One might open a Jane Austen novel to escape from the nuances from modern life, but what about reading one of her books for health advice? The latter was not what author Bryan Kozlowski expected to find while reading his way through Austen’s writings, but that’s just what he found.
“Looking back, spending two years researching and writing a Jane Austen ‘diet’ book might be grounds for legal insanity to some, so I should probably clarify that it was a shocker to me, too,” Kozlowski said.
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Kozlowski was working his way through all of Austen’s novels while attempting a “personal wellness project” to become healthier and happier as he entered his thirties. However, he kept finding the latest evidence-based research on health, diet, and exercise lined up with much of the wellness beliefs Austen shared in these writings over 200 years prior. The more he read about modern nutrition ideals, the more Kozlowski knew he was onto something.
“Living in a culture that embraced excess in all its unhealthy forms, Jane peppered her novels with counter-cultural solutions meant to inspire and gently poke us to better alternatives,” Kozlowski said. “That most of her advice still works today, resounding with scientific support, is testament to Austen’s legendary powers of observation.”
So what is this fantastic health advice Austen peppers throughout her novels, you ask? The first “Jane-ism,” Kozlowski applied to his own life was starting each morning with a walk in the great outdoors.
Just like Jane Fairfax in Emma, Kozlowski notes he quickly began to share the character’s belief that a “simple walk before breakfast does me good.” He started to feel more energized throughout the day and slept better at night after adopting this principle. Interestingly enough, some recent studies have shown that early movement and exposure to sunlight can positively impact sleep quality and overall health.
After finding success with a few of Austen’s health principles, Kozlowski said his faith in her wellness manifesto grew so much that he immersed himself in discovering all her answers to modern diet, exercise, and mental health questions for two years. His tedious research and experiments are found in his latest book, The Jane Austen Diet.
“I tailored my food and drinking habits to Austen-approved standards, followed her intuitive philosophies about exercise, and learned to unlearn some of the worst prides and prejudices I picked up from our modern dieting culture,” Kozlowski said.
Some of these prides and prejudices are the ever-disheartening numbers on your scale, BMI charts, dress sizes, even calorie-counting—all things that were yet to exist in Austen’s day. In a world without nutrition labels, boutique fitness centers, and swimsuit models, Kozlowski said Austen was able to have a better picture of health that wasn’t tainted by modern dieting principles and unrealistic ideals.
“Stringently eating or exercising your way to a certain corset size is never the road to wellness in Austenworld,” Kozlowski said. “Rather, this is the place where ‘health and happiness’ are exquisitely interconnected.”
Kozlowski learned to find his way to health based on a healthful relationship with food, nature, and the body, instead of rigid dieting rules and restrictions. Kozlowski writes in-depth on just how different the relationships between humans and food actually were in Austenland, and that she saw health as a whole, not just a sum of its parts. Spending time outdoors, fostering healthy relationships, and even working up a sweat were all integral parts of a whole, powerful hero or heroine in her novels.
“Jane lived in an era that faced many of the same health challenges we grapple with today—more food than ever before, less opportunities for exercise, and a cultural obsession with thinness and starvation diets,” Kozlowski said. “Austen observed it all over 200 years ago, offering simple solutions so thoughtful and progressive, modern science has only recently been catching up to her wisdom. Yet I believe her greatest takeaway, circa 1800, is also her most needed in the 21st century: the importance of always treating your body, muscles, mind, even your reflection in the mirror, with civility and respect.”
The Jane Austen Diet will be released on March 19th wherever books are sold.
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