Lose Weight The (Ancient) Roman Way

Does the modern prevelance of gastric bypass surgery, breast augmentation, and diet pill infomercials make you wonder if we are the only society obsessed with physical appearance? Well, wonder no more. While we grew up with afterschool specials on the dangers of anorexia and bullemia, the Romans… did not. Read below for an interesting list that I found.


Celsus, a 2nd-century Greek philosopher, gives 13 steps to slimming (I.3.16):

“The body is thinned…

I. by a vomit
II. by purgation (enema or laxative)
III. by eating only one meal a day
IV. by heat
V. by a scorching sun
VI. by all kinds of worry
VII. by late nights
VIII. by a hard bed throughout the summer
IX. by sleep unduly short or overlong
X. by running, brisk walking, vigorous exercise
XI. by bathing on an empty stomach
XII. by bathing in hot water and especially if salt has been added
XIII. by eating sour and harsh things”

Pliny the Elder says “To put on weight (corpus augere) drink wine during meals. For those who are slimming (minuentibus), avoid drinking wine during meals.”

Pliny also remarks that “A civilised life is impossible without salt.”


So there you have it: Brisk walks, hard beds, sour food, hot baths and no wine with your meals… but salt, you *can* have 😦

roman feast

I do not recommend vomiting or purging. I do think that for healthy weight loss it wouldn’t hurt to eat as the Romans did. Their diet was comprised of lentils, grains, fish, nuts, dates, figs, seasonal fruit, and game. Notice that apart from the bread and grains this diet is similar to the modern paleo concept with no processed foods.


– Inspired by Caroline Lawrence


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