Health, Diet, Fitness, and Aging

Like most of us, Fran was concerned about health, weight, diet, and aging. She seemed interested in the concepts that we are what we eat, that certain foods could affect spirit and constitution, and that some foods could help prevent headaches — perhaps a sign that she was suffering from migraines long before she knew she had glaucoma. She was always active and interested in fitness; even when she was blind and elderly, she would do exercises in her chair or when standing on the porch.

In pencil: “avoid Pimples eat sparingly of 4 P’s { Potatoes, Pies, Pastry, Pudding} eat more fruits and vegetables

Below:  “Moderate Diet will Chase Away Fat”  — “slowly…so the tissues of the face won’t suffer.”

Breakfast: citrus fruit, toast, clear coffee and egg

Luncheon: green salad and rye toast

Dinner: lean meat, three vegetables, (no potatoes), unbuttered bread, fruit for dessert.

A brisk walk.

Eight hours of sleep; no more.

Go sparingly on fats, starches, and sweets.

The Six Vitamins and the Foods that Supply Them

“Keep This List In Your Pantry”: Globe Readers — During the year eat raw cabbage 138 times, carrots 42 times, lettuce 64 times, spinach 68 times, onions 95 times, string beans 23 times, tomatoes 87 times, asparagus 32 times. Lettuce is good for the nerves, also celery; beets contain iron; tomatoes tone up the liver; celery is good for rheumatism; proper spinach is the broom of the stomach. Asparagus cleanses the kidneys, rhubarb provides mineral salts…So can for Winter and eat different tonics and keep well. – Mt. Mansfield.

In pencil she notes:  Eat large quantities of fruit and vegetables each day; 3 meals, no snacks in between except fruit; candy only at end of meal in small quantity. Strong tea, coffee, chocolate, and cocoa should be replaced by whole milk and water and fruit juices. After milk, drink water: 8 glasses a day, one of them on rising in the morning before breakfast.

She was intrigued by the argument that we are what we eat. In pencil she notes, “According to this theorist, eating of meat makes one bloody-minded and have a brutal nature. Potatoes turn the heart to tho’ts of love. Carrots make the eaters gentle and easily handled. Spinach softens the hardest nature. Green peas fill one with optimism and enthusiasm.”

Handwrites: Peanuts are good for you because they contain:

Tissue builder vitamin

Nerve food vitamin

Intestinal cleanser

Are equal with raisins in iron content

And rich in oil

“Diet Horoscope for People born under the sign of Aquarius” (Fran’s Birthday was  February 14, 1892):   “As an Aquarian man is especially fond of meat. Save him from the unhealthful effects of too much meat-eating by serving him raw leafy vegetable salads and steamed or baked non-starchy vegetables that are easily digested.”

A growing child needs at least 6 eggs a week; adult needs 4

“Very easy to get to Sleep”: “For half an hour to an hour before your bedtime, assiduously avoid anything that might make you tense. Don’t argue or quarrel, add up your bills, or listen to an exciting radio broadcast.”     1943

“Molasses Supplies that Extra Energy”

“Keep the molasses jug on the table and use it on toast and hot and cold breads and on cereal instead of sugar.”

Hollywood Diet Menu from Dr. Mayo:

Grapefruit, toast, eggs, tea, fruit, vegetables/salad, 1 meat a day (pork chops, grilled steak, ½ lobster)

“Liquid Diet Clears Skin” 24 hour cure for bumps and blemishes due to too-little sleep and over-eating: Sleep 10 hours and drink only water, juice, and soup

Miss America, 1947, Barbara Jo Walker, Memphis Tennessee: Daily Menu:

Breakfast: juice, eggs, bacon

Lunch: Apple

Dinner: A little heartier

For “the girl whose waistline got slightly thick during the holiday season”: More fruit, hot beverages, less fat and desserts; “walk at least a mile a day; do “limbering and stretching and bending exercises every morning.”

Food for the Brain: “… energy for mental and physical work is derived from starches – sugar, bread, potatoes, other vegetables.”

“Miss Swarthout Talks of Calories” Gladys Swarthout (“who is famous not only for her voice, but her lovely figure”) thinks American girls are very silly – in certain respects. 1 – They poison their bodies by eating too much starchy food. 2 – They breathe improperly. 3 – They suffer unnecessary fatigue, fear, and boredom. Suggests “simple and good foods.”  “Dieting is not will power. It is simply learning to choose correctly.” Avoid pastries, candies, potatoes, breads, fried foods, thick soups and gravies.

Menu suggestions from “Health Lover” to “Sisters with ‘Nerves’” – creamed vegetables, whole grains, fruits…

“The vitamin chart which Cornell has just issued is herewith reproduced:”

Lists Vitamins, their functions, and Good Sources

Handwritten beneath Cornell List:

“A nasturtium leaf contains four times as much vitamin C as an equal amount of lettuce. According to the 1845 Britannica yearbook”

“Meat Diet Recommended As Relief for Headaches”

“Dr Folds Also Finds It Effective in Cases of Epilepsy” and migraines, he says in lecture. Epilepsy and migraines attributed to what doctors call “wet brain” – need meat to control water, less carbohydrates and sugar; moderate fat

Inserts: US Dept of Agriculture Farmer’s Bulletin #1313: “Good Proportions in a Diet”, 1923, 1928


“Beauty Arts”:

“Trunk Bending” exercises that “keep the waistline youthful and help prevent the great American malady, intestinal sluggishness.”  (dateline: “Hollywood”)

“Extra Inch at Waistline is Danger Sign”:

Walk 1 mile a day

Stand when you can.

Roll hips on floor 20 times each side

Girdle checks weight spread on hips and thighs.

Handwritten “Health Rules” by Dr. Parker

1.     Seven glasses of water per day.

2.     Don’t eat between meals.

3.     Every morning when you get up take 40 to 50 deep breaths

4.     Then clasp hands behind back and push away with deep breath (stand straight) 40 or 50 times

5.     Lay down on back. Put hands over head then raise feet slowly as many times as you can.

Tennis Champion Alice Marble: diet to be “fit and trim”: Brisk walks, massage, regular habits and diet along with training

Film Star Mary Carlisle, 19 years old, travelling with the Moulin Rouge Caravan, native Bostonian, describes how she keeps her weight down to 105 and says, “When I am rich enough to retire and go into the country, then I’m going on a great chocolate debauch.” [Still alive in Boston, age 99, in 2011]

Exercises to reduce Hips

Show Girls and Home Girls

“If the average woman followed the health and beauty rules of girls on the stage or screen they would be well repaid by better looks.” Tips for keeping weight down and preserving beauty (including not too much tan; then must use peroxide and lemon to bleach skin back to normal whiteness)

“The Latest Opinions of Science on


“Cause of The Lazy Feeling” :

Doctor’s column narrates parable in which a Physician instructs a friend complaining of feeling lazy:

“The physician reminded him that the reason that many Britishers were able to keep alert mentally and physically was because they rode daily, and the movement of riding a horse kept their liver well stirred up.”….“So keep your liver active by deep breathing, by bending exercises, by stationary running in front of an open window, or by brisk walks.”

“Routine Exercises Mean Most When Performed Early In The Day”

“…Today, wise in their generation, younger stars exercise for suppleness, literally stretch their way to grace and poise.”

p. 150- Ginger Rogers: “Play Games to Keep Fit, Says Ginger”: Her suggestions: tennis, riding horseback, dance, ping pong, gardening, golf, badminton, hike, bowling

“Keeping That Figure”: “New Spanish styles” need “high chest”; “difference of five inches between waist and hips is about right”; try kicking exercises to trim hips; “jumping rope will shake fat cells from hips, thighs, and calves.”

The Decalogue of Health and Notes for "Mother" (Mary, Leon's mother)

The Decalogue of Health

Dr. William Brady’s “ten commandments” for the preservation of health and the postponement of old age:

1.     Don’t coddle; don’t let the household temperature go above sixty-eight degrees, and spend some time in the open air daily.

2.     Eat little meat but plenty of vegetables, cereals, fruits, and nuts; drink much milk and water, but no alcoholic beverages

3.     Take a tepid bath each day. Show your body to the sun.

4.     Wear lightweight knitted wool or silk and wool underwear nine months of the year. Wear whatever else you need, but no more than enough to keep you comfortable.

5.     Sleep as much or little as you please, but sleep in a porch bedroom or a room with open windows 365 nights a year.

6.     Walk at least a mile a day, chest out, chin drawn in, stomach held back, keep your mouth closed, breathe deeply and toe in.

7.     Be a cheerful idiot throughout your walking hours.

8.     Put your trust in God and despise no man’s religion.

9.     Marry early, and if necessary often, and always pick a winner.

10. Take as little medicine as your doctor will allow, and have just one good doctor, but have one whether you need him or not.

Under the Decalogue: handwritten “Mother”

[[Leon’s grandmother, and then mother, lived with them at Lyon Hill]

8 hrs. sleep at night

1 hr. completely relax-rest after dinner

Diet – like children – more meat less sweet.

Exercise—Fresh Air – good stiff walk –Change from house and children twice a week

Don’t become stale.

Give yourself a square deal. All will benefit from it.

Dr. Ruth Wadsworth


“Usefulness Makes Aged People Happy”: Chicago Study; anecdote about an older woman who “has passed the 60 milestone”; still works; doesn’t depend on grown children; doesn’t try to judge or give advice; enjoys friends and sees “the funny side of incidents that would otherwise be annoyances.”

“Wisdom After Forty” by Marjorie Hillis, Author of “Live Alone and Like It”: Choose black to go with gray hair; don’t dress younger or do hair “reminiscent of other days” – accentuates age

“Flabbiness in the Forties” Exercise Tips from “Hollywood”

“’Jitters’ will Jeopardize Any Woman’s health and Beauty”

“Exercises for Those Tired Aching Feet”

“Can Old Age be Deferred?”:   To counteract heredity, illness, and worry, Massachusetts Department of Public Health encourages “moderation and relaxation”; balanced diet; less hurry, more sleep; relaxation; exercise outdoors

Column on “Keeping Modern”

“The woman who is growing older should be modern and dainty in dress”

70 year old says, wear bright colors not drab black or grays; be cheerful, jolly, comforting, encouraging of others

“Middle Age Has Charms”

How to grow old “beautifully, splendidly, radiantly” Suggests “gay colors” for clothes, “a bit of carmine on the lips”; “avoid old lady hats and ugly shoes”; “keep young and interesting by going to the movies and theaters, reading new books, keeping up with the topics of the day.”

[Grammy followed these rules: listening to Talking Books once she was blind; always asking our thoughts on topics of the day and reporting what someone on her Talking Book said]


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