In this vintage ad for Wate-On, a promise to help 'skinny' girls put on pounds

In this installment of The Good Life, we visit a time when people actually wanted to gain weight

By Published on .

In this annual time of reflection and self-improvement, we're prepared to zig where others zag.

It's hard to imagine today, but for the first half of the 20th century, a slate of products like Kelp-a-Malt and Wate-On were designed to help "skinny" women put on pounds. Now this is a resolution we can keep.

As late as 1969, this ad for Wate-On, chockablock with copy, practically shouts at the reader: "If you want to be popular … you can't afford to be skinny!" And in addition to women and girls, it addresses men, boys and "convalescents." It features a testimonial from actress Linda Peck, who at the time was appearing in the movie adaptation of "Hello Dolly." Peck claims to love the bustle of Hollywood life. "But the long nervous hours, exhausting rehearsals, fatiguing re-takes, sleep-robbing personal appearances and above all the poor eating habits can make you thin, skinny and underweight." Poor dear!

Enter Wate-On. With active ingredients that include the standard slate of vitamins and carbs, Wate-On's inactive ingredients include a greatest hits of today's dietary no-no's, including homogenized vegetable oils, sugar, additives and preservatives.

The irony, of course, is that weight-gain supplements today have a strong foothold among young men looking to bulk up. In being marketed to "skinny" midcentury women, the ad not only reminds us that society's beauty obsessions tend to be arbitrary and faddish, it not-so-subliminally suggests that its target audience isn't underweight ladies as much as it is smaller-breasted and narrow-hipped women. "If you're thin, flat, skinny and underweight due to poor eating habits, follow Linda Peck's advice," the ad urges. Another Wate-On spokesmodel of the era also speaks to a taste for buxom babes: a young Raquel Welch, accompanied by the tagline, "True beauty includes a full figure."

Things worked out a little better for Raquel, careerwise. Not much was heard from Peck after 1969, though she did appear briefly in one TV show that might have brought a smile to Wate-On's C-suite: "Land of the Giants."

Most Popular