President Taft's Diet Secret: Cutting Carbs

Biggest president's health moves resemble today's: expert
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2013 9:25 AM CDT
President Taft's Diet Secret: Cutting Carbs
This file photo shows President William Howard Taft with his son Charles while on vacation in Beverly, Mass.   (AP Photo/File)

William Howard Taft—our fattest president—used dieting techniques that wouldn't be unusual today; in fact, he dropped 60 pounds on a low-carb regime, says historian Deborah Levine, who recently analyzed correspondence between Taft and his British doctor. The two wrote to each other for 10 years, during which time Taft weighed himself almost every day. The doctor pushed him to write down what he ate at every meal, and the physician's highly specific recommendations included lean meat, fish, vegetables, and gluten biscuits that were shipped to Taft from London. (Also OK: a lunchtime glass of "sugarless" wine.) Sweets weren't allowed, USA Today reports.

Taft dropped from 314 pounds in late 1905 to 255 pounds in early 1906. The weight didn't stay off, however: At Taft's inauguration in 1909, the 6'2" president weighed 354 pounds. It's a story that "sheds a lot of light on what we are going through now," Levine tells the New York Times. Her paper shows "how much the behavioral techniques at the time are similar to today's techniques. We advise daily weighing, and food diaries are a mainstay now," says another researcher. Still, today, Taft would probably have been offered weight-loss surgery, the Times notes. (Read more William Howard Taft stories.)

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