OPEN LETTER ON BEING OVERWEIGHT (FOURTH EDITION, 1869)

Banting Letter on Corpulence – In Today’s English

By Candice Spence| August 2nd, 2017

OPEN LETTER ON BEING OVERWEIGHT

by WILLIAM BANTING 1869 and modernised by Jay Pillay, 2017

Original Cover

OPEN LETTER ON BANTING By WILLIAM BANTING

FOURTH EDITION (1869) WITH A PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR MUCH INFORMATION FROM CORRESPONDENTS AND EVIDENCE CONFIRMING THE BENEFIT OF “BANTING,” THE DIETARY SYSTEM WHICH HE RECOMMENDED TO THE PUBLIC PUBLISHED BY HARRISON, 59, PALL MALL, LONDON

Bookseller to the Queen and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales

Introduction to the 2017 Edition

William Banting was a retired funeral undertaker living in London, UK. He was born in about 1796. He published the fourth edition of his “Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public” in May 1869, at age 73. The English language has changed much over the 147 years since then, and reading Banting’s letter now is as difficult as quitting bread and rice and potatoes! This is my attempt at making his original 10-page letter more easily accessible to us all.
At about age 66, William Banting went on the eating plan that bears his name today. He died in 1878, at age 82. It could be that the world’s only celebrity undertaker banted for 16 years.
Banting wrote in extremely long sentences – I found myself losing the sense of the idea he was trying to convey, long before the full stop. There were also many words, and word arrangements, no longer in use today. I have tried to get into the mind of the original author, and express his thoughts in today’s English. I’ve also strongly tried to avoid imposing my current knowledge of the Banting diet on what he wrote so long ago. I hope I have succeeded. There is one exception to this.

Banting was given a meal plan (not quite a diet) by his medical advisor, Mr Harvey. When Banting refers to this meal plan, he writes about “the system,” or “my system,” or “the dietary system.” In this document, I’ve used the word “Banting” as it is used now – to refer to a particular system of eating. What gives me the boldness to do this is the fact that this usage of his name for a defined system of human nutrition, began during his own lifetime. Another benefit is that it makes reading this letter easier, and more relevant to the 21st century.
For emphasis, I’ve made frequent use of italics. I like the way italics converts text into conversation.
The correspondence that Banting refers to on the original cover of his open letter (shown below – and my modernisation starts here), is not included in this 2017 edition.

PRICE ONE SHILLING

Preface to the Fourth Edition (1869)
It is with pride and satisfaction that I publish a fourth edition of my Open Letter on Being Overweight, believing that it will continue to interest and benefit readers. The only defect (if I may call it that) of the previous editions, was that I was unable to offer evidence of how effective Banting is, apart from my own experience. Five years have now passed since the third edition (that was sold world-wide). It gives me much pleasure to know that I have been instrumental in publicising a little-known and much-neglected law of nature. How popular has the third edition been? It sold a phenomenal 63,000 copies in the UK alone, was translated into foreign languages, and widely circulated in France, Germany, and the United States. In addition to all this, I have received over 2,000 letters, all very complimentary.
Being intensely interested in the problem of overweight, I encouraged others to send me their experiences. Certainly, this took a great deal of my time and money. Fortunately I had the resources needed; moreover I considered it a privilege to serve others in this way.
Mr. William Harvey (my medical adviser), hammered home the basics of his meal plan. I subsequently confirmed its effectiveness through my own experience. This meant that I was able to speak from deep confidence, and this insulated me from the ridicule and abuse sent my way in the early days. I think my detractors were annoyed by my silence! I am filled with pity for those eminent folk who dismissed the meal plan as humbug, and considered me a fool. At no stage did I seek to chase money, or seek any personal gain, except to publicise to other sufferers, a system I’ve found so effective. I thank the press for the general fairness of its criticisms. When I was quite unjustly attacked by the British Association, the Morning Advertiser (of 3 October 1865) published an effective defence. I am greatly indebted to that newspaper.

My objectives in publishing this fourth edition are:

  • To offer my further personal experience on Banting since I published the third edition in 1864 (five years ago).
  • To describe the benefits gained by others who are on Banting – thus confirming my experience.
  • To detail how the profit made (by the sale of the third edition) was distributed to various charitable organisations.

I have been strongly and frequently advised to publish some of the highly interesting reports I have received from correspondents, to prove the value of correct eating as one gets older. I’ve been reluctant to do this, arguing that if my personal evidence is dismissed, then no amount of third-party support will make any difference. I’ve not relented. I hope that the evidence presented here will be considered without prejudice, and may even convince the most hardened doubter.
I have been accused of not consulting prominent members of the medical profession about my condition. I am definitely not guilty of this charge. I assure the public that, for the 20 years before seeing Mr Harvey, I saw doctors only for conditions that were the inevitable result of being overweight. I consulted many of them, and none were of second-rate reputation! None of them diagnosed the real cause of my ailments. My turnaround came only when I appealed to my friend Mr Harvey – and I saw him because of deafness.

Of course, I didn’t say to anyone, “Help solve my overweight problem.” I was told, and I really believed, that that condition was incurable. Mr Harvey was the first to point out that all my disorders resulted because I as overweight.
I think it probable that Mr Harvey was most surprised by my excellent results. After all, he must have given the same advice to others suffering from overweight. Most, I think, ignored his prescription, or were not strict in applying it. Please give me credit for this: I complied completely with his advice. You could say I was the perfect banter! But to him alone belongs the credit for the cure. It took me over 20 years to get to him, but he was the first to put me on the road to good health.

I have never claimed to have any specialist medical knowledge, or to know why Banting works so well. This has not changed. The reason for this fourth edition is to pass on a further five years’ worth of experience. I strongly hope that the evidence presented here will encourage medical specialists to research this important truth: “A change of diet is frequently necessary in advanced age to ensure good health, particularly in those who are overweight.”

In the early stages of my crusade against the parasite of overweight, some writers have dwelt (negatively) on my four meals a day. They presumed that this was four heavy meals – though no part of my Letter says this. Since adulthood, I have been a moderate eater. I believe few men, as healthy and active as I am, eat less than I do in any 24-hour period. I am thoroughly convinced that it is quality alone you need to worry about, and not quantity. This has been denied by some critics, but on the evidence of me and many of my correspondents, they are mistaken.

I completely acknowledge that people of larger build may eat more of the prescribed diet, but they must be guided by their own judgement, while abiding by the principles.
Sadly, I had never heard of the book “The Physiology of Taste” by Brillat-Savarin of France, or other books by Bernard and Dancel. However, I was confident that our own medical men (second to none in Europe) were well-informed of any scientific fact discovered in Paris, or anywhere. So I never dreamed of consulting any foreign authorities (as the media thinks I should) in my search of a cure for being overweight. Still, I am glad that my open letter has brought all this to light! My only wish is that debate and research continues until the system is thoroughly understood by every thinking person on the planet.
Again and again I’ve been told that Banting is as old as the hills. I don’t deny this. But it’s quite new to me and my many correspondents. This question is relevant; if it’s been around for so long, why hasn’t it been recommended to us by doctors? I certainly hope that things will change now.

Some writers have suggested that I had no serious complaints in my overweight state. Are failing sight and hearing not serious complaints? What about an umbilical rupture (requiring a truss), and bandages for weak knees and ankles – are these not serious complaints? I think that only sufferers from overweight can truly appreciate its miseries. Only sufferers from overweight can truly appreciate the benefits of Banting – a system that can so easily solve the problem!

What motivates me always is a desire to publicise the benefits of the system now called “Banting”. Additionally, I want to ensure that no one experiences ill-effects caused by Banting. Where the newspapers published unfavourable reports, I really worked at finding the authors. I found that the complaints have no more foundation than the frequent reports of my death! A month after the third edition of my open letter was published, I received an abusive letter from an anonymous correspondent. To him (who is no longer unknown to me), I say – your letter is no argument against the system. It merely shows your lack of good manners and common sense.

I sent copies of my letter to leading professional men – and received many kind and practical replies. Some of these are attached. One of them, I need to quote here. “The system you found so beneficial has long been practised by athletes. But it was always coupled with lots of sweaty workouts.” In my opinion, this hints at a solution to the problem. Banting has always been used to promote muscle growth in healthy people, but has not been recommended to those who are overweight simply because they can’t do the sweaty workouts. My experience now proves beyond any doubt that, even without vigorous exercise, Banting remedies overweight. (In any case, the sickly overweight person just cannot engage in strenuous activity.)

I heard that an eminent doctor was actually distributing my letter in his rooms! I contacted him to confirm this – and he invited me to visit. There, on his table, was a pile of my letters. “Your Mr Harvey was not the discoverer of the system,” he said. “That credit belongs to Mr Bernard of Paris.” And I replied – “Mr Harvey told me that, yes, he got the information from Mr Bernard’s lectures in Paris. But that was in the context of diabetes and other diseases. Mr Harvey applied it to the overweight problem. What’s more, he said, if my experience had been reported by a doctor, the public would have taken far less notice of it.”
In English and in foreign journals, I have been the object of much ridicule. My only goal was to bring relief to sufferers of obesity. If I’ve accomplished this goal, in however small a way, then I’m happy. I find in this sufficient compensation for the contempt and mockery in these journals.

My death has been reported, even to myself (by those who don’t know me)! Others have said that I’m seriously ill with boils and other ailments, because of my being on Banting. I need to say this firmly. Right now, I don’t know what gout or a headache is. I always eat, drink, and sleep well. I have no real illness since using the system recommended to me by Mr Harvey. In 1867, however, an infection I’d had on my hands for many years, flared up again. But this was cured by staying on Banting. So I am offering no quack remedy, no overnight fix. Instead, I am offering my experience of a perfectly harmless system (I believe), based on professional advice. Banting replaces a generous eating plan for a miserly one; it burns up superfluous fat; it alleviates (if not cures) gout; it remedies boils and indigestion; it banishes headaches – in short, it makes life more enjoyable, especially for the elderly. If you hear any adverse reports of my health, please send me a letter, so that I may correct any errors! I cannot take back anything I’ve written, but I’m glad that in this fourth edition of my open letter, I can present another five years’ worth of experience in support of Banting.

I’m sure there are fewer overweight people now, due to rigid (or even partial) adherence to Banting. To those still overweight people that I see in my travels around England – may this fourth edition be useful. If you’re overweight, and you’re going to try Banting, start by consulting your doctor. Then weight yourself on Day Zero. Follow the system rigidly for just a week, and then weigh yourself again on Day 7. I assure you that your loss of weight will surprise you – and you’ll be motivated to continue. You may well ask, “What if my illnesses are not caused by overweight?” My reply is that I doubt that any serious harm will result from so short a trial.

Many readers have asked for details about the morning beverage I recommended. It is an alkaline drink, with this brand name: “B~ Mag. Carbon.” But be cautious. What suited me may not suit you; please talk to your doctor first.
Financial matters are perhaps of little consequence to the public. But to me, they are of utmost importance. In divulging the financial report relevant to my open letters, I wish to confirm that, yes, I can be trusted. I believe in transparency.

First Edition
The 1,000 copies printed were presented to clubs, medical and other professional societies, and to the public.

Second Edition
Again, 1,000 copies were given to the public. Some customers actually preferred to buy this letter – so I sold a further 500 copies, for the benefit of my “Printers’ Sick Fund.” All of this cost me about 40 pounds. I received nothing in return.

Third Edition (1864)
I was advised to charge a shilling each (that’s 1/20th of a pound), for a print run of 20,000 copies. This would cover the cost of printing, publishing, and advertising. Since profit was not my aim, I sold them at six pence each (a hundred pence make a pound). Very happily, 50,000 copies were sold in eight months! Since then, another 13,000 have been sold. What happened to all the money? I have pleasure in giving a detailed financial report here.

[Banting here informs us of a net profit of 225 pounds and 10 shillings. This entire amount was donated to 12 different hospitals and charitable organisations, which are named. The balance left is zero. He then goes on with his Preface…]

Many reports mentioned the fortune I made from selling my open letters. So much for that!
Since publishing my third edition, my weight has varied by no more than about 3.4kg on both sides of 70kg. It varied most when I was trying to discover what made me gain weight. For me, sugar is the main enemy. Repeated experiments confirm this: If I have just 140g of sugar over a 7-day period (that’s 4 teaspoons a day), I will increase my weight by half a kilogram! My other ‘forbidden foods’ (bread, beer, potatoes, milk, and butter) don’t produce this kind of dramatic result. Hence I am a little more relaxed about eating them. Some people (as you can see in their letters) find that other foods make them put on weight.

And my current diet? I never eat bread unless it is thinly sliced, and well toasted. I seldom use butter – perhaps just half a kilogram a year. I hardly take milk at all. Occasionally, I may eat a potato. With alcohol, I find that a weak light claret (red wine), or brandy, gin, and whisky, with water, suit me best. When I do have fruit, it is never raw. I always cook it, but with nothing to sweeten it. All kinds of above-ground vegetables suit me well. For a year and a half now, I have taken no medicines. I am convinced that once you choose the right foods, it’s quality that counts most. Quantity is just humbug! A confession is appropriate here. I love green peas. When they are in season, I increase in both mass and waistline. But I quite forgive myself for this seasonal binging.
The attached correspondence is a small part of over 1,800 letters I’ve received. Nearly all the writers are most grateful for the benefits of my system. (I would have included the one or two that were opposed to Banting, but I chose not to, since the writers did not reveal their identities.) I think it would be in your interest to read these letters; some of the details there may apply to you. To any reader who wants to read the originals of these letters, I would be happy to oblige.
I was hopeful that verification of Banting would have come from within the United Kingdom. That was not to be. Instead, I am indebted to the well-known physician and professor, Dr Niemeyer, who delivered a lecture in December 1865, to an audience that included the German King. This occurred in Stuttgart, Germany. I have carefully translated his lecture, and include it as the last article here. I heartily thank him for verifying the truth of Banting, for honouring my medical advisor Mr William Harvey, and for commending me in publishing Banting via these open letters.

WILLIAM BANTING
Kensington
May 1869

 

 

Open Letter on Being Overweight (1869)

Among the parasites that plague us all, I cannot think of any more distressing than being overweight. (No, calling obesity a ‘parasite’ is not an exaggeration.) I’ve endured several years of being overweight, but that’s behind me now. Through this letter, I wish to share my experience with others, so they may benefit from what I’ve been through. Indeed, I could almost say that I’ve been saved by a miracle – except that the real cause was quite simple, and easily accessible to everyone.
It seems to me that being overweight is very little understood by doctors, or they would long ago have found the cure for this sad disease. And yes, the general public is not sympathetic either – or they would stop their sneering remarks and judgemental glances at those of us who are overweight! I sincerely hope that this letter will lead to more open debate about this subject, and more empathy for its sufferers.
In previous editions of this letter, I had nothing to offer but my own experiences. My motive was to open the problem of being overweight to public investigation. I hope, as I did then, that the reader will read this edition seriously, ignoring any faults of style or language.
What action should I take? At one time I thought I should ask the editor of the Lancet (a leading medical journal) to publish this letter. But why should they pay any attention to an ordinary Joe like me? In the April 1864 edition of Cornhill Magazine, I read a fine article entitled, What is the Cause of Obesity? It made a good job of covering the effects of being overweight, but offered no solutions. I objected to some parts of the article, and toyed with the idea of sending the editor my experience of the subject. Again, I abandoned the idea – why should they take notice of this man in the street? I then decided to publish the letter, with no other motive than to help other similarly overweight people. I was (and am) convinced that being overweight is quite curable. I realised that I needed to include details, as well as general observations about my past, to show that I’d tried everything I could to find a cure for my problem.
When I think of my fifty years’ business career, I can safely say that few men have led a more active life, both physically and mentally. Nor have I over-indulged in eating or drinking. The reason I became overweight after retiring is not linked to any of these. Come now – I eat common things: bread, milk, butter, beer, sugar, and potatoes. I believed that I eat rather more than a man of my age should, and this initiated the parasite of obesity. I also believed that being overweight was more a discomfort, than a real threat to health.
I’d rather not go into how the organs of the body are renewed and maintained – that’s the field of the medical profession. None of my family (or the families of both my parents) was overweight. From my earliest years, I dreaded this parasite. In my thirties and forties, I found my weight creeping upwards. I consulted an eminent doctor, who informed me that ‘this comes with age.’ In fact, a well-respected physician told me he had gained just under half a kilogram every year since his early twenties. In addition to his medicine, he advised more exercise. Yet the parasite (that’s my weight) increased. Like the barnacles on a ship, if it did not destroy the structure, it certainly slowed its progress. I’d been in ‘dock’ about twenty times in as many years, to get the barnacles off. I tried everything, to no avail.
I think no overweight person is immune to the sneers and whispered remarks of other people. I’m also reluctant to join a queue of any sort, because others would need to make way for me. And of course, there’d be more veiled glances and under-the-breath comments. Although I thought I was as unconcerned about these things as most men, yet I preferred to avoid all such encounters – thus depriving myself of many benefits, all because of the parasite of overweight.
I could not bend to tie my shoelaces. Nor could I do the many things one ordinarily has to do, without considerable pain; this, I think, only the overweight will understand. I was compelled to go down stairs very slowly, backwards (I kid you not), to reduce the pressure on my ankle and knee joints. I would huff and puff after the slightest exertion, especially when going up stairs. I acted on medical advice – especially eating in moderation – but just got more infirm, without losing weight. And then came an outbreak of the most obnoxious boils on my body! Two of them were carbuncles – they were huge, and had multiple openings. For this, I had to resort to surgery.
At this point (about nine years ago) Turkish baths were in vogue. I was advised to try them. After the first few, I gained immense relief in walking. (Turkish baths must be good for restoring joint elasticity.) Thinking I’d found a magic bullet, I ramped up the baths to three times a week! After taking some ninety baths, I shed no more than about three kilograms. So I quit the program. But let’s not knock Turkish baths; they are decidedly good for colds, rheumatism and other ailments.
My increasing weight, I thought, made worse my umbilical hernia (a hernia near my navel) – even if it did not cause it. Another ailment (which I won’t name), was also worsened. I saw more medical specialists – all of whom were very courteous, but sadly did not help me at all. Then in August 1862 (at age 66), my sight and hearing began to fail. I consulted a hearing specialist, who was almost amused by my case. He syringed my ears, and then poked around on the outside. He did not ask about any other conditions I had, nor did he allow me the time to even name them. So much for patient care!
My plight went downhill, becoming even worse than when J (who recommended the ear specialist to me) went to him. Then the doctor went on his annual holiday; this turned out to be good news, because it forced me to look elsewhere for help. Happily, I found the right man. Unhesitatingly, he pointed out that overweight was the cause of my problems! He prescribed a particular meal plan, and no real ‘medicine’ except a morning tonic. As a result, my hearing improved greatly, and my weight reduced too.
I think that most food we ordinarily eat may be okay during our youth. But these same foods may NOT be okay as our age advances. (Under particular circumstances they may be acceptable, but as a staple, constant food, they may be decidedly bad.) I was advised to abstain from these items as much as I can: milk, sugar, potatoes, bread, butter, and beer. For ease of reference, I will call these my forbidden foods. Let’s back up a bit – these foods were what I primarily lived on for years! These foods, said my excellent adviser, contain starch, which tended to create fat, and should be avoided altogether. Oops – I thought that I had little left to live upon, but my kind friend soon showed me that there was plenty. I was only too happy to give the plan a fair trial, and, within a few days, found immense benefit. Let’s now give you my Banting meal plan in detail, in TABLE 1 below. (I think few people would want more sumptuous meals!)

 

TABLE 1. My Banting Meal Plan

This meal plan leads to an excellent night’s rest, with from six to eight hours’ sound sleep.
At breakfast, I generally take a table spoonful of ‘spirit’ to soften my dry toast. This may be acceptable to others. Perhaps I don’t avoid starchy stuff 100%, but I scrupulously avoid my forbidden foods, which are known to contain them.
On rising in the morning I did take a table spoonful of a special ‘alkaline corrective cordial’, in a wine-glass of water. I was grateful for this, as it seemed to neutralise acidity in the stomach after digestion. After a year of doing this, I gradually omitted it, and now do it only seldom.
From my experience I believe that the forbidden foods, although harmless in youth, lead to a weight problem as you age. “But I’ve eaten these things for years! How could they be bad now?” Please don’t fall into this trap. Let the facts I present in this letter be your guide. If you are overweight, I sincerely recommend that you try Banting. I do this for no other reason than to share the blessings I received in a few short months. And carrying around no excess weight is a blessing by itself!
I certainly don’t recommend that every overweight person rush into changing their diet. Please act advisedly, after a full consultation with your doctor.
My old meal plan was firmly anchored in lots of tea with plenty of milk, sugar, and buttered toast. Then there was meat, beer, much bread (of which I was always very fond), pastries and fruit tarts, and more bread and milk again. Thanks to the forbidden foods, I had little comfort, and far less sound sleep.
Being overweight causes no actual pain, but must strain all internal organs, pressing them together with undue force. This, certainly, was my experience. What other changes have I experienced? Let me list them.

  • I’m 73 years old. I have better heath now, than I’ve had for the last 26 years. That’s since my late 40’s!
  • I’ve had no real inconvenience in applying the Banting ‘remedy’ to my overweight problem.
  • I’ve lost 33cm in girth, and 22.7kg in mass.
  • I can do everything necessary for normal living by myself.
  • My umbilical hernia is cured.
  • My sight and hearing are surprisingly good for a person my age.
  • My other ailments have become matters of history.

I was so grateful for my miracle, that I gladly paid my advisor’s usual fees. Then out of pure thankfulness, I gave him an extra fifty pounds, for him to donate to his favourite hospitals. Of course, he continues to be my medical advisor of choice. I never can hope to repay him for the turnaround he’s caused in my life!
I am most thankful to God for his mercy. At the same time, I will continue to publicise my success as much as I can. If you have an overweight problem like mine (and there are thousands of you out there), I am convinced that you will profit like me, if you take similar action to mine. Let me quickly add that, since our constitutions are not alike, a different course of treatment may be advised. So seek professional medical advice first.
My very considerate medical advisor is not an obesity specialist, but he is at the very top of his profession when it comes to all matters to do with hearing. He knows full well that the disease I suffered from (being overweight) is frequently the cause of poor hearing. I trust that many of my friends, who have the same problem as I had, will travel the same road as I did.
How much weight did I actually lose, and over what period did this occur? I can do no better than provide TABLE 2 below. (I think too that this shows how effective the system is.)

 

TABLE 2. My Weight Loss on Banting

Starting point: My weight on 26 August 1862 was 92.0kg –and I was then 66 years old.

Please note that this was a very gradual reduction in weight. This is no quick-weight-loss scam. Rather, it’s a slow-and-steady weight reduction scheme. Since the last date in the above table, I’ve lost another 1.8kg.
My reduced waistline was considered impossible by my respected medical advisor, and even by my own friends. Then I put my former clothing over the clothes I currently wore – and that convinced them! My miracle was brought about by nearly no medicine. Rather, I owe it nearly entirely to a change in eating habits. If you’d asked me before all this began, what I thought of the Banting meal plan I now follow, I would have exclaimed, “Why, that’s dangerously generous! You’re going to put on weight!”
I am told by all who know me that my personal appearance has greatly improved, and that I seem to radiate good health. This may be their opinion, but I can honestly say that I feel restored in health, bodily and mentally, and appear to have more energy than before. Moreover, I enjoy all that I eat and drink, and I sleep well. All symptoms of acidity, indigestion, and heartburn (with which I was frequently troubled) have vanished. I’ve quit using boot-hooks (to get my boots on), and other such aids. I can now bend with ease and freedom. I no longer have the occasional dizzy spells I used to experience. A huge blessing is that I no longer use knee-bandages (which I had worn for many years), and my umbilical support device is now history too.
After publishing my open letter, I felt that I should send copies of it to my former medical advisers. They did not dispute the system, but thought it quite unwise for a man my age to follow it. Some even thought it was too great a personal sacrifice to be adopted. None appeared to understand the discomfort of being overweight. One physician, as already stated, was sure that overweight accompanied advancing age – end of story. Another (recommended to me by a third) actually caused me to add to my weight! The bottom line is that the medical fraternity don’t empathise with people suffering from being overweight. May I put it this way? – You can’t wear my shoes unless you know what it’s like to carry around an extra 20kg, 24/7. And you carry it everywhere on your body.
Start Banting, and its effects are measurable within a week of Day Zero. This naturally motivates you to go on. And so you persevere for a few weeks more, at which point you become convinced beyond doubt of the effectiveness of the system.
What do I ask of you? I ask only that, if you are suffering from the scourge of being overweight, then please give Banting a fair trial for just one month. I assure you that you will benefit so much, that you will want to go on. You will be sacrificing convenient food (admittedly), for food that is more generous and nutritious. The simple ‘meat and above-ground vegetables’ Banting meal plan seems to be the fuel that burns up obesity. The conventional forbidden-food meal plan seems to put out that fire.
Many people are Banting after consultation with their own medical advisers. Others are following their own convictions based on my open letter. I recommend that all act advisedly, in case their constitutions should differ from mine.
I am now in a happy state. I don’t hesitate to eat anything that takes my fancy – but I watch the consequences. I then stop eating whatever adds to my weight.
I think this a good system for those who spend long periods sitting, and have no time for exercise.
Bread may be the staff of life, as it is termed. I think that is so, particularly during youth. I feel that as your age advances, bread should be thoroughly toasted, as I take it. My impression is that any starchy or carbohydrate-laden food tends to cause the disease of overweight in advanced life. I think the best course is to avoid all starchy foods, or foods that become starch in the stomach. Always take medical advice.
A kind friend in the insurance industry has given me a table of the weight you should be, for different heights.

[He includes the table here. It is just one table, presumably for males. He must have had many friends in the insurance industry. (William Banting had retired from running a very successful funeral business – his company buried English royalty.) He then points out that he should be lighter for his height, but does not mention his height at all. He adds that he will not deliberately try to reach this weight, but neither will he be concerned if he sheds more weight.]

I am certainly more sensitive to cold since I have lost my fat. However, this is easily solved by putting on a jersey or coat! Many of my friends said, as I progressed, “Oh! You have done well so far, but take care you don’t go too far.” I’ve been doing this for six years now; I think my Banting meal plan is unlikely to take me too far. Having reached a weight proportional to my age and height, I won’t hesitate to enjoy something fattening occasionally. But I’ll always watch the effect on my body. Remember the biblical story of Lazarus and the rich man? If I over-indulge at the table of the rich man, I’ll balance that by spending equal time (or more time) with Lazarus!
The medical profession little understands how difficult life is for those of us cursed with the parasite of obesity. Becoming overweight is nearly always a very gradual process. Until it is quite advanced, you pay little attention to it. You may even congratulate yourself on your trim appearance, and not look for a remedy for something you don’t consider evil. Yes, evil it certainly is, when in excess. And, in my opinion, it will arrive at the point of excess, unless stopped by appropriate action.
I believe that some may willingly ‘invest’ in a get-slim-quick scheme – they desire results so desperately. But this is not the objective of Banting. In my humble opinion, to reduce a disease of this nature too quickly could be dangerous. And to expect quick weight loss (when you’ve taken years to gain the weight) is quite unreasonable. If you have this expectation, and don’t achieve it, you may surrender to the attitude best expressed by this statement: “I’m overweight; that’s my constitution. I’m doomed to live with it.” You’d then surrender, and return to your previous eating habits. Your friends will even encourage you to retreat (I see evidence of this in many letters I have). They would then become unthinking accomplices to the misery of someone they care for!
I’ve heard the remark that Banting is ‘too good and too expensive’ for a poor man. However, I rarely meet a poor man suffering from excess weight. Could it be because the poor cannot afford to eat foods that create fat? Where overweigh does exist in the poor, I have no doubt that it can be remedied by keeping away from the forbidden foods, and taking cheaper substitutes as advised by a doctor. And the poor can indeed get medical advice free, via the state.
I have a strong feeling that gout (another terrible parasite upon humanity) might be greatly relieved, if not cured, by Banting (but again, not without advice). I’ve taken flak for using the word ‘parasite’ for fat– people say that it refers only to a living, creeping thing. I have a two-fold response to this. Firstly, I use the word figuratively – fat is a burden to good health. Secondly, if fat is not a devious creeping enemy, than I don’t know what is! I can equally apply the word to rheumatism, fluid accumulation in the body, and many other diseases.
If you suffer from being overweight, I need to emphasise this point. Get an accurate weight of yourself when you start, and then get weighed weekly or monthly. The change will be quite clear – and this will arm you with confidence as you continue. For myself, I regret not taking a photograph of my original figure in 1862 (seven years ago). It would be fascinating to place that next to a current photo. I think it would amuse many. But, more importantly, it would convince many that such transformation could result from exchanging a meagre diet for a far more generous one, with proper advice.
If you achieve success using Banting, kindly let me know. I would value this information greatly. From the letters I have received (since the first edition of this open letter), I have no doubt that the system is a great success already.
Take another look at my weight-loss table on Page 11. Some people have expressed doubts about the ‘vanishing point’ of the reducing weight – how low can you go? What is remarkable is that the most weight is lost in the first 48 hours of starting the system. The reduction is then more gradual. My own experience, coupled with that of others, is that, provided medical advice is obtained about your particular case, no harm could be done. Once prescribed medication (if any) has done its work, nature will be free to move in her own beautiful way. She will then work steadily towards speedy relief and final cure. For me, the vanishing point is reached when the disease is stopped, and the parasite of being overweight is zapped into annihilation.
In my humble judgment, Banting is the key in the treatment of being overweight. The diet becomes, in a certain sense, medicine. Only superfluous deposits of fat are attacked. My medical friends inform me that the diet also purifies the blood, and strengthens muscles and organs. Moreover, I believe it sweetens living, if it does not actually prolong life.
Many of my correspondents wanted details of my medical advisor. (It’s apparent that there are several Mr Harveys involved in the field of overweight.) I’m glad of this opportunity to reveal the details of the medical advisor to whom I owe so much. He is Mr. WILLIAM HARVEY, F.R.C.S., of No. 2, Soho Square, London, W. (It is quite co-incidental that we have the same first name.)
My task is nearly over. I hope that my modest effort in publishing this open letter will be beneficial to fellow-sufferers. I also trust that the medical fraternity will devote more time to researching the disease of overweight. I look forward to the day when, scattered throughout the United Kingdom, we will have hundreds of able medical practitioners specialising in the treatment of overweight. Perhaps the day will come when this disease is very rare!

WILLIAM BANTING
Former address:
27 St. James’s Street
Piccadilly

Current address:
No. 4 The Terrace
Kensington

May 1869

Appendix: Banting up-dated and Summarised (2017)
Perhaps inspired by William Banting a century-and-a-half ago, research into being overweight continues. How far have we come since the Banting open letter? Here are the Ten Commandments of Banting, as at January 2017.

  • It’s a high fat, medium protein, low carbohydrate way of eating.
  • Choose real foods and cook them yourself.
  • Fat is not the enemy. Eat as much as you like.
  • Eat only when you are hungry. Stop when full.
  • Don’t eat when you’re not hungry.
  • Stop snacking. (You won’t need to)
  • No sugar. Substitute with Stevia, Xylitol or Erythritol.
  • No grains of any kind. We mean it.
  • Very little fruit, preferably none.
  • Eat eggs, they are healthy.

Acknowledgements
I sourced the original William Banting open letter at the website: http://www.citigraphics.net/citigrafx/stories/food/Banting%20Book.PDF

The Ten Commandments of Banting are from https://banting.org/

Jay Pillay
Southport
Kwa-Zulu Natal
South Africa
January 2017

Email: Jayv.pillay@gmail.co.za