Recently, thanks to my mother, my family has enjoyed watching old family films from the early sixties, laughing at terrible home cut hairstyles and the antics of themselves, forty-five years ago. Those of us who were born much later marveled at seeing our parents as children and grandparents as young adults.
"We were all so thin then," Grandma remarked after watching the video, she laughed and declared, "things sure have changed." My grandmother always prided herself in a tiny waist. Even after five children Grandma could still boast that she had maintained her figure as she still sported a girlish eighteen inch waist. Women were thin then and not just famous women, ordinary women too. Looking through countless old photographs that have wound up at antique stores and the like over the years, I have found numerous pictures of various regular women with waists that would have rivaled even Grandma's. Vintage clothing can attest to the trim waistlines of these women too. Often in my quest for old clothes I have come across the perfect dress only to find it far too small for my own twenty-six inch waist.
With Grandma's remark and my own findings the obvious question is, how did they stay so thin? The obvious answer would be diet. Certainly my grandmother's diet from birth until the mid-fifties, putting her at the same age I am now, differed greatly from my own and even my mother's. Grandma was born in the thirties to a family with little money. She grew up, married and raised her own family on the meager wages both she and my grandfather brought home. Food for Grandma consisted of the basics, not by choice but by necessity. Had Grandma's diet not been bound by hardship it would have differed greatly from foods of today. Consider the number of genetically modified foods we unknowingly consume today, or how many foods we eat that contain a myriad of preservatives. In the last seventy years food has changed immensely and judging from the ever expanding waist lines of the general public, it has not changed for the better.
Besides diet I considered exercise as a possible answer to my question. I do not think that exercise was ever anything my grandmother willing participated in or was ever concerned about. Likely chasing five children around, working a full time job and keeping an immaculate house was enough to maintain her tiny waist. That aside, vintage notions about exercise are interesting to say the least.