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Next PagePrevious Page Yorke-Davies Reducing Diet

Dr. Nathaniel Yorke-Davies was a London physician specializing in "dietetics." Taft began a weight loss diet under his supervision in late 1905.

York-Davies and Taft exchanged trans-Atlantic letters frequently over the next several months. There is no evidence they ever met.

The diet was spectacularly successful. Between December 1905 and mid-April 1906, Taft lost 70 pounds. He wrote his wife: "I have had to pay ... $400 for clothes alterations, etc., so you see that considering my bills for medical advice and my tailor's bill, a reduction of seventy pounds is not an inexpensive luxury."

The Yorke-Davies reducing diet was spelled out for Taft in the letter below. It has similarities to the low-carbohydrate diets popular today.

Warning: This page is not intended as medical advice or as a suggestion for personal health practices. Consult your physician if you contemplate dieting.

Consulting Hours,
    11 to 4, Sat 11 to 3,
  Telephone 262 Paddington
44, Harley Street,
October 27, 1905.      

To Wm. Howard Taft Esq,
Secretary for War.

My dear Sir,

I am in receipt of your letter with the form you have filled up. Also your second letter enclosing the draft for £l3:6:11 as you kindly say, and for which I thank you.

I notice all your remarks and there is no doubt that you can carry a large weight, but still your present weight is very excessive and it is very important that you should now go through a proper course of dieting and reduce to the extent of sixty or eighty pounds or more. I have been recently dieting a Mr Bull in India who is a man much of your height and build. He was over 300 lbs., and he has lost over eighty pounds in eight months. All the time he has been dieting he has enjoyed excellent health, feeling many years younger, more active and more energetic in every way as a result, in fact he says he is quite a new man. I have a lady patient who lost l09 lbs. The benefit she derived as a result is enormous, in fact it is certain that it saved her life. She is over sixty years of age. She could not walk a few yards when she came to me, now she can walk any reasonable distance with pleasure. I had one patient who lost 238 lbs. (two hundred thirty eight pounds) but he was only thirty years of age. However I could go on enumerating for hours, but the case of Mr. Bull of Calcutta struck me as being a similar one to yours and if you wanted any assurance from a case similar to your own I would even send you his letters.

I am quite sure if you keep to my rules that the desired end will be attained, and that you will be exceedingly gratified to find yourself down to a reasonable weight in half a year's time. I will therefore now proceed to give you the first dietary. I shall be able to allow you more liberty later on, and of course when once you have arrived at the desired standard you will be able almost to return to your old diet but I shall go into that at the proper time. There is no difficulty in keeping down when once a proper weight is attained.

You will quite understand from the dietary given, that sugar is entirely debarred. Also that fats, milk, cheese, cream, eggs, etc are cut off for the time being. Also that bread and farinaceous foods are all cut off. In place of bread or toast you must use Gluten biscuits. I do not know of any place in America where you can get suitable biscuits but possibly you may know of a place. I am ordering three pounds of biscuits to be sent to you so that you will have some to go on with. You do not eat these biscuits freely but simply to the extent of six or seven a day, as something to go with the meals as given. In place of sugar you can for all sweetening purposes use Dulcine or Saccharin.

I am giving the quantities of food I consider correct for the requirements of your system. If less satisfies at any meal I do not mind your taking less at any meal, nor should I mind your taking a little more meat or fish or green vegetables at any meal, but what I give is a fair amount for the system's requirements.

It will be to your advantage if you can take regular daily exercise, riding or walking, but of course you will avoid over-fatigue.

  • Plenty of harmless fluid, such as water, hot or cold, or effervescing table water (not sweet) and you may have tea or coffee without milk or sugar. You may have sugarless wine in moderation if you like such as Hock or Moselle or Claret, or a little whiskey well diluted but of course stimulant is optional so long as you avoid malt liquors or wines containing sugar.
8 A.M.
  • Sip a tumbler of hot water. You may add a squeeze of lemon if liked.
Breakfast: 9 A.M.
  • One or two cups of tea or of coffee, sweetened with saccharin (if at all) and without any milk or sugar.
  • Two or three of the Gluten biscuits. Until these arrive take a little piece of dry toast instead.
  • 6 ozs. of lean grilled steak or chop, or of chicken, or of grilled kidney, or any game in season, hot or cold, or lean cold tongue, or of grilled or boiled white fish, such as sole, plaice, cod, turbot, briff, haddock or whiting, smelts, gurnet, hake or similar white fish.
  • The whites only of two eggs can be taken as a change. You may use plain condiments such as bottled sauces that are not sweet, ketchup, anchovy, pepper, mustard, salt, vinegar, walnut pickle, horseradish.
Lunch: 1:30
  • 4 or 5 ozs. of lean beef, mutton or lamb, or of chicken or game in season, or of rabbit, or turkey. The meat may be hot or cold, roast or boiled. Gravy must on all occasions be cleared of fat in which case it can be taken liberally.
  • 4 or 5 ozs. of carefully cooked green vegetable, without butter. 3 or 4 ozs. of baked or stewed apple or other fresh fruit sweetened if at all with dissolved saccharin.
  • Salads may be taken freely but no oil is allowed. One of the Gluten biscuits. Water or table water to drink as mentioned. You can drink as much water or table water as you like. Wine if desired as mentioned.
  • You may have a cup or two of tea or coffee without milk or sugar in the afternoon if liked. Or a cup of beef tea.
Dinner: 7-8 P.M.
  • Clear soup when desired, plain Julienne or gravy or oxtail.
  • You may have both fish and meat, or of course if liked no fish and the full quantity of meat as 4 ozs. of fish as at breakfast, and 5 to 6 ozs. of meat as mentioned at lunch, or 8 or 9 ozs. of meat only as at lunch. 6 ozs. of vegetables as in list, and 4 ozs. of stewed fruit as at lunch. Salads as in list if liked (no oil) and two of the biscuits.
  • Liquids as at lunch.
  • You may have a cup of coffee later in the evening, or just after dinner if liked.

Before retiring at night sip a tumbler of hot water. A squeeze of lemon may be added if liked.

Salads and vegetables suitable:

  • Watercress, radishes, lettuce, cucumber, mustard and cress, spinach, asparagus, celery, Brussels sprouts, cabbage of all kinds, cauliflower, broccoli, sea kale, vegetable marrow, kidney or French (green) beans, tomatoes, artichokes, endive sorrel, salsify.

Of course you can submit to me any articles of diet that you fancy might be allowed that I have not mentioned.

I do not wish you to eat any raw fruit, except you like to take a very little grape fruit.

The above line of diet I have no doubt will be satisfactory for you to keep to for some time. I should like you to write me weekly for the first few weeks so that I may get some reports to see how you are getting on and afterwards once a fortnight will be sufficient.

Believe me to remain,
    Yours very sincerely,
        (signed) N. E. Yorke-Davis

William Howard Taft Esq.
    Secretary for War,
        1603 K Street
           Washington, D. C.

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