14 Insane Diets People Actually Followed In The 1970s

February 26, 2019

When you think about it, fad diets are a fascinating concept. The actual trends come and go, and yet, the appeal of fad diets never seems to go away. I mean, people have been obsessed with them since at least the 1800s! And while different eating plans came and went during the 1900s, the fad diets of the 1970s were especially interesting.

For starters, food manufacturing had been evolving at a groundbreaking pace. The ’50s and ’60s saw the rise of mass-produced food, and by the ’70s, companies were pros at reaching more and more consumers. It also didn’t hurt that manufacturers figured out how to increase the shelf-life of different edible items.

Without the success of factory production, there’s a chance that dieting products like shakes and pills wouldn’t be as accessible.

But it didn’t stop at specific brands or items. Some fad diets revolved around certain habits — like sleeping as much as possible — or foods, like grapefruit or pineapple. And like all fad diets, these trends of the ’70s usually involved severe calorie restriction and elimination of major food groups with the promise of a “quick fix.” Needless to say, many of these diets have caused a lot of controversy over the years.

In the midst of the platform shoes and funky disco tunes, the following diets were all the rage during the ’70s.

1. Master Cleanse Diet

While “cleanses” are super trendy right now, they’ve been around for decades. One particularly dangerous version is The Master Cleanse Diet, also known as The Lemonade Diet or The Maple Syrup Diet.

Stanley Burroughs created the cleanse in the 1940s, but it rose to fame when he published his 1976 book The Master Cleanser.

It’s a liquid diet that involves nothing more than a drink made of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. You’re supposed to drink the concoction 6 to 12 times a day for at least 10 days. (Yikes.) It does lead to weight loss, but it’s because of the lack of essential nutrients and calories. Hello, exhaustion.

2. Cookie Diet

As a child, I would have been all over this diet. But if I’m being honest (and realistic), the “Cookie Diet” of 1975 is just bad news.

Besides, it didn’t call for just any old cookie.

The diet required you to eat one or two “special” diet cookies for breakfast or lunch. The cookies were formulated by physician Sanford Siegal, who also designed the diet. Dinner included a 500-700 calorie meal. Apparently, the cookies were supposed to keep hunger at bay, but something tells us there are much healthier (and wholesome) ways to go about this.

3. Starvation

In 1973, Luciana Avedon and Jeanne Molli released The Beautiful People’s Diet Book. “For heightened perception without drugs plus rapid weight loss, nothing beats the oldest known treatment for obesity: total starvation,” it read.


Apparently, people still read the book today, but mainly just for laughs. The advice in the book is allegedly equal parts hilarious and horrifying. According to an Into The Gloss article, it also said: “If you watch slender people eat — people still slender past 30 — you see that they demand both good food and little of it.” Oh, goodness.

4. Diet Pills

The ’60s and ’70s were no stranger to drugs. And while things like LSD and marijuana might come to mind, diet pills were just as trendy, too. Most of these pills were made of fiber and indigestible starches, which often lead to unpleasant stomach pain.

One of the most notorious diet pills was Dexatrim. It was released in 1976 and was formulated by S. Daniel Abraham, the creator of Slim-Fast.

However, the drug increased the risk of stroke, so it was taken off the market by the early 1980s. Other dangerous diet pills like Appedrine also had the same side effect.

5. The Grapefruit Diet

The “Grapefruit Diet” of yesteryear might very well be one of the most popular retro fad diets. It was created in the ’30s, but it came back with a vengeance in the ’70s.

The diet involved eating half a grapefruit (or 4 ounces of 100% grapefruit juice) before every meal.

Breakfast usually consisted of two eggs and two pieces of bacon, while lunch included protein with a salad and dressing. Dinner was meat and veggies.

Basically, it was a low-carb diet.

There’s nothing wrong with grapefruit. However, people believed that grapefruit has an enzyme that burns fat, which has been proven to be wrong. And aside from providing very little calories and diverse nutrients, grapefruit can negatively interact with cholesterol-lowering drugs.

6. The Sexy Pineapple Diet

In 1970, Sten and Inge Hegeler released a book called The Sexy Pineapple Diet. (They also wrote a book titled The Abz of Love, just in case you’re wondering.) The Sexy Pineapple Diet involved eating pineapples (and only pineapples) two days a week.

On the other days, you were allowed to eat whatever you want.

Like grapefruit, pineapple isn’t necessarily evil or weird. It’s delicious and full of vitamins! Pineapple also contains an enzyme called bromelain that was associated with fat burn. Yet, like grapefruits, pineapples aren’t a magical weight loss solution, and the diet itself is far from sustainable.

7. The Israeli Army Diet

This diet was all sorts of strange. First, it required eight days of eating one type of food each day. You ate nothing but apples on the first two days, then only cheese on the next two days.

The following two days required chicken, and the last two days called for salad.

Second, despite the name, the fad diet had nothing to do with the Israeli Army. How bizarre.

8. The Last Chance Diet

In 1976, Dr. Robert Linn published a book called The Last Chance Diet. And like most fad diets, it was based on a specific product. This one included Prolinn, a liquid protein drink.

Aside from the dramatic name, the beverage was pretty disturbing.

It was made with leftovers from slaughterhouses, such as hooves and bones. The FDA took action after a few Prolinn dieters passed away.

9. The 7-Day Milk Diet

In 1976, the California Milk Advisory Board released a pamphlet called the “The New 7-Day Milk Diet.” Essentially, every meal was replaced with a glass of milk.

The thought process was that milk contained micronutrients that minimized fat deposits and therefore, lead to weight loss.

Aside from lacking a balance of essential nutrients, this diet was clearly designed to increase sales of milk.

10. The Sleeping Beauty Diet

The idea behind The Sleeping Beauty Diet was simple: the more you sleep, the less you can eat. There were also two different ways to do this diet. One option was to sleep as much as possible, especially if you feel hungry.

Alternatively, you could use sedatives to promote sleep.

In either case, The Sleeping Beauty Diet was simply not healthy. It was basically deprivation in the form of snoozing, but it was so popular that even Elvis Presley gave it a go. (Apparently, he was sedated for several days.)

11. Sugar Diet

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Sugar was totally marketed as an appetite suppressant during the 1970s. Usually, dieters were encouraged to eat a high-sugar food like cookies or soda before a meal.

Added sugar was said to not only satisfy hunger pangs, but provide enough energy for exercise, too.

Oh, and guess who started the movement? The Sugar Association, of course.

12. Ayds Candies

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, an appetite-suppressing candy called Ayds became extremely trendy. They were available in three flavors: chocolate, caramel, and butterscotch. But because of its unfortunate name, sales seriously dropped when the AIDS crisis began.

It didn’t help that the candy’s tagline was, “Ayds helps you take off weight and keep it off.”

13. The Scarsdale Diet

The Scarsdale Diet was created in the 1970s by Dr. Herbert Tarnower. This 14-day diet had extremely specific eating guidelines: 43% protein, 35.5% carbs, and 25.5% fat. It was low-calorie diet that was designed to be followed for two weeks.

Like most fad diets, The Scarsdale Diet did promote a high fruit and veggie intake.

But because of its strict rules, it was eventually criticized because it doesn’t teach mindful, intuitive eating. To top things off, the diet became more popular when Dr. Tarnower was murdered by his partner in 1980.

14. The Wine and Eggs Diet

Last but not least, there was the insane “wine and eggs” crash diet in the 1977 beauty issue of Vogue. The diet was designed to be followed for three days and promised weight loss of at least five pounds. Breakfast was one hard-boiled egg, one glass of white wine, and black coffee. Lunch included two hard-boiled eggs, two glasses of white wine, and black coffee.

Dinner was grilled steak, black coffee, and the rest of the white wine.

…I mean, I guess that’s one way to get through the work day.