Diets Through History: The Good, Bad, and Scary
Slimming down through the ages
Fad diets come and go, but the idea of dieting itself has been around for centuries. From President Taft to Victoria Beckham, and the Grapefruit Diet to Slim-Fast, here's a look at some of the most famous (and infamous) moments in dieting history.
Lord Byron popularizes the Vinegar and Water Diet, which entails drinking water mixed with apple cider vinegar.
President William Howard Taft pledges to slim down after getting stuck in the White House bathtub.
The Lucky Strike cigarette brand launches the "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet" campaign, capitalizing on nicotine's appetite-suppressing superpowers.
The Grapefruit Diet—a.k.a. the Hollywood Diet—is born. The popular low-cal plan calls for eating grapefruit with every meal.
The Cabbage Soup Diet promises you can lose 10–15 pounds in a week by eating a limited diet including cabbage soup every day.
Urban legend has it that opera singer Maria Callas dropped 65 pounds on the Tapeworm Diet, allegedly by swallowing a parasite-packed pill.
Weight Watchers is founded by Jean Nidetch, a self-described "overweight housewife obsessed with cookies."
The Sleeping Beauty Diet, which involves sedation, is rumored to have been tried by Elvis.
A Florida doctor creates the Cookie Diet, a plan where you eat cookies made with a blend of amino acids. Hollywood eats it up.
Slim-Fast—a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner—becomes a diet staple.
Herman Tarnower, MD, publishes The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. Two years later he is shot by his girlfriend.
Dexatrim, a diet drug containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA), appears on drugstore shelves. Its formula changes after PPA is linked to an increased risk of stroke in 2000.
A popular appetite-suppressing candy called Ayds is taken off the market after the AIDS crisis hits.
The aerobics craze steps into high gear when Jane Fonda launches her first exercise video, Workout: Starring Jane Fonda. Her catch phrase: "No pain,
Jazzercise, founded in 1969 by professional dancer Judi Sheppard Missett, hits all 50 states.
Harvey and Marilyn Diamond publish Fit for Life, which prohibits complex carbs and protein from being eaten during the same meal.
In her memoir-slash-self-help book, Elizabeth Takes Off, actress Elizabeth Taylor advises dieters to eat veggies and dip each day at 3 p.m.
Wearing a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans, Oprah walks onto the set of her show, pulling a wagon full of fat to represent the 67 pounds she lost on a liquid diet.
Americans go low-fat, eating foods like McDonald’s McLean Deluxe burger.
Robert C. Atkins, MD, publishes Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, a high-protein, low-carb plan.
The Guide to Nutrition Labeling and Education Act requires food companies to include nutritional info on nearly all packaging.
The Zone Diet, which calls for a specific ratio of carbs, fat, and protein at each meal, begins to attract celeb fans.
Victoria Beckham starts the blink-and-it’s-gone baby weight trend following the birth of her first son, Brooklyn.
Gwyneth Paltrow lends cred to the Macrobiotic Diet, a restrictive Japanese plan based on whole grains and veggies.
Renée Zellweger packs on nearly 30 pounds to play Bridget Jones. She quickly (and controversially) sheds the weight only to gain it back for the 2004 sequel.
Miami doctor Arthur Agatston, MD, adds fuel to the low-carb craze by publishing The South Beach Diet, seen as a more moderate version of Atkins.
The FDA bans the sale of diet drugs and supplements containing ephedra after it's linked to heart attacks.
The Biggest Loser
makes its TV debut, turning weight loss into a reality show.
Beyonce admits to using the Master Cleanse, a concoction of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper, to shed 20 pounds for Dreamgirls.
Alli hits the market. The nonprescription drug is taken with meals to keep your body from absorbing some of the food you eat.
Jennifer Hudson loses a jaw-dropping 80 pounds on Weight Watchers.
The HCG Diet, which combines a fertility drug with a strict 500- to 800-calorie-a-day regimen, invites interest—and criticism.
Jessica Simpson loses 60 pounds of baby weight on Weight Watchers.