Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Caption from LIFE. Gym class at Rose Dor Farms is conducted by Swedish Physical Director Steve Finan whose ministrations have modified the embonpoint of many a famed operatic star. Rose Dor customers pay $5.50 a day for this sort of thing.Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Scene from Rose Dor Farms, a weight loss camp, 1938.
Caption from LIFE. Gym class at Rose Dor Farms is conducted by Swedish Physical Director Steve Finan whose ministrations
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Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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When Shedding a Few Pounds Meant Reaching for Some Milk

May 29, 2015

In recent years, rich dairy foods haven't exactly had a reputation as fad-diet favorites. That may be changing, and it wouldn't be the first time that foods like butter appealed to those hoping to get healthy. In fact, dairy was so central to a women’s weight loss retreat in the 1930s that the camp was situated on a milk farm.

Rose Dor Farm, located up the Hudson River from New York City, was run by siblings Bob, Rosalie and Doris Taplinger. A ten-day stay came with a strict diet—three days of what today would be called juicing, followed by a week of cultured milk and vegetables—as well as gym classes. As LIFE described the farm:

Men who get out of condition from sitting too long at a desk or leading too high a life have long been in the habit of slipping off for a couple of weeks of clean living and hard exercise at some health farm. Now women whom the pace of modern life requires to look their best are turning increasingly to “milk farms” where strict diet and regular scientific exercise takes pounds off oversize figures.

If many of the women in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photographs don’t appear to have much weight to lose, it’s because the farm attracted “not only stylish stouts but many a young girl who wants to work off a few pounds to get that modeling job.”

Some women, like one Mrs. Remer of Kansas City, couldn’t resist the temptation to cheat ("she sneaked fried chicken till caught”). Barring lapses from the milk-and-veggies diet, women could expect to lose a pound per day.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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