently increased in weight. . ”

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Banting continued to spend lots of money and time consulting doctors and experts in a desperate yet fruitless attempt to find a solution to his obesity, until a physician told him that he needed to get cut down on the carbs and sugar in his diet.

“The items from which I was advised to abstain as much as possible were: -Bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes, which had been the main (and I thought innocent) elements of my existence. These said my excellent adviser, contain starch and saccharine, tending to create fat and should be avoided altogether.”

Note: Some of the original Banting diet recommendations namely avoiding butter and milk are no longer regarded as law by the diet’s modern disciples.

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Below you’ll find Banting’s diet:

Breakfast
Around 110-140 grams of either beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon or cold meat of any kind except pork.

A large cup of tea without milk and sugar, a little biscuit and 1 ounce (28 grams) of toast (that’s less than one slice of sandwich bread).

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Lunch

Between 140 – 170 grams of fish or meat.

A vegetable, but not potatoes

1 ounce slice of toast.

“Fruit out of a pudding.”

Some poultry or game.

2 -3 glasses of red wine or sherry (Champagne, port and beer were “forbidden”)

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Tea

Around 85grams of fruit.

A rusk “or two”.

Another sugar and milkless cup of tea

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Supper

140 – 170 grams of fish or meat.

“A glass or two” of wine.

Previously Banting’s diet consisted of lots bread and milk for breakfast together with tea that contained milk and sugar. Lunch consisted of “meat, beer and much bread,” followed by more bread at tea time and “a fruit tart or bread and milk for supper”.

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The Result
Previously Banting was forced to walk down the stairs backwards, because the pain on his joints was unbearable if he descended in a conventional manner. Following the diet, Banting was able to descend, “naturally, with perfect ease”.

Banting also claims that his eyesight and hearing greatly improved and his umbilical hernia also gave him less trouble following the adoption of the diet.

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