5 Diet Fads That Came and Went With the Generations

The obsession with losing weight has been with us for hundreds of years. So has the fad diet. Each generation has seen a host of weight loss protocols promising to finally provide the definitive fat loss solution. A few of them have achieved fad diet status, with millions of people around the world following them. But then they are gone, only to be replaced with some new incarnation. In this article we take a look at 5 of the most popular fad diets that have come and gone over the past few generations.

1930s: The Grapefruit Diet

Originally called the 18 Day Diet, the Grapefruit Diet (also known as the Hollywood Diet), was first introduced in 1929. It became one of the most popular diet fads among the Hollywood crowd as a quick way to lose weight for their movie roles. The diet involved eating just 500 calories per day, with foods consisting of meat, eggs and vegetables. A grapefruit was also eaten at every meal. This was done in the belief that grapefruit contains a key fat burning enzyme.

The Grapefruit Diet began to be denounced in 1935 on the grounds that it did not provide a balanced intake of vitamins and minerals. It was also criticized for being too low in calories.

1950s: The Cabbage Soup Diet

Throughout the 1950s the Cabbage Soup Diet became hugely popular, first in the United States, and then across the world. This 7-Day short term diet involves eating cabbage soup almost exclusively for a week, with an allowance for one or two other foods, such as fruit or vegetables. You are only allowed to drink water on this diet. It is also referred to as the Mayo Clinic Diet, although that organization has denied any link with it.

The home made cabbage soup recipe that forms the basis of this diet includes such vegetables as onions, peppers, tomatoes, celery, a head of lettuce, carrots and mushrooms.

The Cabbage Soup Diet is very low in calories. This will result in some weight loss. However, because the diet is only for 7 days, that weight will inevitably come back on. And, because your metabolic rate lowers to match your lowered caloric intake, you will probably add on extra body fat in the process.

1970s: The SlimFast Diet

First introduced in 1977, the Slimfast Diet involves replacing two of your three daily meals with a diet shake. Those two meals were breakfast and lunch with dinner consisting of a normal, balanced meal. The shakes were carb heavy in order to fill the person up, along with a moderate amount of protein.

This diet was introduced as a means to sell the Slimfast Diet shake. It became extremely popular in the late 70s and early 80s. One thing that many dieters liked was that it did not forbid any foods, although it did restrict daily calories. The diet, along with the product range is still available but the popularity of the diet plummeted in the mid to late 80s as the low carb movement began to take hold.

1990s: The Atkins Diet

Dr. Robert Atkins introduced the Atkins Diet in his 1972 book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. The diet was mildly popular in the 1970s but had a massive resurgence in 1992 when the book was reissued as Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. This is a low carb diet.

The Atkins Diet has four phases. In Phase One, you limit yourself to 20 grams of net carbs (fiber free) per day. In Phase Two, you gradually increase your carb intake to find your carb tolerance level. Then, during Phase Three, you further increase your carb intake by 10 grams each week. During this phase you reach your goal weight and transition to long term weight maintenance. Phase Four is your ongoing eating pattern for life.

2010s: The Paleo Diet

Also known as the Caveman Diet, the Paleo Diet attempts to replicate the eating habits of our caveman ancestors. All processed foods are cut out in favor of meat and plants. The advent of the diet ran concurrently with the internet and social media boom and it became hugely popular through those means.

Foods that are allowed on the Paleo Diet include nuts, seeds, roots, vegetables, eggs, meats and organ meats. Oils such as olive, coconut and palm are also permitted. Dairy products are not permitted on the Paleo diet.

Although it has been marketed as a back to nature diet that is environmentally friendly, the emphasis on meat eating involves high energy production costs.

Advocates of the Paleo Diet have made some quite extraordinary health claims, including its ability to defeat inflammatory bowel syndrome (ibs). However, there have, to date, been no studies to confirm this. The Paleo Diet and the movement that has built up around it, remains extremely popular around the world.


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