Working Out in the Era of Mad Men

Working Out in the Era of Mad MenPerceptions of body image are always in flux. In the 1950s and for most of the 1960’s, an hourglass was the ideal body type for women. According to, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner told the show’s actresses to stop working out. Although the Twiggy-thin look didn’t hit the fashion scene until the late ’60s, the Mad Men era still had plenty of health and fitness fads.

1960’s housewives were told that using a jiggle machine was all they had to do to get rid of unwanted fat, particularly at the waist. One version, the belt massager, promised to break down fat while the user simply stood still.

Before the Atkins Diet, the fashionable low-carb regime was The Drinking Man’s Diet. The 1964 book proposed that “manly” foods, like steak and lobster, accompanied by a martini or old-fashioned, would lead to weight loss.

Artificial sweeteners like Sweet’N Low hit the market with a splash. Diet Pepsi was introduced in 1964 and Diet Delight was a popular low-calorie fruit cocktail. The later drink, however, was pulled from the market in 1969, when it was shown to cause bladder cancer in rats.

The Trim Twist was another device pledged to sculpt a narrower waist. Ladies and gents could stand on a small board that rotated under their feet on bearings as they “did the twist.” It sold for $4.95 and claimed to improve posture, “burn up” calories, and reduce “pudgy areas.” A version of this device is still used by figure skaters to practice spins off-ice.

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