Put your best fork forward*
March is National Nutrition Month! (“Put your best fork forward” is the catchy tagline this year.) Let’s all celebrate by 1) eating a wonderfully nutritious, real foods/ whole foods meal 2) enjoying this brief romp through the history of diet fads — which SPOILER ALERT are not about good nutrition.
1820: Vinegar and Water diet made popular by Lord Byron, who, I must add, died at the age of 36. So maybe not.
1825: Low Carb Diet (that’s right, in 1825). It first appeared in The Physiology of Taste by Jean Brillat-Savarin, a more-than-pleasantly plump French lawyer and politician who pretty much invented the gastronomic essay, aka food writing.
1830: Graham’s Diet, invented by the man who would found the American Vegetarian Society and, more importantly, invent Graham Crackers, without which there would be no s’mores. PS: He believed vegetarianism was a cure for masturbation. What about that, you vegetarians?
1863: Banting’s Low Carb Diet, which was so popular that “banting” became a common term for dieting during this time period.
1903: Fletcherizing. Horace Fletcher’s dietary advice to insure high-level wellness: Chew your food 32 times. No not 33.
1917: The birth of “calorie counting” (damn) with the publication of Lulu Hunt Peters’ book, Diet and Health.
1925: The cigarette diet, as in “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” Really.
1928: The Inuit Meat-and-Fat Diet calling for consumption of raw fish, caribou and whale blubber. Not wildly popular.
1930: The first of the liquid diet drinks, courtesy of a Dr. Stoll and – 1930 being a big year for fad diets – the Hay Diet which proclaimed that carbs and proteins could not be consumed together. Whaaat? No steak and potatoes?
1934: Bananas and Skim Milk Diet (backed by – here’s a surprise – United Fruit Company)
1950: Another hallmark year: The Grapefruit Diet and the Cabbage Soup Diet. And people say the 1950s were boring.
1964:The Drinking Man’s Diet (like on Mad Men)
1967: Birth (that’s a pun) of the hCG diet, a combination of injections of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (produced in a pregnant woman’s placenta) and a 500-calorie diet.
1970: The Liquid Protein Diet. One version was marketed as The Last Chance Diet, a name it earned when several people died using the product.
1976: My favorite: The Sleeping Beauty Diet in which the dieter is heavily sedated for several days (and thus doesn’t eat).
1981: Beverly Hills Diet. Unlimited quantities of fruit – and only fruit – for the first ten days.
1985: The Caveman Diet in which one enjoys foods from the Paleolithic Era. Yes, the Paleo craze has been around for this long, longer if you count the whale blubber version.
1987: The Scarsdale Diet – low carb, low-cal. Its originator, Dr. Herman Tarnower, was famously murdered by his mistress, the head of a posh private school.
1988: Calorie Restriction (CR) Diet in which you satisfy all nutritional needs while consuming 30 percent fewer calories than your body requires. Forever. This is very very difficult to do. (Plus you look unpleasantly cadaverous.) The good (and bad) news? This diet works.
1990: Return of the Cabbage Soup Diet. Because it worked so well the first time.
1994: The high-protein, low carb Atkins’ diet.
1996: Eat Right for Your Type, a diet based on your blood type. O. No.
1999: The holy triumvirate: Juicing, Fasting, Detoxing.
2000: Raw Foods.
2006: Maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne. ‘Nuf said.
2010: Baby Food Diet: 14 jars of baby food a day. Diapers optional.
2012: The ascent of Gluten Free.
2014: The Bulletproof Diet, the secret of which is drinking “bulletproof coffee” (coffee laced liberally — as in 400 cals a cup — with butter or coconut oil).
2016: The Mono Diet is a one-food-and-one-food only plan that continues to resurface, year after year. 2016 was The Year of the Banana.
Not to mention: tape worms, Bile Beans, cotton balls, feeding tubes…What’s next? Don’t answer that.