These ’70s and ‘80s Fad Diets Are Too Freaking Hard To Follow
Health and fitness have always gone hand-in-hand.
Over the years, people have been inundated by trends promising to increase energy and burn fat, despite the reality none of those remedies can be guaranteed from food alone.
While practicing self-care has soared in popularity, from indulging in a sheet mask and massage to something a tad pricy at Trader Joe’s, it’s safe to say the world has come along way since the insanely restrictive ‘70s and ‘80s.
Wellness as we know it today emerged in the ‘70s with nutritionists like Adelle Davis—dubbed the “first lady of nutritionist”—advocating for healthy eating, fresh foods, and the nutrients in them.
Since a more holistic approach to wellness was relatively new, there was still a demand for seemingly quick fitness fixes. Which is why, to no surprise, there was a mass craze over fad diets, at-home machines, and video workouts were rampant throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Ultimately, the key factors to success will revolve around diet and exercise, but it’s fun to reminisce or learn the extent people will always go to shed some extra pounds.
If we’re being honest, we wouldn’t have made it through half of these. But… we’d very much like to bring jazzercise and applaud Lean Cuisine for sticking around so long.
So, in honor of the era of short-shorts and spandex, here are 15 of the most popular self-care and wellness trends from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
1. The Grapefruit Diet
You can do anything for 12 days… is what this plan is banking on.
While we love grapefruits, this 12-day plan is all about consuming them and juice version at every meal.
The real kicker? The daily caloric intake of less than 1,000 calories for most of these diets, according to Healthline, and honestly I can hear my stomach grumbling.
For all the pain, you could lose up to 10 pounds in 12 days — due to fat-burning enzymes found in grapefruits.
Diet pills were big in the ‘70s and ‘80s, with Dexatrim being one of the most popular brands.
Dexatrim was an appetite suppressant created by S. Daniel Abraham, who also invented Slim-Fast. The diet pill contained phenylpropanolamine, which was commonly prescribed for allergies, according to Livestrong.
Dexatrim, along with other diet pills containing phenylpropanolamine, was later pulled off shelves for being linked to the increased possibility of strokes.
3. The Sleeping Beauty Diet
You can’t eat if you’re sleeping, right?
The Sleeping Beauty diet is an extreme weight loss method that involves sleeping to avoid overeating. The danger in the diet is that many have taken sedatives to do so.
It was so popular in the ‘70s that even Elvis Presley tried it, The Independent reported. A doctor recommended that he undergo a medically-induced coma for a few days to prevent him from eating.
In the ‘80s, Optifast got Oprah Winfrey’s stamp of approval.
It was the diet that helped her lose almost 70 pounds in a matter of months, the Chicago Tribune reported. Optifast was a liquid diet that involved drinking a “high-protein, vitamin-packed powder mixed with water” five times a day.
Overall, the diet provided only 420 calories per day. The program was offered in hospitals and helped people lose weight quickly, but the real challenge after the program was keeping the weight off.
5. The Cookie Diet
Eating cookies all day doesn’t sound too bad.
The cookie diet sounds like something the Cookie Monster would love, but it was a real trend in the ‘70s. The diet was created by Dr. Sanford Siegal who developed low-calorie cookies that helped control hunger.
According to his website, Dr. Siegal uses a top “secret amino acid protein blend” for the cookies.
6. Low-Fat Everything
After years of fad diets, nutritionists started singling out low-fat diets.
In the 1980s, reports came out that claimed fat in our diet was the most important change people could make to improve their health, according to PBS.
However, much of the time lowering the fat content in food meant an increase in sugar, NPR reported. So although the intention was to help people lose weight, the low-fat trend might have actually made people gain weight.
7. Lean Cuisines
The low-calorie frozen meals were a hit in the ‘80s.
Lean Cuisine started as a healthier alternative to Nestle’s acquired frozen meal company Stouffer’s, according to Mental Floss. There were initially ten different offerings that were advertised as containing only 300 calories or less.
With its convenience and promise for a healthy meal, Lean Cuisine was a hit in its first year.
8. Jane Fonda’s Workout
Jane Fonda’s Workout made aerobic exercise available to everyone at home.
In the ‘80s, Jane Fonda published Jane Fonda’s Workout Book, which would turn out to be a New York Times best-seller. She released a VHS called the Jane Fonda Workout that sold 17 million copies worldwide, according to Vogue.
Interested in trying the workout yourself? You can find Jane Fonda’s Workout online and exercise like they did back in the ‘80s.
Slim-Fast was introduced in 1977 by S. Daniel Abraham.
It was a powdered formula that was meant to be mixed with low-fat milk. The result was a milkshake-like beverage advertised as a 1,200-calorie meal replacement for breakfast and lunch.
After a tough first year for Slim-Fast, the brand was reintroduced into the market in the early ‘80s and hit $197 million in sales by 1984.
10. The Atkins Diet
Dr. Robert Atkins was well-known in the ‘70s for promoting low-carb diets for weight loss.
In 1972, Dr. Atkins published his first book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution he emphasized that a diet that was high in protein and low in carbohydrates was the key to weight loss. It advertised a lifestyle that allowed people to eat foods like steak, eggs, butter, and bacon while keeping off the pounds. Does this sound like proto-Keto to anyone else?
11. Buns of Steel
At-home workout videos were a major trend in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Buns of Steel was high on the list of the most popular workout tapes along with Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. Buns of Steel came out in 1987 and featured athlete and health-club owner Greg Smithey, the Chicago Tribune reported.
As the name of the workout suggests, Buns of Steel toned the glutes but with “less aerobics.”
The dance fitness craze was big in the ‘70s and ‘80s and still is to this day.
Jazzercise was created by Judi Shepherd Missett in 1969. She started her cardio dance class with only 15 students and as the wave of Jazzercise caught on, her classes got bigger and bigger, The Washington Post reported.
Jazzercise is still alive and well and is taught decades after it was first introduced. Now, the classes include a mix of “high intensity dance party that fuses cardio, strength, Pilates, hip hop, yoga, and kickboxing.”
13. Step Aerobics
Step aerobics was an alternative to more intense dance fitness classes.
Gin Miller created the workout in the ’80s. Because it was designed to be a low-impact workout class, it was great for beginners and people with injuries, according to Livestrong.
It gained so much popularity that it expanded to gyms, fitness studios, and videotapes. They might not be as popular as they were back in the day, but you can still find step aerobics classes today.
14. Nautilus Workout Machines
The at-home workout machine completely transformed exercising at home.
If doing an aerobic workout class on VHS wasn’t for you, Nautilus’s fitness equipment was where it was at. According to the workout demonstration, the equipment provided resistance training to help its users get fit.
You can still find Nautilus equipment today, with Bowflex being one of the more recognizable names.
15. Electric Muscle Stimulators
The technology was used as a way to enhance muscles.
The idea behind electric muscle stimulators was to increase or decrease activity in the nervous system. By doing so, it was supposed to strengthen muscles, increase muscle size, improve endurance, and speed up muscle recovery. It was popular in the ‘70s after the technology was used to help out Olympic athletes.
According to Refinery29, EMS is making something of a comeback as trainers combine workouts with new EMS tech.
16. Richard Simmons Tapes
Since he started out, Richard Simmons has been an icon in the fitness industry.
Simmons struggled with his weight, which led him to build his empire of fitness classes and at-home workout tapes like Sweatin’ to the Oldies and Dance Your Pants Off that would sell millions of copies, according to The Washington Post. He was also the author of multiple books such as Never Say Diet and Never Give Up.