Vanity Fair, December 1916


The Art of Banting Without Trouble or Expense

By Pelham Grenville

NOTHING is pleasanter for a conscientious author, who for years has been turning out stuff that nobody reads, than to hit on a subject which must infallibly rivet the attention of one and all from the opening sentence. It is with gusto, not unmixed with vim, that I embark on this little effort, for I know that the title alone is enough to make you hang onto your copy of Vanity Fair for another quarter of an hour, regardless of the broad hints of your suffering family who are dying to get a glimpse of the photograph of Mrs. Vernon Castle, to which they have been looking forward since the twentieth of last month. Nobody can ignore an article on How to Reduce, for nowadays everybody is reducing. A wave of anti-fat sentiment has hit the community, and is spreading daily. In a thousand restaurants a thousand lunchers are refusing potatoes with every evidence of horror and disgust, and many a prudent spender who in a mad moment has invited one of the personnel of the chorus to sup with him is breathing freely once more as the fair guest passes up the champagne and lobster and announces that all she is allowed to take is a cracker and a glass of vichy.


THE first thing every reducer must realize is the deadliness of proteids. Or is it phosphates? That is the worst of writing this sort of article without a doctor at one’s elbow. I am absolutely solid on the point that there is something which the patient must avoid, but I can’t remember what it is. I seem to recollect someone saying something about carbohydrates. Perhaps that was it. At any rate it is best to be on the safe side, so when the waiter sidles to your chair and murmurs that the carbohydrates are very nice today, better refuse them.

As regards proteids, I am not so certain. It is essential either to take them or not to take them—I cannot recall which. A simple method of solving the difficulty would be to invite to dinner some relative of little value—some uncle or aunt who would not be missed if anything went wrong,—give him some proteids and watch the result. If he seems to thrive on them, all right: go ahead. If, however, he turns blue and dies in his tracks, you will know that they are to be avoided. As in nearly every other crisis in life, common-sense will pull you through.


THERE is one point, in connection with this matter of reducing, which the young reader would do well to consider. Too many people nowadays, on finding themselves a trifle overweight, start without a second thought to get rid of the superabundance of tissue. The prudent man, however, will pause and weigh the matter in all its aspects. The question which every young man must solve is whether he would rather take off a few pounds and be slim or whether it would not be better to feed up a bit and get stout enough to go into Keystone Komedy.


WE will assume—or else it will be impossible to continue this article—that, after pondering earnestly, you have decided to abandon the hope of an artistic career with the movies and to be slim. Very well. Every article on the subject which I have ever read has opened with a series of specimen menus for reducers. I cannot do better than to follow the same method. Breakfast Menu: Don’t take any breakfast. Lunch Menu: Avoid Lunch. Dinner Menu: Cut out dinner. Supper Menu: Same as lunch. (Note: Should you become hungry during the night, go to sleep again.)

The question of exercise is inseparably connected with the subject of reducing. I append a few simple hints.—Morning: Wind your watch. Afternoon: Read the football bulletins. Evening: Whistle for a taxi. Night: Undress. (Note: Should you be too fatigued by nightfall to do this, put your pajamas on over your clothes.) This course, conscientiously followed, would make Frank MacIntyre look like Eddie Foy in a few weeks.


MOST experts on the subject of reducing insist on plenty of air. The mistake they make, in my opinion, is in recommending only one brand of air, the well-known “fresh.” A moment’s reflection will tell you that this cannot be right. If you are going to stick to the same kind of air, why not to the same kind of food? At all costs monotony must be avoided in these cures, or the patient becomes peeved and bored and abandons the course. We must have variety. I append a few simple airs which are within the reach of the humblest purse.

Subway: This fine, bracing atmosphere may be obtained all over the city at the very reasonable cost of five cents a breathe. It is best to take it during the rush-hour, as it then has a solidity and punch which it lacks at less congested periods.

Office: There are few more sustaining airs than that of a good stuffy over-heated office. This atmosphere has the additional advantage in these days of the high cost of living that you are paid to breathe it.

Motion Picture House: A ripe, fruity air, highly recommended. Price, 15 cents. To produce the best results, it should be practically solid, as it is at nearly all the best places.

Apartment: Cost, nil, being included in rent. If the smallest member of the Bogany troupe inhaled these airs resolutely for a day or two, you would not be able to see him at all.


THE broad principle of reducing, as any doctor will tell you, is to adopt a system which will alter as little as possible your normal method of living. That is where most systems fail. They start off in a genial, spacious way by saying “Eat and drink all that you want,” and then, just as you are reaching out for the menu, they add “Except—” and reel off a long list of all the things which you would rather be dead than do without. It occurs to me that I have been a little severe on the patient in my selection of menus. I accordingly append an alternative list, which will be found more appetizing.

Breakfast: Steak, chops, boiled eggs, fried eggs, shirred eggs, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, muffins, and old Scotch ale. Lunch: All kinds of soups, all kinds of fish, all kinds of meat, all kinds of dessert. Cocktails, highballs, liqueurs of all descriptions. Dinner: Start at top of bill-of-fare and go on as long as you can. Champagne, brandy, dark beer, Sauterne, liqueurs. Supper: Lobster, crab-meat, strawberry shortcake, Burgundy, and a nut sundae. During Night: Welsh rarebit and a gin fizz.

But what’s the use of taking this banting business too seriously? As nobody ever continues any system of reducing for more than a day, it makes no earthly difference what you take or don’t take.