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September 26, 2013

The Plague of Overweight – Vintage Photos Illustrate the Obesity Crisis in the U.S. from the Early Days

In March 1954, LIFE magazine ran an article titled "The Plague of Overweight" which in part followed the weight loss challenges faced by 205-pound Dorothy Bradley, 31, originally from Tennessee, began with a sentence that would not have been out of place in a 2013 news report: 'the most serious health problem in the U.S. today is obesity.'

The article chronicled Dorothy’s efforts to lose weight; her desire to work in medicine; her successes (losing 60 pounds) and her backsliding (gaining it all back, and then some); and ultimately, something of a happy ending, as she lost and, as of the article’s publication, had kept off close to 70 pounds and earned a job as head nurse at a hospital in Kentucky.

Here are some rare pictures from LIFE, many of which never ran in the magazine, made by photographer Martha Holmes to illustrate the March 1954 article.

Bulging at beach in 1949, 197-pound Dorothy [Bradley] self-consciously leaves locker room for swim. She covered up embarrassment by being jolly and gregarious.

Dorothy Bradley, photographed for LIFE magazine article on obesity, 1949.

Hungry at drugstore after a day's work earning money for nursing school, Dorothy envies slim girl's milkshake, orders lemonade without sugar for herself.

Dorothy Bradley squeezes through turnstile, 1949.

Dorothy Bradley (right), photographed for LIFE magazine article on obesity, 1949.

Dorothy Bradley (left), photographed for LIFE magazine article on obesity, 1949.

Dorothy Bradley eyes dress in a store window, 1949.

Embarrassed at shop because she wears a size 40, Dorothy tries on new dress. A friend encouragingly points out that dieting has reduced waistline by two sizes.

In gym in New York sweat-suited Dorothy finds workout did not by itself remove pounds but did help avoid flabbiness as she lost weight dieting.

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Dorothy Bradley measures her waist, 1949.

Dorothy Bradley (left) meets with a nutritionist, 1949.

Dorothy Bradley tries on a dress, 1949.

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Dorothy Bradley works out in 1949.

Now down to 155 pounds, an attractive Dorothy dances at Navy Ball.

(Photos by Martha Holmes—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

3 comments:

  1. i wish the fulltext was available

    ReplyDelete
  2. It looks like you can see most, if not all the txt in Google Books LIFE archive. Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/ol8ar5p

    ReplyDelete
  3. She was attractive and cute, even chubby. She looks like she'd have been fun to hang around with. A real sweetheart. Who cares if she didn't look model-thin in a swimsuit?

    ReplyDelete


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