Guest Post: What “dieting” meant to people in the 1900s


Dieting in the 1900s

The concept of “dieting” has been around for a very, very long time. If historical data is to be believed, people have been convinced about the power of dieting for as long as 500 years now. Can people control their body weight and composition by controlling what they eat, when they eat and how they eat it? Most certainly!

Today, we have a number of facilities and fitness equipment like roman chairs, treadmills, and dedicated trainers to help us with our fitness goals. Back in the day? Diets were more sought-after. A lot of diets have been introduced and experimented with over the years. Some of them have been failures, some have been quite weird, and others have been recycled, given fancier names, and exist in the current scenario. Let’s take a look at a few of these:

  1.    Soupin’ around:

It is believed that in Europe, around the 1930s, a lot of women had begun experimenting with what they called the “Soup Diet”; a diet which comprised of nothing but different types and flavor of soups, and absolutely no solids to accompany it. They would alternate between soups made from different vegetables and also meat soups, but bread and any other form of carbohydrates were completely omitted. Cabbage soup was also very much talked about.

The result? Thin but extremely weak and unhealthy bodies.

  1.    The Scary Diet:

Ever heard of a Tapeworm? It’s basically a parasite that consumes whatever comes its way. Back in the mid-1950s, a rumor had gone around that Opera singer Maria Callas had taken up this bizarre diet and consumed a parasitic pill that helped her lose all that weight. Since the dieting industry was also on a boom, advertisers used it as their selling point and actually managed to sell quite a few of them. Now whether or not this magic “diet pill” was legally sold or not, apparently it had quite a market and did actually make quite a few heads (and stomachs) turn.

  1.    Weight Watching Cookbooks:


A number of authors had begun writing about dieting and weight watching in the 1900s, a subject that was earlier not given as much importance. Women started taking their kitchen duties rather seriously, and cookbooks with diet specific recipes, tips on eating non-fatty foods and even weekly and monthly programs had become a huge hit by the 1970s!

  1.    Cookie be Good?


Image source: How and why should I maintain a diet via (GGP)

In 1975, a genius doctor with a razor sharp mind for business came up with what every woman thought could have only been a dream: Cookies that help you lose weight. According to his claims, he had a special, secret recipe which included protein and amino acids that could curb people’s appetite and help them lose weight. Whether it worked or not, the doctor surely raised quite a few eyebrows.

  1.    Fasting was ALWAYS a thing

Even back in earlier years of the 20th century, people strongly believed in the concept of fasting, and not just for religious or spiritual purposes. Some had adopted what they called a “Cleansing period” during which they would fast for days or weeks together, depending on their choice, and would do this periodically. Even today, things like intermediate fasting and alternate meal fasting are quite popular and apparently effective.

  1.    Artificially Sweeter

Wonder when the whole idea of artificial sugar substitutes came around? The 1960s! This was the decade when diet sodas, not-so-sweet sugar alternatives, and food supplements had come into the market, giving regular sugary ingredients a raging run for their money. While the trend died down a few years later, we all know that it has come back in full swing over the past decade, and seems like a trend which is definitely here to stay.

  1.    Go Home, Get Lean

In the 1940s, the fad was slightly different. More than focusing on just a diet, ads across newspapers focused on telling women that cooking and doing more house related chores was the best way to stay fit and have a great body too. Too bad they couldn’t sneak in a gym in their garage. Back then, the “in” body type was more lean than curvy, and the ads were quite well received.

  1.     Grape-fruiting it

In the 1930s, when slim figures were just coming into vogue, the grapefruit had earned its place in the hearts and stomachs of the rich and the famous. Also called the “Hollywood Diet,” grapefruits had become all the rage, and their price in the market had subsequently gone up too. Apparently having a grapefruit with every meal of the day reduced one’s appetite and also guaranteed a slimmer, narrower waistline. Whether the diet actually worked or not, it did have quite a few takers (and keepers).

  1.    What about an F-Plan?

This diet was published in 1982 in the UK, titled the “F-Plan Diet” and mainly informed people on how to have a low fat and high fiber diet. This rather logical diet was coined by Audrey Eyton, who was a slimming expert, and very strongly believed that a high fiber breakfast (grains and cereals), pulses and salads for lunch and a high carb dinner with potatoes, some protein-rich meat and vegetables would be the perfect diet for anyone. Interestingly, this diet is very similar to a lot of popular and sought-after diets that are followed even today!

  1.  Fletching the Fat Away

In the beginning of the 1900s, an American entrepreneur named Horace Fletcher came up with a weird dietary solution: eating your food and chewing each bite at least a hundred times. According to this technique, a person would be able to absorb all the nutrients in a bite and also turn it into an almost liquid meal, by constantly chewing. He believed that liquids are easier to digest and hence, with this insane chewing method, people would gain almost no weight by eating.

The diet fad has only grown ever since, but the fresher theories are backed more by scientific facts and nutrition studies and less by weight-loss as a primary motive. It is interesting to see how the concept of dieting took a lot of twists and turns and finally evolved into what it is today. It may very well advance more and see a lot more changes in the future but, who’s to say? Dieting trends are and always have been very dynamic. What’s the best thing to do? Good wholesome foods, no faddish diets and simple cooking!

Author Bio

Gary is a fitness preacher who writes in-depth fitness equipment reviews for home gym owners. He is also an ardent fan of great outdoors and has a penchant for long hikes through forests. He aims to enrich the fitness community with relevant information which he has gathered first hand through this journey called life!


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