A Diet History Timeline
The picture above is an ad from the early 1900’s attempting to promote the effectiveness of a tonic “that not only cures everything, but adds heft to the figure.” Ironically, a full figure in those times represented wealth and prosperity.
I love timelines – they tell us where we have been and how we evolved to where we are now. This is a fun timeline on the History of Dieting. Where can we go from here?
According to the latest issue of Eating Well magazine, October 2020, it is predicting in the future that dieting will be done for good. “We will finally wake up to the fact that following a regimen of temporary deprivation to achieve health or aesthetic goals is an exercise in futility – and that healthy eating is for life and building ongoing habits, not quick fixes.”
AMEN!!! But first, what is our dieting history?
In England, William Banting consulted Dr. William Harvey for weight loss who recommended he cut most sugar and starch from his diet since foods containing those substances tend to create body fat. He lost 50 pounds and wrote the first diet book, “Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public” in 1862. It was a best seller!
Horace Fletcher loses 42 pounds by advocating that we need to chew food about 32 to 80 times before being swallowed and it should be in liquid form. He later became known as “The Great Masticator”.
Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters writes the first best selling diet book, “Diet and Health with a Key to the Calorie”. She promoted calorie counting over our entire life.
The Continental Scale Company produces the first bathroom scale called the “Health O Meter”.
A cigarette advertisement tells women to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”. Another slogan says: “Light a Lucky and you’ll never miss sweets that make you fat”.
The “grapefruit diet” also known as “The Hollywood Diet” is promoted which involves eating only 585 calories a day for 18 days with boiled eggs, green vegetables and Melba toast.
Self-proclaimed diet guru Victor Lindlahr reaches thousands via the radio to produce his regular broadcasts entitled “reducing party”. He wrote the book You Are What You Eat, one of the earliest texts of the health food movement in the United States, which sold over half a million copies.
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company published standard weight tables for “ideal weight”. The charts used weight, height, frame size, and gender but only used data from life insurance policyholders which biased the conclusions.
Amphetamines were first prescribed for some obese patients but later research determined that these were dangerous. Amphetamine –like drugs are still used today in a limited fashion.
Saccharin, the first manufactured artificial sweetener is produced and becomes a popular sugar substitute. It is still used today after years of research that absolved critical reports of its cancer connection. Some doubts still linger.
Weight Watchers was born as a result of Jean Nidetch and several friends who met in her apartment to offer each other support about dieting. Weight Watchers and other diet programs like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig has turned weight loss into a multi-billion dollar industry. However, the results are dismal. In 1993, the Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight loss programs (including the above) made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products. To settle the charges, the companies were required to add dislaimers, like “For many dieters, weight loss is temporary.” By 2002, the FTC released a report suggesting that little had changed.
Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing about 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and icon for the slender female.
Dr. Atkins introduced his first “Diet Revolution”, a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
Richard Simmons opens Ruffage and the Anatomy Asylum, a Beverly Hills restaurant and exercise studio. He quickly becomes known as a fitness and diet guru.
Dr. Herman Tarnover introduces the “Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet”, another version of the high protein, low-carb diet.
The Pritikin Diet answers the trend of the high protein, low – carb diets with a high fiber, very low fat diet. The system was originally designed for heart patients but became popular for those who followed the newer trend of the low –fat diet approach.
The Beverly Hills Diet is introduced – it recommends eating nothing but fruit for the first 10 days.
Aspartame is introduced as another alternative sugar substitute. It was marketed as NutraSweet and is still used today in many products.
Liposuction is performed in the U.S. for the first time and now becomes a popular cosmetic procedure for the obese.
Jenny Craig is formed which sells their own line of diet foods and offers diet counseling. Nutrisystem soon followed.
Oprah Winfrey loses 67 pounds on the liquid diet Optifast.
The Federal Trade Commission charged that five weight loss programs, including Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig) made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their products. To settle the charges, the companies were required to add disclaimers, like “For many dieters, weight loss is temporary.” By 2002, the FTC released a report suggesting that little had changed.
The FDA mandates that food labels must include detailed information about calories, fat, and fiber. We must thank Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters for this.
“The Zone Diet” is introduced by Dr. Barry Sears. He promotes eating lots of fruits and vegetables and protein, while cutting back on breads and pastas.
It is reported that 40% of nine and ten-year-olds are dieting and trying to lose weight.
Experts are stating that there is now a global epidemic of obesity and that for the first time in history, this number of overweight people equals the number of underfed and undernourished.
Dr. Atkins introduces his second diet book, the “New Diet Revolution” to a new generation of dieters. The Low-carb diet is back after multitudes of diet books promoting low fat diets.
It appears we may have come full circle – we are now promoting cutting sugars and counting calories (again). We have progressed from low carbohydrate, low fat, and low carbohydrate diets again along with some pretty scary schemes, e.g. the Tapeworm Diet. Many weight loss books, gimmicks and pills have come and gone over and over again and many still exist, but with no real breakthroughs.
2020 “if dieting makes us fat, what should we do instead to stay healthy and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related conditions?,” asks Dr. Sandra Aamodt, PhD? She is the author of Why Diets Make us Fat” and coauthor of “Welcome to Your Brain”and earned her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester.
New concepts in weight loss and management are beginning to emerge like mindful eating, weight acceptance, and a different mindset about healthy weights. A new field of genetics called epigenetics may provide some answers that includes how the environment can influence gene expression. A new field of lifestyle medicine focuses not on weight alone but eating for health during a lifetime.
More effort and focus should be made on weight gain prevention and weight loss maintenance if we are finally going to declare dieting “dead”.