I recently came cross a brief timeline of fad diets (dates and names only) compiled by The American Dietetic Association.
It’s quite interesting to see that many current bestsellers originally popped up decades ago!
The first documented low-carbohydrate diet, for instance, appeared in Jean Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste back in 1825.
The no-frills (and no-nonsense) counting of calories was first written about in in Lulu Hunt Peters’ 1917 book, Diet and Health, with Key to the Calories.
Food combining — the completely baseless concept that mixing carbohydrates and protein in the same meal results in weight gain — originated in the 1930s.
The ever-popular grapefruit diet? It first appeared in the 1950s.
Then there are the truly bizarre fad diets.
There’s Horace Fletcher’s 1903 low-protein diet plan which urged dieters to chew food 32 times — not 31 or 33! — before swallowing.
Not surprisingly, he quickly became known as “The Great Masticator”.
In 1925, the Cigarrette Diet came along, in which tobacco companies happily advertised the appetite-suppressing powers of their “magic” cancer sticks.
One popular tagline? “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” Yeah — especially if your lungs have a death wish!
1961 brought along Dr. Herman Taller’s — don’t laugh — “Calories Don’t Count Diet”.
According to the good doctor, all you had to do was eat as much as protein as you wanted (he claimed these calories literally “didn’t count”) and immediately follow that meal with one of his special vegetable oil pills. Sounds like a combination of Gary Taubes’ carbphobia and Kevin Trudeau’s shamelessness.
The Sleeping Beauty Diet, which promoted heavily sedating patients so they slept for several days and therefore did not consume any calories, emerged from some sicko’s mind in 1970.
The ridiculousness is far from over.
Just last year, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret claimed two keys to weight loss were ridding yourself of the belief that food makes you fat and taping a piece of paper with your ideal weight on it over your scale’s display screen, in order to allow “the universe” to create a new reality for you.