The Top 5 Weight Loss Trends of the '60s (for Betty Draper)

by Kevin Link

Fans of AMC’s 1960’s drama Mad Men have spent this season watching spurned housewife Betty Draper battle a ballooning waistline. But what techniques for weight loss did real housewives of the era employ? Ranging from the familiar to the bizarre, here are a few of the weight loss trends that dominated the 1960s and could have been recommended by Betty’s doctor (yes, the one who smokes).

The Drinking Man’s Diet – More Jack Daniels than Jenny Craig, The Drinking Man's Diet: How to Lose Weight with a Minimum of Willpower introduced the world to high protein, low carb approach to dieting we see today. The added perk was, of course, unlimited boozing (although beer was off the tap). The diet suggested limiting “carbos” to sixty grams a day and sticking to meat, vegetables, and liquid courage. Unfortunately, modern dieting research has taken the open bar off the menu, suggesting one to two drinks a day with balanced diet and exercise.

Belt Massagers – In the 1960’s ladies could just step on a belt massage machine and “wiggle away their jiggle.” Dr. Gustav Zander (Swedish physician, not a Bond villain) first developed belt massager “exercise” machines as a way to simulate the positive effects of a massage through mechanical means. While the benefits of massage such as increased circulation, removal of muscle toxins, and relaxation are very real, creative ad men of the era led the public to believe that body fat was melted and muscles were toned and in as a little as fifteen minutes a day. While modern belt massagers do exist, today’s weight loss experts put little faith in their ability to provide much more than a jittery massage.

Amphetamines – The go-to drug in Dr. Feel Good’s medicine bag, amphetamines under such names as Benzedrine and Dexamyl flooded pharmacies during the sixties. It was seen as a wonder drug used to treat depression, schizophrenia, sleepiness, and to “discourage emotion-related eating.” In 1962 an estimated 8 billion 10 milligram doses were dsitributed to handsome profits, leading many pharmacies and weight loss clinics to become little more than dispensaries for amphetamine producing drug companies. Due to its highly addictive nature and costly side effects, most amphetamines have been outlawed or relegated to closely-monitored prescriptions.

The Jejunal Ileal Bypass – Primitive in comparison to modern weight loss surgeries, this procedure bypassed all but the last eighteen inches of small intestine. Being that the small intestine does much of calorie absorbing in the digestive system, patients found they could eat whatever they wanted and still shrink their guts. Instant results (up to a hundred pounds of weight-loss in a couple of months) made it a popular procedure, but the benefits came with high risks. Incidences of liver failure, kidney stones, arthritis, and osteoporosis were linked to the procedure, and in the 1980’s it was banned from American practice.

Weight Watchers – Over half a century ago, a two-hundred and fourteen pound Brooklyn housewife began inviting friends and neighbors over to discuss dieting, trade recipes, and lend mutual support. These discussions turned into a movement, and in 1963 Weight Watchers program was open to the public. In its early years Weight Watchers had no food points to tally, just a set of eleven rules for healthy eating and basic guidelines for seeking active lifestyles. Though the program has changed a lot over the years, the same basic recipe for balanced diet and social support has led thousands of men and women to sustainable weight loss solutions.

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