7 Decades of Wacky Diet Fads

For decades, we’ve struggled to lose (or maintain) weight, and sometimes – perhaps due to desperation or lack of information – some of the craziest diets were created, and yes we succumbed to all of them, admit it or not.

Here’s a look back on 7 decades of wacky diet fads as named by MSN health.

Smoking and the Master Cleanse

In the 30s and 40s, people were into smoking, especially celebrities. This is because, for some reason, somebody thought that the practice helps bring or keep one’s weight down.

Where did the idea come from? Apparently, this "diet fad" was inspired by the Lucky Strike ad campaign in the 20s-30s which featured 2 women lighting a cigarette, and which used the line "Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet."

Whoever thought that smoking is a good diet plan was definitely unaware that smoking causes lung cancer; hear disease, and a host of other conditions.

Other women, perhaps who thought smoking was bad, or perhaps simply did not know how to smoke, chose the Master Cleanse diet fads which basically consists of lemonade with cayenne pepper and maple syrup – which, decades later, was what reportedly Beyoncé used to lose weight for her role in Dreamgirls.

Prayer diet

I think this may have worked – that is, if prayer is all you did all day for a certain period of time. Kidding aside, the pray-for-weight-loss diet fad exploded when the Reverend Charlie Shedd lost 100 pounds, and wrote a book entitled Pray Your Weight Away, published in 1957.

This book paved the way for 5 more books: I Prayed Myself Slim (1960), Help Lord, The Devil Wants Me Fat! (1978) and The Weigh Down Diet (1997), which reportedly advised its readers "not to confuse physical hunger for what was really spiritual hunger." Fast forward to 200, and we got What Would Jesus Eat?, and the What Would Jesus Eat? Cookbook by Don Colbert, M.D.

Support groups and cabbage soup

Peace and love. That was what the groovy 60s was all about. Which is why it’s not surprising that the idea of having support groups came from this era. People who wanted to lose weight banded together and started forming support organizations.

Early in the 60s, a group of compulsive eaters put up Overeaters Anonymous. In 1961, Jean Nidetch welcomed people in to her home in NYC to discuss weight loss. A couple of years later, Nidetch lost 72 pounds. Then she found Weight Watchers.

The Cabbage Soup Diet was published right around the same time. It made a lot of noise, promising dieters that they’d lose 7 pound. But then, people weren’t so pleased about its noisy side effect – the one that is accompanied by a foul smell.

Diet Pills

The 70s saw the advent of diet pills. Some of these diet pills claimed to stop the body’s absorption of carbs – which was practically saying that you could scarf down huge amounts of greasy burgers and fries and gain a pound. However, after reports of stomach pain and vomiting came pouring in, the FDA pull the pills in 1983 to check for long-term side effects.

Their investigation revealed that the undigested starch was going straight to the colon. Dexatrim was another popular pill at that time. Deaxtrim was an appetite suppressant contained phenylpropanolamine. In 2000 was also pulled from the market. The diet pill came back as Dexatrim Natural Ephedrine-Free, though some critics still aren’t convinced it’s safe. So unless your doctor gives his OK, stay off the stuff.

Scarsdale diet

For all the excess that was the 80s, approach to dieting at that time was uncharacteristically strict. Leaving diet pills, prayer, and smoking behind in their respective eras, 80s dieters turned to "hardcore discipline" with the Scarsdale Diet. Check this out: the Scarsdale diet is composed of a 2-week high protein, low-carb, and extra-low-calorie diet (1,000 calories or less per day). Herman Tarnower, M.D., the author, claimed that one could lose as much as 20 lbs per week by going on and off the diet ever 2 weeks, reportedly without losing any important vitamins and minerals or long-term deprivation.

The Scarsdale Diet food list was very limiting. Prohibited foods include: butter, salad dressing (except lemon and vinegar), and no alcohol. Snack choices were even more restrictive: raw carrots or celery, nothing more.

From here on, each decade’s diet fad is a reaction to the previous one’s diet fad "flaws."

Low-carb Atkins

Enter the 90s and Dr. Atkins. Dr. Atkins designed his diet in response the 80s diet flaw: loving carbs. Sure 80s became aware that red meat was bad for the heart, but they weren’t aware of the negative effects of carbohydrate. People who put on some pounds during the carb loving 80s welcomed the Atkins diet with open arms.

Today’s top diet plans

We’re going to have to wait to see how current diet trends will fan out. For now, here are some of today’s most popular diets:

  • Celebrity-endorsed diets: Stars like Jessica Simpson and Eva Mendes swear by Harley Pasternak’s 5-Factor plan.
  • Portion control: 100-calorie pack, anyone?
  • Organic diets: Followers believe that organic foods, without the preservatives and additives of their nonorganic counterparts, may help the body’s digestive system run more smoothly.
  • Diet delivery: Services like Chefs Diet and NutriSystem deliver either fresh or frozen prepackaged meals right to your door.
  • Sweet and savory diets: Think Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet (which originally began in 1975).
  • The "locavore" trend – eating foods close to home.
  • Vegetarianism and all its sub-groups, e.g. veganism, ovo-vegetarianism, lacto-vegetarianism, etc.

Source: MSN Health