President Taft's Surprisingly Modern Diet Struggle

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If you think weight-loss struggles are a modern problem, think again.

President William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States that served from 1909 to 1913, was 6 feet 2 inches tall and he fluctuated from more than 350 to 255 pounds. President Taft had a specially constructed bathtub which was characterized by the press as having "pond-like dimensions" and was "capable of holding four ordinary men."

From those reports you might think President Taft would have just spent his free time raiding the White House fridge.

But newly unearthed letters and diaries of President William Howard Taft show that the famously "corpulent" president kept a food diary, eliminated fatty foods and empty calories, and employed a "physical culture man"—the 1909 version of a personal trainer—to help him keep the pounds off.

Dr. Deborah Levine, assistant professor of health policy and management at Providence College, recently unearthed many of President Taft's papers. She discusses her findings, published this week in The Annals of Internal Medicine.