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Alabama state employees have been asked to participate in Scale Back Alabama, a program where teams of four compete with each other with the goal of losing 10 lbs. in 10 weeks, and today was weigh-in. Don’t think for one minute I’m about to tell you my weight, but I will from time to time report on my progress as I attempt to shed those 10 lbs.

It’s no secret that a high percentage of Americans are overweight, and Alabama ranks #4 out of 50 states with the worst obesity problem. The three states that top that are West Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, in that order. We all want to be healthier and for many of us the first step is weight loss, but how is a historic foodie to pursue the craft of cooking that is so much a part of her life and manage a healthy weight and exercise level? For answers, I turned to early sources hoping they might provide some incentive to eat healthier while exercising more.

The following letter was published in 1829.

“From a fat Sportsman. Having had some conversation with you upon the subject before, and hearing that you have made it a matter of study, I am desirous of inquiring your opinion further—as to the safety and treatment by which weight may be diminished by medicine.

I am growing heavier and fatter than I wish to be (my ordinary weight, a few years ago, was fifteen stone, and I am now increased to nineteen). The exercise I take does not prevent it at all. I should not quite like to be put on a regimen of abstinence, but upon some system which, with moderate living, might gradually bring me back to about my old standard. All this time I am quite well, and should have little to complain of, were I not fond of sports which I pursued with greater convenience when I was thinner, and did I not observe that persons inclined to increase in size lose their activity rather too soon in life”.

William Wadd, to whom the letter was sent, observed the gentleman and agreed that, “he could not get through the woods so easily as he used to do”, and “it was not so easy as formerly to find a horse to carry him”. His advice to the sportsman? “Keep your eyes open, and your mouth shut”.

The sportsman could have greatly benefitted from abstaining from the two gallons of ale he admitted to ingesting daily, instead he sought weight loss pills from the good doctor. Wadd noted men who had successfully lost a great deal of weight due to financial failure and extreme poverty or by being imprisoned in some tower without access to food save what was brought to them.

Hopefully I can lose my 10 lbs. without my team-mates locking me in the basement for the next 10 weeks or suffering a debilitating loss of income which leaves me unable to purchase food. If I’m lucky, I’ll continue on and re-lose the 40 lbs. I’d lost prior to coming to work here when I gave up walking the three miles per day that helped me lose it in the first place. Over the next few weeks we’ll explore modern diet theories and try to rationalize them using 18th and 19th century sources. Blissful Meals Yall. Hide the gravy and pass the salad.

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