From Spiked: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/2782/
Fretting over our waistlines has a long history. There was already medical discussion about the problem of obesity in the late nineteenth century, but as a ‘product rather than a cause’ of the prejudice against excess weight. Within a few years, this issue started impacting on popular culture. In 1907 a popular American play called Nobody Likes a Fat Man was staged, and in 1913 Edith Wharton described one of her characters fretting about being anything more than ‘perpendicular’. As the authors of Diet Nation note, in one respect ‘the century-long European and American preoccupation with thinness and the rejection of fat is very much a social construct in which obesity is increasingly associated with the morally unacceptable’ (p33).
[Note: The Custom of the Country was published in 1913.]