Bring back some good or bad memories


September 26, 2013

The Plague of Overweight: Vintage Photographs 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.


  1. i wish the fulltext was available

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

  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?

    1. I care. She was not attractive when obese, but she is by the last picture. Probably her dance partner cared too. Seems that she cared herself, so she lost weight.




Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10