Karl Lagerfeld (and dieting)

Karl Lagerfeld passed away yesterday, a designer best known for his long-held position of creative director of Chanel.

This personality piece on him from the New Yorker was a fascinating read, showing that some cults of personality are true-to-form and really just as idiosyncratic as you’d expect them to be.

The notes on his weight loss are interesting. Back around 2000, Lagerfeld remade himself from quite overweight to quite thin, losing ninety-two pounds in a year’s time. Afterwards, he co-wrote a book with his physician on the techniques he employed called Diet. It’s unavailable now, but Amazon reviews are pretty suggestive to the fact that it’s largely just a blend of well-known dieting advice with a recipe book.

What makes his advice a little unusual is that he admits to extremes. His baseline wisdom is to cut caloric input, but he goes a little further to suggest not eating around sleep (between 8 PM and 8 AM), and claimed separately: “I eat next to nothing.”

I found myself empathizing with Lagerfeld on these points. Even with a fair bit of day-to-day activity, my body’s default setting is a “healthy” amount of overweight. Thinning out is possible, but involves a strict combination of heavy exercise, caloric restriction, and near total elimination of snack foods and desserts. Of course people’s mileage in this area varies a lot – my theory is that my genetics are still optimized for cold northern climates where keeping a few extra pounds of fat around might be the difference in making it through winter.

Lagerfeld seems to have kept the weight off, so he apparently developed the discipline to keep his system working. Aside from a trim physique, there was a lot to admire about his immense productivity, passion, variety of creative output, personal philosophy, and aptitude for eliminating distraction from his life. The world’s lost an interesting soul.

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