Fad Diets Throughout The Decades

4 min read

Take a step back in time as we show you the craziest fad diets of the past

Fad diets have been around for decades and are certainly nothing new, from grapefruit to cabbage soup, the list is endless! So we’ve selected the most popular of that decade for you to enjoy. While fad diets are no substitute for losing weight safely and slowly, they sure do make for great entertainment!

1920s – The Cigarette Diet

At the height of the flapper era when smoking was all the rage, American cigarette giant Lucky Strike launched a new campaign which promoted the idea that smoking supresses your appetite, with the tagline “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”. The idea that smoking could have any health benefits is of course un-heard of today, but in 20th century advertising smoking was big business, even doctors approved! 100 years later the message of dieting and cigarettes is very different, we hope the message of simply picking up a cigarette instead of eating will stay firmly stuck in the past.

1930s – The Grapefruit Diet

The grapefruit diet, also known as the Hollywood diet, has been around for decades but first came to fruition (pardon the pun!) in the 1930’s. The belief of the diet was that there are fat-burning enzymes that exist in grapefruit, so eating one with every meal and drinking it’s juice would help you lose weight. Whilst it’s one way to get your 5 a day, we can’t imagine eating 3 grapefruits a day is much fun!

Bowl of grapefruit for breakfast
Photo by Jason Abdilla / Unsplash

1940s - The Master Cleanse

A disgusting concoction of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, the master cleanse was originally created by Stanley Burroughs in the 1940s, recycled again for his 1976 book “The Master Cleanser” then came to the forefront again in 2006 when Beyoncé claimed it was the key to her 20 pound weight loss for the film Dreamgirls. We’ll give this one a miss!

1950s – The Cabbage Soup Diet

Made popular in the 1950’s, the cabbage soup diet really is as grim as it sounds! The diet was promoted on the basis of quick weight loss, upto 10-15 pounds per week! But with next to no additional fruit, vegetables, protein or meat, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why such a large weight-loss could be achieved in such a short space of time. Although it still exists today, we’ll give this one a miss.

1960s – The Drinking Man’s Diet

The 1960’s were a much simpler time, when mini-skirts ruled, bee-hive hairstyles were all the rage and alcohol was actually considered a “good carb”! This boozy diet, primarily aimed at men, promoted weight loss by eating very little carbs but drinking as much alcohol as you wanted. A typical dinner, made up of steak, veggies and an array of cocktails may sound ideal, just not on a daily basis thanks.

Photo by Andreas M / Unsplash

1970s – The Sleeping Beauty Diet

As literal as it sounds, the sleeping beauty diet promoted sleeping and taking naps as much as possible, because when you’re sleeping, you’re not eating. A totally insane diet that could only be undertaken by people that don’t have things to do such as work and general day to day life stuff, this one didn’t really take off and it’s not hard to see why!

1980s – The Scarsdale Diet

Created by a cardiologist named Dr. Herman Tarnower, the Scarsdale diet gained popularity due to promoting a 20 pound weight loss in just 2 weeks. Consuming less than 1000 calories a day on a two weeks on, two weeks off cycle, this restrictive diet led to malnutrition and is definitely one we wouldn’t recommend.

1990s – The Atkins Diet

Originally created by Dr Robert C. Atkins in 1972 but not reaching peak popularity until the 90’s, The Atkins Diet focuses on high fat, high protein and low carb meals similar to the Keto diet, but has 4 different phases, with carbs being gradually re-introduced. Whilst many people have achieved good results on the diet, you have to get past the side effects of bad breath, headaches and fatigue first.

2000s – The Baby Food Diet

Although it’s not certain who first started this diet, Hollywood trainer Tracey Anderson made it popular after Jennifer Aniston claimed to have tried it and lost weight. Consisting of eating up to 14 jars of baby food a day in place of meals and snacks, even though it’s great for portion control and low calories, it’s no replacement for a well-balanced, nutritional meal. Not to mention they taste pretty bad!

2010s – The HCG Diet

Controversial and a little crazy, the HCG diet is a weight-loss plan that combines daily injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) with severe calorie restriction — only 500 calories per day. HCG, if you didn’t know, is a hormone that's released in large quantities during pregnancy and can be extracted from the urine of pregnant women. Sounds appetizing, right?

2020's - The Fast 800 (The Dr Michael Mosley Diet)

One of the newest kids on the block in terms of fad diets is the Michael Mosley Diet. This diet comprises a blend of 800 calorie days and the 5:2 fasting diet. The diet is touted as a 12 week rapid weight loss diet, supported by Dr Michael Mosley's own line of meal replacement shakes and a regime of healthy fat intake. With the Dr’s notoriety in the documentary world, we are sure to hear more about this diet within the decade.

Jenny Shaw

A content and copywriter who loves the written word in all it's forms, Jenny is passionate about writing informative and factual blog posts, helping you achieve your goals.