If you wanted to lose weight in the 1950s, you couldn’t just go to the gym and sweat your dessert away. Whole Foods didn’t exist yet. Neither did CrossFit. Yet women still managed to stay fit. Here’s what women in the 1950s did to stay in shape and lose weight. It might surprise you that it didn’t take much extra effort — just a lot of housework.
Processed food? What’s that?
Technically, “processing” food started centuries ago, says Scientific American. Both Spam and high-fructose corn syrup existed in the ’50s, so even housewives weren’t completely immune to artificial preservatives. Their pantry shelves likely still housed plenty of candy, potato chips, Ramen noodles, and brightly-colored cereals we tend to keep around today. Junk food existed — Pixie Stix, anyone? — but it tended to stay out of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Clean your house — often
This might be your least favorite (weekly? daily? monthly?) chore, but it could become your greatest ally on your quest to lose weight. Cleaning burns calories, especially when you’re vacuuming every flat surface you can find. Most women still washed clothes by hand around this time — you don’t have to do that. However, dusting, scrubbing, mopping, and sweeping work out your arms, and the more stairs you climb and descend per day, the better.
If you really want to lose weight, don’t skip breakfast. Too many of us do. Don’t know what to make? You really can’t go wrong with hot cereal. Oatmeal (porridge) graced the breakfast tables of many 1950s households. Back then, you’d actually make your own oatmeal on the stove, instead of adding water to a packaged mix and shoving it into the microwave.
Eating whole grains at the start of your day gives you a fiber boost to carry you through your busy morning.
Cook your meals at home
Today, you can pretty much get in your car, drive a short distance, and find a restaurant or fast food place serving exactly what you want. In the 1950s, fast food wasn’t even an option in most places — at least not the way we think of it today. McDonald’s started franchising in the mid-1950s, and plenty more brands followed suit. Making your food at home may seem less convenient, but you’ll probably save money — and hundreds of calories, too.
Have a healthier dessert
Dessert has been around for a long time. Baking puddings and pies was part of 1950s culture the same way smoothies have taken over the 21st century. However, unlike today’s treats, many desserts back then were homemade. Even though many recipes of the ’50s praised sugar and saturated fat, a homemade pudding proves much healthier than a processed mess of added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Ride your bike — or walk — to the store
Since single-car households were the norm, many women ended up walking or biking to wherever they needed to go. Walking to the grocery store and carrying the groceries the whole way back often happened more than just once a week. Depending on where you live, walking everywhere might not be the most convenient option. However, if you do live close to downtown, Livestrong.com says it’s possible for an 150-pound person to burn 90 calories per 20 minutes of biking. Walking burns anywhere from 120 to 140 calories per hour.
Were women really healthier in the ’50s than they are today?
Not necessarily. Fad diets aren’t new. According to Health.com, both the Cabbage Soup Diet and the Tapeworm Diet circulated among women in the ’50s. Also, it wasn’t uncommon to add salt and sugar to your food, even when making it yourself. Women likely ate way more saturated fat than the population as a whole does today. However, they also ate far fewer calories than the average modern American. Each era holds its weight loss wins and failures. Learn from the best of them.