12 fad diets and weight loss trends from the '60s and '70s

Dieters of the past tried everything from Sego chocolate shakes to shaking it off with a VitaMaster massager.

Top image: Thinkstock

For decades, dieters have searched for a plan of action beyond mom and dad's advice to eat your vegetables. From early television fitness series like The Jack LaLanne Show to trendy regimens like the cabbage soup diet, there have been no shortage of options for those looking to lose weight. 

Some diets, such as Weight Watchers, have stuck around since their inception in the 1960s. Others, like those listed below, hardly lasted long enough to make it to the next round of resolutions. Here are some memorable fad diets of the Sixties and Seventies.

1. Metrecal

Mead Johnson put a lot of science into its "Satisfying Food for Weight Control," a chalky, protein-rich powder first introduced in the fall of 1959. They even used an IBM computer to generate the product name, a hybrid of "meter" and "calories." At first available as a 225-calories shake (to be consumed four times a day — do the math there) the product line expanded to include clam chowder and cookies.

2. Sego

Pet introduced its meal-replacement shake to a crowded market in 1963. Dozens of diet drinks filled shelves in the early part of the decade, branded with not-very-delicious-sounding names like Quota (from Quaker Oats) and Bal-Cal (from Sears). Alfred Hitchcock discovered Tippi Hedren when the actress appeared in a Sego commercial.

3. Carnation's Slender

When Carnation discovered that dieters were drinking its Instant Breakfast mix as a meal replacement, they rechristened the powder Slender and sold it as a weight-loss food. Snack bars were also produced. Wanting in on the game, Pillsbury bought out the Figurines brand of diet bars. "Diet candy" was also a thing back in the day.

Image: Flickr

4. The Drinking Man's Diet

This most Don Draper–approved of diets arrived in 1964. Despite the very of-its-era name, the Drinking Man's Diet is not so bizarre as others. Essentially, it is a low-card diet, supplemented in parts by a liquid lunch. It sold over 2 million copies. Other drinking-heavy diets of the time included Dr. Herman Taller's safflower oil plan (mmm) and another that asked one to only consume six glasses of buttermilk a day.

Image: Pinterest

5. Diet pills

As this cover from the January 26, 1968, issue of Life details, diet pills had already come to replace drinks by the second half of the decade. This did not stop capsules like Dextrim selling well throughout the 1970s. 

6. The Stillman Diet

Launched in 1967, the Stillman Diet was high on spices, and hard on condiments. The Atkins-like diet gained notoriety as Karen Carpenter went on the regimen.

7. The Sexy Pineapple Diet

"From Denmark," as the cover proclaimed in 1968, this diet promised to keep you "slim and erogenic."

8. Belt massagers

Another option in the mid-century was shaking the fat away with the help of a belt massager like the VitaMaster. The quirky device was perhaps better used a comedy prop than a legitimate fat burning tool. 

9. The Grapefruit Diet

One of the earliest fad diets traces back to the 1930s, when it known as the Hollywood Diet. The practice of eating a slide of grapefruit with every meal surged again in popularity in the 1970s. It's claim was that enzymes in the citrus helped to burn fat. It was later rebranded at the "10-day, 10-pounds-off diet."

10. The Israeli Army Diet

This oddly named trend also hit in the 1970s. We say oddly named, as the eight-day diet had no relation to the Israeli Army. Perhaps it was some mistaken reference to the Six Day War? The regimen was rather bizarre as well, as it required four cycles of a dieter eating just one food for two days. Days one and two: apples. Three and four: cheese. Five and six: chicken. Finally: salad. 

11. The Last Chance Diet

Hitting the stands in 1976, Dr. Robert Linn's dangerous "Last Chance" diet was based on his liquid protein drink, branded and sold as Prolinn. The elixir was made of slaughterhouse leftovers like bones and hooves. Millions of books and packages of Prolinn were sold, until the FDA intervenes after the death of some dieters.

12. The Scarsdale Diet

Dr. Herman Tarnower published his diet in 1978, named for the city in New York where he practiced medicine. The low-carb diet was not too far off from the Atkins diet. Its popularity peaked at the dawn of the 1980s after the murder of Dr. Tarnower.

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