The 27th president of the United States, William Howard Taft, was the country’s heaviest commander in chief and it has been recently reported that he lost 60 pounds in the early 1900s on what would be described now as a low-carb diet. This is from USA Today…
…Taft, who struggled with his weight for years, believed that his excess pounds contributed to many of his health issues including heartburn, indigestion, fatigue and restless sleep. He thought the key to longevity, health and restful sleep depended on losing weight and adhering to a physician-prescribed diet.
So in 1905, when Taft was serving as secretary of war, he hired London-based physician Nathaniel Yorke-Davies, the author of a popular diet book Foods for Fat: A Treatise on Corpulency and a Dietary for its Care, to supervise his weight-loss regimen, Levine says.
For 10 years, Taft and the doctor exchanged letters about food intake, weight loss, digestive issues and even bowel movements. Taft weighed himself almost every day and once a week his secretary sent copies of the weight records to the doctor, she says.
Yorke-Davies encouraged his patient to be physically active. Horseback riding was Taft’s main activity (he didn’t like how he looked sitting on a horse), but he also enjoyed golf, Levine says. “He did calisthenics and other exercises with what he called a physical culture man, which we would call a personal trainer.”
The physician spelled out exactly what Taft should eat and at what time of day. The diet included lots of lean meat, fish and vegetables without butter and gluten (wheat) biscuits, which Taft ordered from a bakery in London, Levine says. There was a list of forbidden (sugar, sweets) and permitted foods (vegetables, lean meat).
Taft dropped from 314 pounds in December 1905 to 255 pounds in April 1906 during the first course of treatment. His weight-loss plan “seems quite similar to what we would call a low-carb diet, but people didn’t even talk about carbs at that time,” Levine says.
The diet was roughly 2,000 to 2,100 calories a day with about 30% of the calories coming from carbohydrates; 30% from protein and about 40% from fat, says Catherine Champagne, professor of dietary assessment at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. She wasn’t involved in writing this article but did a nutrient analysis of the diet for USA TODAY…