Dubious Diets- The Bread Diet


vintage photo woman in lingerie 1930s

Dubious diets are as American as…well…. all-you-can-eat apple pie.

Relying on fad diets to shed a few pounds has been handed down from gullible generation to gullible generation willing to swallow anything promising a trim figure.

In 1938 The American Institute of Baking served up white bread as a “proper part of modern reducing diets” in its authoritative booklet “The Right Way to Right Weight.”

Let’s take a look at how one 1930’s gal went from gloomy to giddy and found her slender self with the help of a loaf of bread.

A Glutton for Gluten

vintage illustration girl eating bread

Vintage Sunbeam Bread advertisement

Like most Americans, Gertie Gottlieb was a glutton for gluten. Whether bread, biscuits or Parker House rolls, Gertie gobbled ‘em up with gusto.

But like most gals, Gertie longed for a slender silhouette.

All the romance she got was out of magazines. And she had plenty of time to read them too.

A wee bit stout, she craved the right contours, eyeing with envy all the smart spring fashions pictured in the women’s magazines.

Flirtatious fashions, tailored for trimness. Fashions that called for a slim, youthful figure…”the lovely silhouette every woman so eagerly desires.”

1930s womens  fashion illustration

Vintage Women’s Fashion Illustration 1934 “McCall’s Magazine” “Flirtation Fashions- Tailored into Trimness. The waistline is dreamily defined; Molded along modern lines for debutantes who crave the right contours.”

A Weigh We Go

Heaven knows, Gertie tried her hand at reducing.

“Being the modern common sense way to diet,” she knew enough to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”

“Light a Lucky Strike,” the cigarette ads advised. “When fattening sweets tempt and you dread extra weight, light a Lucky instead. The sensible and sane way of reducing, just a common sense method of retaining a slender figure.”

vintage Lucky Strike ad and Fashion illustration 1930s

At the end of the 1920’s a new slogan for Lucky Strikes appeared everywhere, advising to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” suggesting smoking as common sense way of reducing. Celebrity endorsements, both male and female offered their personal testimony, such as the 1929 ad (L) featuring Grace Hay Drummond-Hay who was the first woman to travel around the world by air. The slim silhouette so in demand (L) Vintage ad Lucky Strike Cigarettes – “Smoke a Lucky instead of sweets” (R) Vintage Women’s Fashion Illustration 1934

But instead of a slim figure she ended up with smokers hack.

Gertie gobbled fat-reducing gum drops, chewed Slends Fat-Reducing Gum, and devoured so many grapefruits on the Hollywood Diet that she darn near felt she deserved a star of her own in front of Graumanns Chinese Theater.

The famous fat-busting banana and skim milk diet went bust, as did the bathtub filled with reducing bath salts with names like Lesser Slim Figure Bath and Everywoman’s Flesh Reducer which may have worked for every woman, but not for poor Gertie.

And speaking of bathtubs, she even tried her hand at washing away the fat with Fat-O-No soap hoping to lather up to slim down. And don’t get her started on all those thyroid pills, even if all the screen stars swore by them.

All she ended up with was a bad case of the jitters. But nothing a hot buttered bun wouldn’t fix!

A Diet Fit for Loafers

Down in the dumps, Gertie  worried if she was doomed to go through life feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

She had just about given up when her pal Mitzi told her about an amazing diet that was sweeping the nation. All Gertie needed was the proper guidance.

Gertie’s eyes glazed over at the thought of yet another diet till she heard the magic words: Bread.

For this gluten-loving gal it was a godsend.

vintage Diet  ad   womens fashion 1930s

The Bread Diet gives you delicious, satisfying meals- takes off weight without fatigue or nervous strain. (L) 1939 Ad Bread Diet, American Institute of Baking (R) 1934s Fashion Illustration McCall’s Magazine

The Bread Diet promised m’lady that in a few short weeks the pounds would just melt away all while enjoying your fill of the staff of life.

Authorized by the American Institute of Baking, their ads promised “To gain alluring slimness don’t think you have to starve yourself. Take the safe way to slenderness. Go on the Bread Diet.”

A registered nurse, Mitzi confirmed to Gertie that this diet was no gimmick. but  based on the most up to date, verifiable nutritional knowledge. “The bread diet is a scientific well-balanced diet based on years of research in leading universities and laboratories,” Mitzi informed her friend, handing her the advertisement.

1930s women

Mitzi explained: “ Important in this diet is the amount of bread- 2 slices with each meal. Far reaching scientific tests have proved bread can be an important aid in reducing. It is a valuable combination of carbohydrates and proteins. In this reducing diet, bread helps you burn up more completely the fat you are losing. Excess weight is converted into energy.”


1930s woman climbing stairs

Vintage Bread Diet Ad 1939

Who could be more trustworthy than a doctor who by the way endorsed this program.

Reading further she pointed out a fact progressive doctors and nutritionists have long known: “Bread gives your body more than energy. It is a valuable source of muscle-building protein. Actually we get more proteins from bread and other wheat products than from any other class of food. Bread in this reducing diet helps keep muscles firm and strong!”


Vintage ad The Bread Diet 1939

Vintage ad The Bread Diet 1939

The reason it was so successful was simple:

“Unlike so many reducing diets that cut down too much on needed food and often exhaust the system, the diet explained, the Bread Diet supplies the food elements the body needs. “

vintage photo woman ironing 1930s

Vintage Bread Diet Ad 1939

The diet came with a warning to avoid the most dangerous pitfalls of most fad diets: “If you are reducing, take care not to rob your body of the food fuel it need. Then the fat that you lose is not burned up properly…a harmful residue is left in the system often causing fatigue irritability and lowered resistance.”

You could avoid these dangers by following the bread diet.

So if you’re dieting don’t think you have to give up bread. By following the safe easy Bread diet you can enjoy 6 slices of bread every day and lose weight!

Gertie was in good-for-you gluten heaven. Ain’t life grand!


© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014.


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One comment

  1. Pingback: A Girl and Her Girdle Pt II | Envisioning The American Dream

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