Dieting: Reduction of Happy Humphrey

Only five years ago, Georgia-born William J. Cobb gave his weight as 802 lbs., billed himself as "Happy Humphrey, the World's Largest Wrestler," and won his matches by sitting on his opponents. Today, after learning to flatten his appetite instead of other wrestlers, Cobb weighs in at a svelte 232 lbs.—a staggering 570-lb. loss that may make an equally weighty contribution to modern dietetics.

Cobb's reduction by more than two-thirds was engineered not out of solicitude for his opponents but by his desire to stay alive. In 1962, heart trouble slowed the happy warrior down; he became so short of...