A Diet Timeline

Dieting has been around for thousands of years, although not in any structured way like we see all around us today. It wasn’t very common until the 1800’s simply because people who were overweight were not very common; only rich and well to do were overweight. So being fat was not a problem for most people. As time progressed, many more people became wealthy and thus had much greater access to the same foods as the wealthy. Eating and drinking too much became a sign of affluence. Thus the idea of “dieting” became more mainstream. Here are some notable “diet plans” by decade:

• 1930’s

  • The Hollywood Diet (soon to be better known as The Grapefruit Diet) is introduced. Seeweeds, such as kelp and bladderwrack are promoted as the food choice to end weight problems.
  • Diet guru, Victor Lindlahr, regularly broadcasts on the nations’ radios to spread news of “reverse calorie foods.” This is a catabolic system of weight loss he has discovered where some foods use up more calories to be digested, than they give out to the body; like celery and apples.

• 1940’s and 1950’s

  • “Ideal Weight” charts are invented by matching a weight with gender, height and frame.
  • Diet Pills are introduced that are based on Amphetamine derivatives. It is soon realized that they are dangerous.

• 1960’s

  • A woman named Jean Nidetch and friends hold a meeting in her apartment to share support and advice on dieting. It is the beginning of Weight Watchers.
  • Dr. Atkins releases his plan for weight loss, the high protein, high fat and low carbohydrate diet causes a storm of controversy that still rages today as multiple health fears are voiced by critics.

• 1970’s

  • The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calls for a ban on saccharin in the United States. Because of voter fury, the US Congress does not heed this advice.
  • The Pritikin Diet Program with low fat and high fiber is introduced for those with heart complaints, but quickly is taken up by those for weight loss.
  • The eating disorder anorexia nervosa is described for the first time by Psychiatrists as many continual dieters start to become underweight.
  • Dexatrim is introduced to the market.
  • A new drug called fenfluramine is introduced which makes the brain think the stomach is full.
  • Dr. Robert Linn invents a quick protein drink called Prolinn, which is made up of slaughterhouse byproducts like crushed horns and hooves and hides, which are treated with artificial flavorings and enzymes. He urges for all looking to lose weight, to completely omit food and break the fast only by the use if his product in The Last Chance Diet. Somewhere around 3 million weight worriers give it a go.
  • The book entitled, Fit for Life, is written by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. In it are claims that the human body has changing physiological needs for certain foods depending on the time of day.

• 1980’s

  • Slim Fast makes it’s dieting debut
  • The Beverly Hills Diet becomes the latest diet craze. It holds that only fruit should be eaten for the first 10 days of the plan.
  • An anti-diabetes system called The Glycemic index is developed by Dr. David Jenkins and a team of scientists at the University of Toronto. To help simplify the problems suffered by diabetics, the index charts how quickly a range of diverse foods affect blood sugar levels. This research is also often misappropriated by authors of fad diets to back up their weight loss claims.
  • TV personality Oprah Winfrey loses almost 70 pounds on a liquid diet.
  • Health writer, Susan Powter advises her female readers to diet less and exercise more.

• 1990’s

  • The FDA demands that food labeling should include more detailed information about calories and fat content to assist dieting consumers, and for better general public health.
  • A shocking report indicates that 40% of nine and ten year old children in the United States are dieting for weight loss reasons.
  •  The diet pills containing fenfluramine and the related dexfenfluramine are withdrawn by their manufacturers as the FDA reports on them being cause of heart valve disease.

• 2000’s

  • The South Beach Diet, invented by cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston is introduced to America.
  • Alli becomes the first FDA approved over the counter weight loss aide
  • Some research claims that for the first time in recorded human history, the number of underfed people in the world has been equaled by those overweight.

BOTTOM LINE: Diets do not work; diets never work! The diet industry is a $54 billion dollar industry with a 95% fail rate. Despite all our “diet foods” we are still getting fatter. Despite all the money spent yearly on dieting, 66 percent of Americans are overweight today compared to 58 percent in 1983. In my mind, the word diet is just an ugly little four letter word. It insinuates a beginning and an end…and there should never be an end to healthy living. Good food, good exercise, indulgences in moderation = balance. Balance = a happy and healthy lifestyle!

What do you think about the concept of being on a diet?


45 Responses

  1. they don’t work……you need to find a place where you know your body-nourish it properly and workout…….good post!

  2. that timeline is crazy! i hate the idea of “being on a diet”…it lends itself to constrictive behavior rather than encouraging someone to live their life in the here and now!

  3. I totally agree with you that diets don’t work. The word diet has totally lost it’s meaning and become synonymous with “a diet” as in to lose weight rather than how one eats like a vegetarian diet/lifestyle. I think that if people changed the way they thought about diets vs dieting then we might not have quite the obesity problem we have today. People want a quick-fix and diets (thanks to mass media hype) promise that.

  4. Wow, I had no idea some of these diets have been around so long! The Last Chance Diet made up of slaughter house byproducts by far sounds like the worse. Balancing food groups in moderation is the only way to loose weight in my opinion.

  5. I’ve always felt like diets were the wrong route to take. In order to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF you have to change your lifestyle to one that is healthy and beneficial. Quick fixes aren’t going to work. Being on Weight Watchers–losing the weight and then quitting isn’t going to work. Losing weight means a lot of hard work. ESPECIALLY after you reach goal weight!

    • I agree I think the actual maintenance phase can be harder than losing weight. My clients struggle with that more than anything!

  6. I hate the term dieting. I prefer to think of it as changing habits to lose weight (if that is your goal) to create a healthier lifestyle.

  7. haha wow this is pretty interesting! Yeah…I hate Dieting..its a never ending process…

  8. Interesting. I think “dieting” and “trying to lose weight” or synonymous, but maybe because that’s because I’m forever trying to lose weight by always cutting back a bit? I dunno. Very interesting, though! I really would’ve thought WW would’ve been around longer…

  9. No diet ever worked for me. I’ve had family members live and breathe by Weight Watchers for years, but as soon as they “go off the diet” and stop “counting points” they start the yo-yo all over again. I can’t believe how huge the diet industry really is. Interesting!

  10. awesome statistic at the bottom of this post. i 100% agree – diets fail… weight loss goals or healthy-living goals need to be achieved through healthy lifestyle changes that you can commit to for the rest of your life. 🙂

  11. What an interesting post! Organizing diets in this way shows how just ridiculous some of them are

  12. I just learned of a new one today. The ice cube diet. It’s a Hoodia thing???

    I used to be a sucker for diets. No more and i’m the healthiest and thinnest i’ve ever been….well besides on stage but that’s not healthy 😉

  13. I think it works for some people and they learn how to eat better but the people who think they can do it and then quit, well it obviously doesnt work.

    • That’s the whole point though is that people shouldn’t be on “diets” instead they just need to live a healthy lifestyle. And a healthy lifestyle DOES include indulgences. Any extreme is dangerous and that goes with healthy living too!

  14. This is so interesting and yes, I don’t believe in “diets” but I do believe in a healthy lifestyle. I found a super old Scarsdale diet of my grandmothers with notes in it and it made me so sad…I wish the dieting concept would lessen in our society.

  15. If a diet is simply whatever you eat, then I sure do hope everyone is on one haha. Just kidding, kinda, but actual diets only lead to trouble in most cases.

  16. Great post! I didn’t know so much of this stuff. Well, I knew of it, but I didn’t have a time frame on it. I had no idea the grapefruit diet was that old or that Atkins had been around since the 60s or that anorexia was only included in the DSM in the 70s!

    Also, you might be interested in this — http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1286417/Fat-busting-drug-Capsiplex-snapped-slimmers-sells-days.html
    Who knew the UK was so into diet aids as well?

    • Awesome link! Thanks! Although it is kind of sad that the pill sold out so fast! People are always looking for a quick fix and there just isn’t one!

  17. Great post! The fact that the diet industry makes millions of dollars off of people who are trying to do something good for themselves, makes me so sad! And 99% of these diets aren’t even healthy or sensible! Basically they’re designed to make people fail, so that they’ll keep “buying in” to them. Grrr…

    Some of these diets are SO scary!

  18. How interesting! I think it is easy for people to get fixated on the idea of doing something for a set period of time and then they can go back to their old habits. The concept of a lifestyle change definitely can be a hard one for som folks to wrap their heads around!

  19. I think the word diet in its purist form just means the foods you eat but as people have become obsessive and focused on weight and weight loss, the word has come to mean something else entirely. I think that restriction and fads are a bad idea and I think that being consumed by what you are consuming is dangerous. Eat. What you want. In moderation.

  20. Loved hopping in the wayback machine!

    The Grapefruit diet is that OLD?! Why do I have to keep hearing about it. Call it a diet, call it nutritional management, whatever you call it – if you aren’t making lifestyle changes you can Google and read mags til you can’t take it anymore.

    Basic rule, burn off more than you consume. That will be $19.95:)

  21. This was so informative! Thanks for posting this diet timeline. You are exactly right when you say that diets don’t work. It’s about changing your lifestyle and maintaining balance.

  22. This timeline is so amusing!

    I hate the word diet- no wonder it’s gotten such a bad name!

  23. Hate the word and its associated ramifications….”Diet” can die – out…

  24. i don’t like the idea of being on a ‘diet’ but I do like following a healthy ‘diet’ (if that makes sense). Eating well most of the time, and enjoying a few indulgences is the way to go, I think! I feel better, healthier and lighter when I eat well, but I do enjoy ice cream and chocolate!

    I have to say, I know people who have joined weight watchers and have changed their lives! It’s not really a ‘diet’ in the 4-letter word sense because they re-learn how to approach food and eating. It’s a great program.

  25. I use the word diet to just mean “a way of eating”, as in I eat a healthy diet. I hate the idea of being “on a diet” which carries such negativity with it, and is a recipe for failure. If you eat chocolate on a no-chocoalte diet, you’ve made a mistake. If you eat chocolate in moderation as part of a healthy diet, you’ve done nothing but eat chocolate. Nothing wrong with that.

    I had no idea some of those diets have been around so long! Intersting too to see that the 70s was the boom time for diet pills, and that we still haven’t learned that they are dangerous!!! I am skeptical about Alli. Very skeptical.

  26. People think I deprive myself, but I have learned how to buck the system with tasty foods that are good for me! My family does it too and it makes me so happy when they tell everyone they know about something I made that is tasty and good for you! I don’t do diets. I believe in balanced eating and a healthy lifestyle. This was a fun read!

  27. This is great. Who knew the Grapefruit Diet was so old? Haha. You already know this, but I’ll say it anyway. BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE. It’s okay to have a small indulgence every day. Just make sure you’re eating your fruit and veggies too!

  28. Agree! I wish I would have known that when I was younger so I didn’t waste so much time, effort and money on them. Now, I try to eat as balanced and healthy as possible.

  29. Wow, that was interesting to read. I had NO idea weight watchers was started in an apartment- & that diet pills were released in the 1940s- thought it was much later.
    Great post! I agree with you though, dieting is awful..and it’s all about RESTRICTION- blah!! I would rather enjoy life than have to sit back & always count my calories.

  30. Wow – I cant believe how long some of these products have been around. Its crazy making!

    I do not believe in dieting. Im very, VERY firm on that. I spent the better part of my life on a diet, and yah, I may have lost weight, and I may have been “thin” but I was miserable. It just isnt worth it. Besides, the fact of the matter is that diets really dont work. They may at the beginning, but it wont last. It wont last because you cant stick to it, theyre unrealistic. I may have lost 30 pounds, but then I gained 60. I dont know about you, but I dont consider that a success. I’ve finally figured out what works for me, and the weight is coming off on its own. Its all about finding a balance of food and exercise that works for your body. We’re all different.

  31. AMEN.

    “Prolinn, which is made up of slaughterhouse byproducts like crushed horns and hooves and hides, which are treated with artificial flavorings and enzymes…” <– EW. It's really sad that some people are so desparate for a weight loss-quick-fix that they'll do just about anything 😕

  32. Yes Kelly I agree 🙂 It’s a way of living not a temporary thing. Also many diets make people loose more muscle than fat… 😦

  33. LOVE the info! I think diets can be a useful tool for some people if they learn to maintain a style of eating. I use ‘diet’ to refer to what I eat. One can have a diet of celery and carrots, a diet of big macs, or a diet with a variety of healthy foods. To me, my diet is just what I eat.

    • I agree that that is what the word diet should mean but I think that you are in the minority with thinking that way. So sad…

  34. […] lifestyle, whole foods and good nutrition and how much people weigh. Healthy Living With Kelly had a great post this week on the history of dieting and the diet industry. As Kelly points out, the diet industry is a $54 […]

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