I heard a doctor on a low-carb podcast say that he happened to be looking at photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and realised that there was not a single overweight person in the images.
Now, obviously there were a few plump individuals in the past in some societies at some times, but the explosion of obesity does seem to be a modern epidemic—and, as we know, coincides with the unfortunate confluence of (a) stupid and counterproductive public health advice and (b) a greater availability of refined carbohydrate.
So I wondered about other old photographs. What could I see? I thought to look for crowd scenes, because then I'd get a chance to see more people. Unfortunately, crowd scenes tend to mean people are crowded together closer or photographed at a distance or only their heads can be seen.
I'm not claiming this is "research" in any formal sense—just a quick look round. But perhaps other people would have some better examples, and it seems worth posting what I found anyway. These pictures are all from England and Wales from the 1920s to the 1950s:
Football Association Cup Final at Wembley, Middlesex in 1923:
I don't think anyone in shot is obese—so far as it's possible to tell.
Marchers on the jarrow Crusade of 1936:
Hard to tell, but I don't think so.
I then thought of looking for pictures from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and found this from the Rhodda Valley in Wales:
Far more difficult to tell there. The girl near the centre of the picture just behind the old lady in black looks like she may be a bit hefty (but perhaps it's her face-shape and her clothes blending tonally with those of her neighbours). On the whole I think these people are "normal"—not necessarily thin but not actually obese.
That search also led me to a page where there was not only a picture of children taking part in a Coronation Tableau, but a set of picture of 1950s schoolchildren. i think this is worth posting—I can't actually see a single overweight child in any of these pictures, which is telling. I'm not sure you'd see that nowadays:
[url=http://www.burrowmoor.net/Centenary%20photos/1950s/1950pics.htm]New Page 4[/url]
Maybe two chubby boys. And another thing: count the pairs of spectacles, hence the children with myopia.
It is very telling, IMO. Good stuff Lewis.
My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all became obese in the 1980s. Before that, the younger two generations were thin and the oldest was just matronly plump.
You want to learn even more, study Weston Price's photographs in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. There is so much to learn there. I can look at pictures of American Civil War soldiers and notice that the officers clearly came from well-nourished families, while the privates were much more likely to have the close-set eyes of early nutritional defects. Thirty years later you see that among the common folk, not only are the eyes changing, but it's becoming more common to see the ears sticking out, weak chins, sunken cheekbones, and pinched noses of children born to nutrient-deplete parents.
In general, the upper classes of America continue to show mostly strong chins, broad cheeks and foreheads, and broad shoulders through the early 1900s, but then factory food (the white biscuits and corn syrup and crisco that have by this time become the staples of poor America) begins to filter ... up ... and become the cool thing to do.
Looking at a crowd today, there are almost no broad faces at all, unless I happen to see someone from a developing country. Even among those, you start to see some of the signs, but it's much less common than in the standard US face. For us, pinched noses, weak chins, narrow shoulders are becoming the norm. I'm noticing that it's hard to find beautiful celebrities among the youngest folks. Paris Hilton is a prime example of the face of a child born to a nutrient-deplete parent, but look at the stars all across the board. Right now I'm thinking of Lee Adama from BG - he's supposed to be the hero, the stud, and he does have the great chin and cheeks, but his nose is so pinched. You didn't see that in the stud stars of past generations. James Dean, Cary Grant, Mel Gibson, Spencer Tracey, all have strong faces and shoulders. Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt have strong faces, but they're a lot older than the current crop (I took these names from an article called "Who's the Next Big Male Movie Star?"): Emile Hirsch (broad upper face, weak jaw), Shia LaBeouf (shudder!), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (not good)... It's not about being drop-dead gorgeous, it's about the reality that apparently even Hollywood is not finding anyone who has good bone structure. What used to be normal 200 years ago was increasingly rare in the 20th century, but could still be found in those whose faces were put on screen for millions, but is now a true rarity.
Same is true for female stars. Compare the women you see in a photo of Civil War nurses to the facial structure you see in any crowd of women today, and even among Hollywood. Lauren Hutton has fabulous structure; Jennifer Anniston has a terribly pinched nose and close set eyes, yet is one of the prettiest her generation could offer. Angelina Jolie is a rare exception, but again, she's 15 years older than the current crop of Olsens (very weak jaws), Kirsten Dunst (closest to a broad face, but not there), Lindsay Lohan (weak overall), & Kim Kardashian (very narrow nose & chin). Think how beautiful they would have been if their full genetic heritage had been expressed if only their parents and grandparents had eaten well!
Thanks Lewis, it's definitely interesting stuff. I like what you bring to the forum here.
@MamaGrok: Regarding Joseph Gordon-Levitt; my wife and I watched a movie with him in it a while ago (pretty sure it was 500 Days of Summer) and in the opening scene, it shows him sitting on a bench and the first thought I had was "where's his other shoudler?! Is he missing an arm?" Part of it was just the camera angle, but part of it is that he has super-narrow shoulders. I'm glad mine are fairly broad :-) Thanks to my ancestors for not eating a super-crapy diet!
in old photos i have seen plenty of heavy people from the early 1900s. i wouldnt consider them obese by todays standards but definitely big (sort of like winston churchill), usually wearing overalls as well so maybe they were farmers
There's a picture of my paternal grandmother in 1920, I think she's 18 or 19 at that time and she's a larger lady, probably pretty close to what we'd call obese today. Then again she was a wealthy farmer's daughter so that could have had a lot to do with it. She may be more along the lines of "healthy" than obese. I never met her.
I've been told I have a rather strong looking facial structure but then again, I couldn't tell a strong bone structure from a weak one.
You're right; Gordon-Levitt has extremely narrow physique. And Lebeouf looks almost as though parts of his jawline and forehead were just airbrushed out of photos. There's just nothing there where there should be.
It's painful. It took me a while to train my eye to know what to look for, but then you start to see it *every*where. And it's most painful to see it in my own children, who got progressively worse as my own nutrient status became more deplete, b/c I had no idea it was, nor how to replenish it.
And as we grow, there's more and more obesity. Someone on this forum recently said he's been teaching university students for close to 40 years. In the last ten years, they've become almost universally either fat or skinny fat. I notice the same thing among high school students. HS used to be the pinnacle of thin fit girls and lean fit guys, but most are now either plump or skinny fat, on their way to becoming fat. So strange to see.
Strong (face nearly straight down from top to jaw, distinct angle to chin, nose looks easy to breathe through (broad line & broad at bottom), eyes spaced well):
These are guys with builds like Martin Short getting roles like Indiana Jones and Cobra Commander .... is that all we've got now?
Although even my "strong" examples aren't as strong as these:
[img]http://www.polynesia.com/newsletters/may-2006%20images/kap.jpg[/img] (look at the amazingly wide curve of his dental palate - you could fit 100 teeth in there!)[img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_rNpe-2nVMPY/TS7bRsxyGQI/AAAAAAAAAAo/2NXOGGfnYnQ/s1600/Melanesians.jpg[/img]
Strong face: [img]http://m.ngoisao.net/pda/Files/Subject/3B/9C/C1/5F/lauren-hutton.jpg[/img][img]http://imgsoha.vcmedia.vn/Article/20101013041845786/joan-131010-1_220.jpg[/img]
It seems like on the "strong faces," the features are well spread, but on the others, especially Hilton & Kardashian, the features seem squeezed together all in the middle, and very small. One thing Price noted was that in those on their traditional diets, family resemblances were very strong, even extending throughout an ethnicity to the extent that people of the same ethnicity but on different remote islands looked like siblings. But once nutrition became poor, family resemblances were much more random, and people tended to look more like others with their own particular facial weakness than members of their own family.
In that vein, I think Hilton kind of resembles Kardashian. I see many people on modern diets in his book who look more like people I know (who don't really resemble their own parents) than like their parents.
Tha twas fun. back to work for me now. Thanks for the stimulating post!