Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Popular Diets From The Past

Every generation is marked by some fad diet or another. Whether you grew up in the heyday of the low-fat craze of the 90s or came of age in the 70s with sprouted wheat bread and carob-chip cookies, it’s clear that each era has a unique take on health.

But as the years fly by, one thing remains constant: our ability to get swept up in the many ways in which we think miracle foods can transform our bodies overnight. Here’s a look at the crazy, the dangerous and, in some cases, the reasonably effective diet fads of recent memory.

The Cabbage Soup Diet

cabbage soup dietHow’s this for boring? The Cabbage Soup Diet consists of eating cabbage soup two to three times a day for a full week. According to devotees, following the diet can help users lose up to 10 pounds in that timeframe.

Thankfully, the soup itself is not just cabbage and water. There are actually several variations. In many cases, you can expect to see onions, green peppers, tomatoes and celery, plus bouillon cubes or broth or your choosing, in your soup bowl.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is still a big deal these days, and many people credit the program with lasting weight loss due to its iconic point system. Weight Watchers believers include none other than Oprah, DJ Khaled and millions of men and women around the globe.

In 1963, a housewife named Jean Nidetch developed the program in an attempt to replicate her own 70-pound weight loss journey. Nidetch began hosting weekly meetings with her own friends, and by the 1970s, the program had already become a national trend.

The Grapefruit Diet

This diet rose to prominence in the 1930s but went through a bit of a renaissance in the 70s after someone falsely claimed that it was endorsed by the Mayo Clinic. It was never really clear how or why eating half a grapefruit with each meal would stimulate weight loss. Today, the mythology of the Grapefruit Diet has been officially debunked.

The Tapeworm Diet

At the turn of the 20th Century, dieters could pick up tapeworm pills from their local apothecary. The idea was that you could eat more and lose weight, as the worms would take care of those pesky calories for you. Pretty convenient, right? As you might imagine, this is yet another diet that proved too good to be true.

In some cases, the baby tapeworms dieters ingested grew up—expanding to 25 feet and causing issues like cysts, meningitis, seizures and dementia. As such, the U.S. government banned the sale of tapeworm pills.

The Sleeping Beauty Diet

Supposedly, Elvis himself once tried the Sleeping Beauty Diet, which isn’t quite as glamorous as Princess Aurora’s years-long slumber. Instead, the diet relied on taking a hefty dose of sedatives, following the logic that if you’re not awake, you can’t eat.

Some dieters knocked themselves out for a few days at a time to slim down fast. The 1970s might seem like ages ago, but many dieters are still misusing sedatives to this day. Don’t try this one at home—or anywhere else, for that matter.

The Chewing Diet

At the turn of the last century, a man named Horace Fletcher became known for his weight loss success story. Fletcher had been denied health insurance because of his weight. To lose the weight, he developed his own diet method: chew each bite of food exactly 32 times, then spit it out.  The diet used the memorable slogan, “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate.” Needless to say, Fletcher quickly became known as the “Great Masticator.”

The Drinking Man’s Diet

The Drinking Man’s Diet is considered by many to be the grandfather to the Atkins Diet and the other low-carb plans of today. That said, the guiding principle here is eating copious amounts of meat and washing down all that gristle with a big old martini.

Creator Robert Cameron sold a pamphlet outlining the diet back in the 1960s. Within a couple of years, he had sold over 2 million copies and sparked a major diet fad.

Not only is alcohol allowed, but the Drinking Man’s Diet doesn’t mess around. Alcohol is required at every meal—even breakfast, with no limits on how much gin and vodka one can consume. It’s safe to say that this diet never really gained traction in the medical community. Not only does it stand to hurt your liver and your heart, but chances are that drinking at every meal also won’t fly with your boss, your friends or your family.

In the end, it seems that we’re always susceptible to new diet ideas, no matter how ridiculous. But in 2018, with the rising popularity of keto, veganism and eating whole foods, maybe we’ve finally learned a thing or two about losing weight the healthy way.

Cory is a veteran health industry writer and content creator. His work has been featured in major publications such as MyFitnessPal, Healthy Living, and Low Carb Fanatics. His health industry writing career spans over nearly two decades.

In his free time, Cory enjoys snowboarding, fictional writing, and online chess.