Nothing says “bold” like the 1980s. It was a decade of bright colors, big shoulder pads, and even bigger hair. Heck, even the music was full of energy, since technology made it possible to use things like synthesizers and drum machines. Basically, everything was brighter and louder, but it didn’t stop at fashion and music. The culture around eating and dieting was just as intense, and the most popular 1980s diets proved just that.
In other words, when it came to food, people didn’t shy away from taking on extreme eating habits in the name of weight loss.
This usually meant cutting out major food groups (and therefore, nutrients) or following insanely strict results. Yet, when all the “cool kids” were doing it, the diets simply seemed more appealing. The result? An outbreak of fad diets that would make today’s nutritionists shudder with horror. Many of these diets were popular in the ’70s and continued to thrive in the ’80s. Others came and went in previous decades, but returned in the ’80s.
Yet, it’s important to keep in mind that fad diets weren’t unique to the decade of hair metal and neon.
Folks have been obsessed with trendy eating habits since the 1800s! And while the ideas and concepts around dieting have obviously changed over the years, one thing is for sure: Nothing can ever top mindful and balanced eating.
Beyond the big hair and shoulder pads, the ’80s took things to the extreme.
Even the food was bright and colorful.
And as aerobics became popular, so did extreme dieting…
Here’s a look at the 11 most trendy diets of the bright and bold ’80s.
1. Cabbage Soup Diet
The Cabbage Soup Diet is one of those trends that just won’t go away. It’s a 7-day diet that was popular in the ’50s, but it came back in the ’80s. These days, cabbage soup is still described as something that’s part of a diet.
And while there’s nothing wrong with the dish, the diet’s approach is super strict and far from healthy.
During the seven days, you’ll have to eat cabbage soup two to three times a day. You’re allowed to eat a limited list of foods — like some fruits, veggies, and beef — but only when the diet says so. Otherwise, most of your meals will consist of water and cabbage soup. Will you lose weight? Probably.
But you’ll also feel tired, weak, and miserable.
Plus, the high intake of cabbage can lead to gas, and you won’t consume all the nutrients your body needs to function.
2. Grapefruit Diet
If there’s anything more persistent than the “Cabbage Soup” diet, it’s definitely the “Grapefruit Diet.” It was invented in the ’30s and returned in the ’70s. The trend continued well in the ’80s, thanks to the myth that grapefruit can burn fat. (Side note: It can’t.) People who support the diet also say it can help you lose 10 pounds in 10 days.
Before every meal, you’re required to eat half a grapefruit or 4 ounces of 100% grapefruit juice.
Generally, breakfast was two eggs and two strips of bacon. Lunch consisted of protein and salad, and dinner included meat and vegetables. You can also drink 8 ounces of skim milk before going to sleep. But because the diet is so low in calories and essential nutrients, you’ll likely feel exhausted and cranky.
Grapefruit can also interact with prescription cholesterol drugs in a not-so-great way.
3. Cottage Cheese Diet
Cottage cheese was so trendy in the ’80s that it’s often called an “’80s diet food.” There isn’t an official diet plan, though. Usually, folks eat nothing but cottage cheese for three days straight, but some will include a few fruits and veggies here and there.
Like cabbage soup and grapefruit, cottage cheese isn’t necessarily unhealthy.
It’s high in protein and and can add texture to food. But since it contains zero fiber, constipation and digestive issues are likely. Where’s the fun in that?
4. The Beverly Hills Diet
In 1981, Judy Mazel released a book called The Beverly Hills Diet, which sold one million copies. In fact, it was so popular that it was on The New York Times best-seller list for 30 weeks. But despite its success, medical experts didn’t support the book’s advice.
The 35-day diet was based on the idea that you shouldn’t combine types of foods.
According to an article by The New York Times, the diet requires you to eat fruit (and only fruit) for the first 10 days. You also had to eat specific fruits in a specific order. Day 11 included bread, three cobs of corn, and two tablespoons of butter. On day 19, a week later, you could eat protein-rich foods. The rest of the diet continued in this way.
However, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association, this type of diet could lead to problems like circulation issues and diarrhea.
5. Elizabeth Taylor’s Diet
When it came to Hollywood glamour, Elizabeth Taylor could do no wrong. After all, she was one of the biggest stars of the ’50s.
So, when she published a book called Elizabeth Takes Off in 1986, it’s no surprise that folks were all about it.
In the book, Taylor talked about her experience with weight gain — and how she lost all of it. Her food suggestions were a bit strange, though. One example is a tuna mixed with tomato pasta, mayonnaise, and grapefruit.
Another recipe involved a peanut butter and steak sandwich.
Despite her strange food combinations, Taylor still promoted the idea that weight maintenance truly came down to self-esteem. Now, that’s something we can get behind.
7. The Scarsdale Diet
In the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Tarnower invented The Scarsdale Diet. It was said to help you lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks. While the diet promoted lots of fruits and veggies, the entire plan was really strict.
The Scarsdale Diet required 43% protein, 35.5% carbs, and 25.5% fat.
The diet was popular in the 1970s, but it rose to fame in 1980 when Dr. Tarnower was murdered by his lover. It continued to thrive throughout the decade.
8. Ayds Candies
Ayds was super popular in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It was an appetite-suppressing candy that was available in chocolate mint, butterscotch, caramel, and peanut butter. Apparently, it was actually tasty, too! But aside from suppressing the body’s natural appetite, Ayds had an unfortunate name.
Its tagline also read, “Ayds help you take off weight and keep it off.”
After the AIDS epidemic started in the early 1980s, folks slowly stopped buying the candy. It was eventually taken off the market.
9. Jenny Craig
Jenny Craig founded her weight loss brand in 1983. It was all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s, and today, “Jenny Craig” is a household name. The program is known for offering 1:1 support, coaching, and pre-packaged frozen meals. The meals are not only convenient, but incorporate balance and portion control.
All of this sounds great, but there’s just one problem: it’s extremely expensive.
Aside from the member fees, like a $99 enrollment fee, the program’s frozen meals can cost anywhere from $15 to $23 a day. (That’s not including shipping costs, by the way.)
So, while Jenny Craig meals aren’t exactly “weird,” the price tag is pretty cringe-worthy.
10. Fit for Life Diet
In 1985, Harvey and Marilyn Diamond released a book called Fit for Life. It was based on their diet of the same name.
Fit for Life instructed followers to avoid certain food combinations.
Sound familiar? (We’re looking at you, Beverly Hills Diet.) For example, you had to eat fruit by itself. It also didn’t allow carbs and protein in one meal, even though carbohydrates help protein digestion.
Needless to say, the diet wasn’t supported by dietitians and nutritionists.
11. Liquid Diets
In 1988, Oprah announced that she lost 67 pounds in four months thanks to a liquid protein diet. To emphasize her weight loss, she even brought out a wagon of actual fat! A 1988 New York Times article shared that she used Optifast, a liquid diet program that replaces every meal with a drink.
Each day provided a total of 420 calories.
And just like that, liquid dieting became super trendy. (I mean, when you consider Oprah’s influence, this should be no surprise.) After her announcement, Optifast apparently received 100,000 calls.
In 2005, however, Oprah acknowledged that her liquid diet was a big mistake.