Guest Post: Weight Loss Diets of The Twentieth Century

People often think of diet as a relatively modern trend that became popular in the 1980s. However, the humanity has been struggling to lose weight for centuries. The idea of dieting as an effective method for achieving this has been around at least since the twentieth century, when the first literature that gave weight-loss advice appeared.

In this article, we are going to review the history of diets in the twentieth century that revolutionized the way people looked at nutrition.

From Absurd Recommendations to Low Carb Diets

Calories Counting Era Beginning (1918)

You may not know but one of the most important contemporary principles of dieting, counting calories, was actually introduced in the twentieth century. A doctor in California, Lulu Hunt Peters, studied dieting and came up with a brilliant book Diet and Health, with the Key to the Calories. This book is available for free now and marks the beginning of the “calories era.”

This work was also important because it represented the first organized approach for a particular target audience:

  • The intended audience for the book, as pointed out by Dr. Peters, were married women
  • The readers could calculate their own appropriate weight using a formula provided
  • She was the first to propose food portions with a limited amount of calories (100)
  • The book contained recommendations on how to handle issues like jealous girlfriends
  • The text was written in a natural, conversational style instead of an academic one.

So, Dr. Peters’s work showed that modern-style diet recommendations began as early as the twentieth century.

Cigarette Diet? (1925)

If you think that cannabis for weight loss sounds weird, think again. How would you feel about a cigarette commercial that convinced you to smoke instead of eating? Yes, a cigarette diet! As surprising as it sounds, this was a legitimate thing during the past century. Lucky Strike advertising of the time encouraged Americans to smoke their cigarettes instead of chocolate and other sweets to keep fat at bay. Just take a look at this poster.


Image Source: manvfat

Unsurprisingly, this diet wasn’t effective enough to stand the test of time, so more appropriate approaches were developed.

Dr. Robert Atkinson’s Diet (1972)

Although the history of a low carb diet began in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1980s when the Western world really appreciated it. Dr. Robert Atkinson wrote a book called Diet Revolution to educate Americans about his low carb regime. Just a few got interested in this diet from the beginning but it became incredibly popular in the early 2000s (that’s why many people think that the diet revolution began at that time).


Image Source: Bartawlinson

The Beverly Hills Diet (the 1980s)

One of the most prominent approaches to diet on the twentieth century was developed by Judy Mazel, an American weight loss advocate. She wrote a book “The Beverly Hills Diet,” which quickly became a best seller in the U.S. The main idea of the diet was to eat one type of food at a time to avoid combining proteins and carbohydrates in the same meal.


Image Source: amazon

Even though this method was widely dismissed by mainstream nutritionists, Mazel was incredibly popular and counseled as many as 250 clients a week at her Beverly Hills clinic.

Wrapping Up

Never knew that dieting as we know it originated in the twentieth century? It is very interesting because many people tend to think that anti-obesity effort is a relatively recent phenomenon but apparently, they were dealing with this problem long before one can think. So, the twentieth century was a major milestone in the development of modern diets that helped to shape the ones we are using today.

Author Bio

Kathrin Garner.jpgKathrin Garner is an enthusiastic journalist and writes article on social issues. As an activist, she takes part in NCSM program. She searches for topics that are relevant, and writes about it to a wide range of readers.

13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Weight Loss Diets of The Twentieth Century

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  1. Great read, can’t believe they used to say cigarette’s were a healthy alternative to ANY method of weight loss! Cannabis does help quite a bit, I used CBD to manage my weight.

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