Weight Loss

Let This Champagne Diet from a 1963 Issue of Vogue Be Your Only New Year's Resolution

In 1963—the year that Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique rocked the literary landscape with its examination of housewife malaise and unrealistic expectations facing women—Vogue made a lark of a proposal. Yes, it was another diet plan designed to whittle the waist (those expectations in play), but this time there was an element of glamorous escape, even for those tethered to the home. The central element wasn’t vegetable juice or consommé or cabbage soup. It was—chin, chin!—Champagne. Three times a day, no less.

“Classic light strengthener of convalescents, respected digestif of victims of mal de mer”—the article’s descriptions of the French fizz couldn’t be more sparkling, as though you’d soon stumble across Moët & Chandon in the pharmacy aisle alongside cough suppressants. Medicine? Maybe not. But what the diet’s author was banking on was a certain curative effect stemming from Champagne’s je ne sais quoi. “What we’re all for,” the text states cheerily, “is a calorie-cutting régime that offers a little joie de diet as well.” By way of proof, there’s a happy customer on the line: “a young mother of three still-underfoot children,” who not only survived the sensible if abstemious week-long plan but signed on for a second round. A glassful—whether with a soft-boiled egg or lettuce-wrapped crabmeat—sure helps the medicine go down. So does the accompanying illustration: an Irving Penn photograph of three tear-shaped Harry Winston diamonds dripping from a faucet. Thirsty yet?

A diet like this has all the charm of a great vintage dress: covetable and period-perfect, if a little impractical once you try it on. One can imagine Holly Golightly dutifully following along; less so, a modern-day spin-class devotee. But given all the Champagne chilling in the fridge as you read this (and the half-filled bottle likely to remain there come morning), is there any harm in taking a little midcentury advice?

“Would I tell people to drink it morning, noon, and night—definitely not,” says Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., the founder of Real Nutrition NYC. “But I think there is something to be said for rewarding yourself,” she adds, particularly something with such an elegant veneer—”It’s Champagne!” For her clients who are casual drinkers, she approaches alcohol with a pick-your-poison strategy, meaning that if you have a sweet tooth, ease up on the drinking; if you’re craving pasta, pass on the cake. And while the opening line of the 1963 Vogue story claims that “Any diet that cuts calories for a while is a good diet,” now the emphasis is on quality, not just quantity. “The nutrients that are behind the calories really are what has the impact on your body,” Shapiro says, referring to energy level, mental focus, and overall wellness.

Still, the nutritionist concedes, “at the end of the day, if you take in more than you are burning, then you will put on weight regardless of what’s behind those calories.” Which is why the rest of the Champagne Diet’s meal plan—salads dressed only with “a dash of lemon juice or vinegar”; a single poached egg on dry toast; a cupful of lobster with a side of cottage cheese and beets—skews decidedly wholesome. No cookies, no cheat days. The consistency of the so-called vice (and metered portions—no three-glass spree at the oyster bar) provides an anchor. “And truthfully, champagne, at 85 calories per serving, is [among] the lowest calorically of all liquors,” Shapiro adds.

The takeaway, says Shapiro: Choose wisely and incorporate just a few of those bright spots into your eating plan as a means of empowerment, not discouraging deprivation. As for the Holly Golightly advice? A good bottle of Champagne is a terrible thing to waste.

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