Diet Fads Throughout History

By | January 6, 2019

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Hippocrates. Source: (

These days, there is a diet fad to fit every lifestyle. From counting calories to counting carbs, cutting out an entire food group to eating only one type of food, each fad claims to have the secret to rapid weight loss. However, the concept of a diet as the eating of (or abstaining from) specific foods for the purpose of losing weight has been around for more than two thousand years.

According to author Louise Foxcroft, the ancient Greeks of the 3rd century B.C. were the first to institute a system of dieting. They believed obesity to be morally and physically wrong and that it was a sign of luxury and corruption. As a result, they thought food should be plain. Followers of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates maintained a diet of light, soft foods along with exercise.

The next recorded occurrence of dieting came a millennium later. In the year 1028, William the Conqueror became so overweight that he was too heavy to ride his horse. As a result, he began the first liquid diet, abstaining from solid foods and consuming only alcohol. While there is no documentation of how much weight he lost, his eventual death from a riding accident is evidence that he had enough success to resume riding his horse.

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William the Conqueror’s Ironic Death. Source: (

William the Conqueror wasn’t the only person to try a diet of consuming more alcohol than food. In 1558, Italian nobleman Luigi Cornaro limited himself to twelve ounces of food and fourteen ounces of alcohol per day. This diet was nicknamed The Immortality Diet based on the rumor that Cornaro lived to be one hundred and two years old. The Drinking Man’s Diet of the 1960s included so-called manly foods like steak along with unlimited alcohol.

Another liquid-based diet was the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet. This diet, which consisted of drinking a mixture of honey and vinegar, became popular in the 1950s; however, nineteenth-century poet Lord Byron is said to have maintained his pale, thin appearance with vinegar and water. A more recent version of the diet involves consuming three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar before each meal. This is thought to reduce cravings and fat; however, it is not backed by scientific evidence.