How Women 100 Years Ago Lost Weight

foremothers and weightloss

womens history

A treadmill is source of exercise or a large clothes hanger. Mine is a usually a clothes hanger, but yesterday I actually used it and threw all the clothes on the bed. While I walked to nowhere and stared at a wall for forty-five minutes, I pondered how women of yesterday exercised. Certainly 100 years ago women didn’t have treadmills, gyms or yoga studios to visit, so, how did they exercise?

In an antique book I recently found titled, The Woman’s Book, published in 1907, I found this as an answer.

The chapter on “how to lose weight” (today’s term) or “how to lose excess flesh” (their term) informed women 100 years ago…

A certain amount of superficial fat can be dissipated by persistent, vigorous exertion of any kind. Mere thoroughgoing, general use of muscles, with its quickening of the circulations and its increase of elimination, through quickened breathing, perspiration’s, etc., will accomplish this much.

The Woman’s Book, by Women’s Home Companion, 1907

Translated for today’s woman…

Lose weight by burning calories with vigorous exercise.

This is how a woman in 1907 exercised to firm her waist. You may look at her and think, “Did this pose really work?”


Stand up and try it! I’ll wait right here…

How’d you do? Yup, I didn’t break a sweat either and my waistline didn’t shrink.

Then I started thinking. Look at what she is wearing. Women were not allowed to wear pants or to show their ankles, because society thought it was vulgar, so she is wearing socks and lace up boots and a dress with possibly a corset underneath.


I don’t know about you but I couldn’t do any exercise while wearing a corset or a dress.

Here is another pose for weight reduction, note the outfit and hair and no ankles showing:





On the other side, for the lady who needed to gain weight a 100 years ago, here is what the book recommended…I just eat Twinkies to achieve the same effect.




We may look at these women of long ago and think, “How funny is that? or Why did they do it like that?” They lived within the confines of societies norms and morals and took care of themselves the best way the knew how. Women of today show their ankles and their abs without being condemned for it. We have women of yesterday to thank for that freedom.

We are similar with our sisters of the past in the desire to be as healthy as we can be with the information we are given. I think these ladies a 100 years ago would high five us all if they could see us wearing our spandex pants while riding bikes, going to the gym, and pretty much exercising in any way we want, with our ankles showing and all.


High five girls!

About Tracy Heins 144 Articles
No Makeup Required (NMR) was founded in 2009 for you, and it has nothing to do with makeup.(Read why here) Here you will find inspiration, encouragement, wisdom, a new book, a new career...or yourself. We bring women from history and the present together to inspire YOU to be your OWN woman. We believe beauty is defined by being who you are. What's keeping you from being you? ...It's not you, it's The Masks. (Read more here) We work hard everyday giving you content to remove those masks. Welcome to a new kind of website for women.