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The Changing Face of Diets




The interest in weight loss has been around for a long time. The poet Lord Byron is said to have chosen potatoes soaked in vinegar as an attempt to lose weight while wearing many layers of clothes to sweat off the pounds. Over the centuries many different diets have come to prominence. Below we chart the development of dieting.

Graham Diet

In 1829, an American minister named Sylvester Graham touted his Graham diet that entailed caffeine-free beverages, vegetarianism, and crackers.

Banting Diet

In the 1880s a working-class Englishman published a document called ‘Letter on Corpulence’ that expounded a low-carbohydrate diet that the writer claimed had helped him lose over 50 pounds. It proved very popular across England and ‘banting’ was used as a synonym for dieting.


One of the first dieticians to come to international prominence was Horace Fletcher at the turn of the twentieth century. An American physician claimed that the most important aspect of eating was to chew each mouthful of food at least thirty-two times before swallowing. This would help individuals feel fuller quicker and so eat less. There is some logic in this, and his ideas gained some famous adherents, notably John D Rockefeller and Czech writer Franz Kafka.

Weight Watchers

In the 1960s, American housewife Jean Nidetch developed the notion of Weight Watchers. It was revolutionary in that included a support network for the dieter. Individuals attend regular meetings to chart their progress and receive advice. It is a holistic program that advocates long-term healthy eating and regular exercise. It has proved so popular that there are Weight Watchers clubs in more than 30 countries around the world.

Atkins Diet

Bearing similarity to the Banting diet of a century before, the Atkins Diet, developed by Robert Atkins, also prescribes a low-carb, high-protein menu. This is meant to shift the efforts of the metabolism from converting the sugars in carb-heavy food into energy and instead deriving energy from burning stored body fat. It was seized upon as dieters could eat as much as they wanted of the prescribed foods, minimizing the hunger pangs that can prove the downfall of many dieters.

Dukan Diet

Pierre Dukan is a French doctor who began developing his ideas about diet in the 1970s. However, it was only in 2000 that he published a book about them. That book has since sold 10 million copies and many people have tried his program. The Dukan diet is similar to the Atkins in that it concentrates on protein-rich foods, but it prescribes four stages of dieting. The first is ‘attack’ designed to kick-start the metabolism by eating almost solely protein and so lose a few kilos quickly. This is followed by the ‘cruise’ phase that adds vegetables and aims for more gradual weight loss. The ‘consolidation’ phase adds dairy to the menu, while the ‘stabilization’ phase is a program to follow continually to maintain the dieter’s ideal weight.

Maple Syrup Diet

One of the more recent dieting trends has been the maple syrup diet which became known after Beyoncé claimed to have lost one and a half stones in two weeks by following it. The diet is said to consist of eating nothing for a period of between one and two weeks, save for a drink made from a combination of spring water, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. Dieters can also choose to go for a more relaxed version of following the diet one day a week.

While these diets may be useful for a short-term weight loss − perhaps to get ready for a summer holiday − they are not really suitable as long term eating plans. The best way to ensure lasting results is to choose a healthy diet and undertake regular exercise as a lifestyle choice.