Some 80 million of us go on diets every year, and we spend more than $30 billion annually in the process. These are mind-boggling numbers, especially since almost every expert I have ever interviewed about the subject says that diets don’t work. The only way to lose weight is eat less and exercise more. In the end, most of us end up weighing as much as we did when we started.
And why not? Dieters go to incredible extremes to lose weight, and the list of fad diets they use is endless and legendary. Fad diets date to at least the middle of the 19th century, and one of the early proponents in this country was a member of the Kellogg family, whose cereals played a prominent role in early diets.
After the jump, some of the most interesting fad diets over the past 170 years:
• The Graham Cracker diet. Yes, those things you give children was invented as a diet food by a Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham in 1830.
• The Drinking Man’s Diet. Robert Cameron wrote in 1964 that his diet “allows you to take out your favorite girl for a dinner of squab and broccoli with hollandaise sauce and Chateau Lafitte, to be followed by an evening of rapture and champagne.” In fact, this is just another variation on the high protein, high fat, low carb diets (Atkins and the like) that pop up from time to time. My favorite was the low carb diet of the late ‘90s, which said light beer and carb-reduced pizza were OK.
• The Grapefruit Diet. Eat 1 1/2 grapefruits or drink 24 ounces of grapefruit juice daily, and you can lose 10 pounds in 12 days. This diet, which has been around for at least 70 years, also cuts your caloric intake by half. This may have something to do with the weight loss.
• The Water Diet. Drink 64 ounces of water each day, and make sure it’s cold — 50 degrees or less. This is a more formal version of a diet that has been popular since I was a kid, and which baffled me even then.
• Cabbage Soup Diet. Eat as much cabbage soup as want, and lose weight. How much easier could it be? Also, for some reason, you can’t eat bananas. This diet has also been popular for decades.