Classic Covers: Dieting Through the Years

Since this is the time of year when New Year's resolutions start to wane, we thought we'd provide a little encouragement in the form of Saturday Evening Post covers featuring weight watching woes. 

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Sticking to your diet can be a drag. Since this is the time of year when New Year’s resolutions start to wane, we thought we’d provide a little encouragement in the form of Saturday Evening Post covers featuring weight watching woes.

Dieting Through Dessert by Constantin Alajalov, May 2, 1959
Dieting Through Dessert
Constantin Alajalov
May 2, 1959

Mr. Noble, on Constantin Alajalov’s 1959 cover, doesn’t even make it through dessert. His pretty dinner companion is overjoyed at the thought of strawberry shortcake, but Mr. Noble (panel 2) nobly declines. Pretty lady jabbers away, enjoying her dessert, while Mr. N looks like…well, remember that dog you had who watched with pitiful, soulful eyes as you forked down your dinner? Like that. Finally taking pity by the eighth panel of this scenario, the lady gives the last bite of dessert to the man, making for a happy couple in the last segment.

How to Diet by Norman Rockwell, January 3, 1953
How to Diet
Norman Rockwell
January 3, 1953

If ever the battle of the bulge was a losing battle, it is Norman Rockwell’s pastry chef on the January 3, 1953 cover. Poor man. Eating rabbit food while surrounded by luscious cakes makes a New Year’s resolution doomed to failure. That book on dieting is only going to provide so much motivation.

Reduce to Music by Frederic Stanley, August 2, 1924
Reduce to Music
Frederic Stanley
August 2, 1924

Looking for motivation a few decades earlier (1924) is artist Frederic Stanley’s gentleman with a record player and a book all about reducing to music. Sorry, fella, but that gut is going to take some serious John Philip Sousa marches at the very least.

Cafeteria Dieter by Constantin Alajalov, November 10, 1956
Cafeteria Dieter
Constantin Alajalov
November 10, 1956

Artist Alajalov found cafeterias a dieting minefield. To work on this November 1956 cover, the artist lugged trays of food up to his New York studio. He couldn’t eat it all afterwards without getting fat himself, so the elevator boys were the happy recipients of his largesse. He is demonstrating just how unfair life could be. The rather large lady is valiantly sticking to a small salad and meager crackers while three charming (and thin) young ladies are tucking into enough food to feed an army. Ah, youth.

Former Figure by Amos Sewell, January 26, 1957
Former Figure
Amos Sewell
January 26, 1957

Yes, youth. That was when I had a figure, thinks the lady in Amos Sewell’s January 1957 cover. Wistfully looking at her former dress form, she wonders where the time (and bod) went. Okay, so we don’t use dress forms much these days, but who hasn’t looked at a former favorite pair of jeans with the same forlorn expression? The editors noted that the artist had “borrowed that dress form in Westport, Connecticut, walked to his car with it under his arm, and nobody gave him the raspberry. In artists’ colonies people evidently become shockproof.”

Trying on the Old Uniform by Constantin Alajalov, May 31, 1958
Trying on the Old Uniform
Constantin Alajalov
May 31, 1958


How the ounces add up if you don’t keep fending off the darned little things every day, month, year. It’s unfortunate for Mrs. Pounds, as she tries to make both sides meet. Well, artist Alajalov’s cover deserves a happy ending. Elsewhere in that room, Mister P. is futilely trying to encase himself in his old uniform too; and suddenly they go into each other’s arms—“ Oh, the heck with midriffs. After all, we love each other just as we are!’’ Does anything else really matter?

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