Column, Looking Back

Popular diets over the decades

Well, we are now into the second month of a new year. Did you make any resolutions? If so, how are they going? It’s no surprise that weight loss and fitness are the goals that many of us hope to achieve.
I am among those who are motivated as the calendar flips each year. Unfortunately, I get un-motivated as the days roll along.
I was talking recently to a childhood friend who reminded me of something back when we were kids in the 1950s. I was one of the skinniest kids on the block. My mother was always trying to put a few pounds on me and a friend’s mother was always trying to take a few pounds off her daughter.  That made it tough when we were together and I was encouraged to eat something that was considered fattening and my friend was encouraged to avoid it. As life would have it, our situations are now reversed and I am the one with some extra pounds! How did that happen?
By high school everyone who had even a few extra pounds wanted them off. Girls started to be more conscious of their figures. Talks of dieting were common among us.
By the time I got to college, the “freshman 15” was the topic of conversation. Our cafeteria food was not all that healthy. However, today schools seem to be making an effort to serve nutritious meals. I went to college in Burlington back in the 60s and “comfort food” seemed to abound in the cafeteria line. Across the street from the campus was a restaurant called Dan’s. You did not go there to get healthy! You went for burgers, fries and milkshakes. If you were lucky enough to have a friend with a car, you went to The Lure on Williston Road for the exact same things. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I had a friend with a car. With no time to spare before our 10 p.m. curfew, we would put on trench coats over our nightgowns and head to The Lure. There were usually five of us squashed into a small VW.
By the time I graduated from college the slim, trim 110 pound body with which I had entered college could have used some serious dieting.
Recently I watched Oprah Winfrey tell TV viewers about her success with Weight Watchers. My mind wandered back to the many weight loss products and fad diets available to people over the decades.
So what was popular in the 1950s? The Grapefruit Diet, also known as the Hollywood Diet, was one option. You were required to eat a grapefruit at every meal. The Cabbage Soup Diet was also popular then. The diet claimed that if you ate cabbage soup for a week along with fruits and vegetables you could lose 10-15 pounds in one week. I would definitely have passed on the cabbage soup! If there were an award for “grossness” it would go to the Tapeworm Diet. You swallowed a pill that had a parasite in it. No thanks on that one also!
In 1963 the much acclaimed Weight Watchers came along. I know many people who have tried that over the years. It is based on counting points throughout the day. The sensibility of the diet has kept it popular up to the present time. After all, if it works for Oprah, it should work for the rest of the world!
The 1970s must have been the decade when people were really into trying various dieting techniques. Nutrisystem debuted in 1972. The company provides meals that are delivered to your door. No guessing with this diet! Just a couple of years ago, Marie Osmond told the world about her success with this method.
The “sweetest” diet of the 70s was the Cookie Diet where you ate cookies made with a blend of amino acids.
In 1977 Slim Fast hit the shelves. I even tried that one. You had a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and a sensible dinner. The chocolate shakes were quite tasty but they lost their appeal after awhile.
The 1978 Scarsdale Diet was also popular. It was a diet of percentages: 43 percent protein, 22.5 percent fat and 34.5 percent carbohydrates. The book detailing food choices to meet the requirements was very popular.
And last, but not least, in the 70s was a pill introduced in 1979 by the name of Dexatrim. A friend tried this and told me it felt like her feet weren’t touching the ground when she walked. How’s that for a fast metabolism? When a study showed that this pill could have a connection to increased strokes, its popularity waned. Glad I passed on this one, too!
In the 80s a candy called Ayds hit the shelves but didn’t last long, as its name and the disease AIDS were not a match for sales.
As you can see from all the above options, people want an easy way out when it comes to dieting.
But we all know that a common sense approach is what will work long-term when it comes to losing weight. A lifetime change to healthy choices in the foods we eat will be far more beneficial than the fad diets of any decade.
I am doing my best to select the proper foods to eat. Maybe next year at this time, I will take a look back on 2017 and have some good results to report. Wish me luck!

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