Very early on in the history of human health, mankind realised that the food they ate influenced their weight and physical condition. Eating habits through the ages have been influenced by many factors, including wealth, access to different types of food, geographical location and culture among others. All through these times, people have tried to change the way they eat in order to achieve some kind of health objective – usually to lose weight.

The food pyramid we all know today has certainly not dampened the curiosity of many people, who continue to experiment with various diets. Here are some of the more interesting ones that have cropped up through the ages:

The medieval liquid diet

One of the earliest documented diets was practised by William the Conqueror, who was born in 1028 AD. Towards the end of his life, he gained so much weight that he was unable to pursue his favourite pastime – horse riding. He embarked on a liquid diet consisting almost entirely of wine, and soon managed to lose a few pounds in order to mount his favourite horse again.

Unfortunately, consuming only alcohol and very minimal real food is not recommended in modern times – as we now know that over-consuming alcohol puts the liver under stress and can lead to conditions like liver cirrhosis, heart disease, cancer and even depression.

William the Conqueror, first Norman king of England practised the revolutionary alcohol diet. Photo credit: GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo/Britain Magazine
William the Conqueror, first Norman king of England practised the revolutionary alcohol diet. Photo credit: GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo/Britain Magazine

The chewing diet

This diet was first developed by Horace Fletcher in 1903. Fletcher claimed to have lost over 40 pounds by practising the diet himself. He recommended that food be chewed 32 – 80 times until the food becomes completely liquefied. Any solid pieces will have to be spit out to minimise the amount of food consumed.

This diet soon fell out of favour because it caused a lot of food wastage, and counting the number of chews while eating became too tedious to follow. The way the chewing diet works is by minimising one’s food portions, which is dangerous to say the least, as it can lead to malnutrition.

The grapefruit diet

Grapefruit diet from the 1930s.
Grapefruit diet from the 1930s.

This diet first surfaced in the 1930s, and it requires dieters to eat half a grapefruit before every meal, as the fruit apparently enhances the body’s fat burning abilities. There are also claims that the grapefruit suppresses appetite, and can therefore help cut food portions. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, despite it is now enjoying resurgence among Hollywood celebrities.

The cabbage soup diet

In the 1950s, a low-calorie diet called the Cabbage Soup diet began to catch on. It advocated eating as much cabbage soup one would like throughout a period of seven days with certain fruits and vegetables on the side. This diet cannot be done for long durations, and many people found that the weight they lost from this one week diet came back after they stopped.

The paleo diet

Paleo diet focuses on high consumption of fats and low consumption of carbohydrates.
Paleo diet focuses on high consumption of fats and low consumption of carbohydrates.

The idea of the paleo diet is to basically eat like a caveman, i.e. no processed foods of any kind. This diet encourages a high consumption of fats and fresh proteins, a moderate consumption of fruits and vegetables and a moderate to low consumption of carbohydrates. Additionally, foods like pizza, sausages, canned foods, potatoes, refined sugar, cookies, whole grains and legumes are completely discouraged. Unlike many other diets, the paleo diet has actually been shown to work in a healthy manner.

The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is another modern-day diet that works well for anyone who sticks to it. It advocates the consumption of good fats like nuts, seeds, fish oils and olive oils, while decreasing the amount of carbohydrate of the daily meal. This diet will lead to the body burning more fat than carbohydrate, which gradually leads to weight loss without compromising proper nutrition.

The ketogenic diet (often known as keto) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets. Photo credit: Healthline
The ketogenic diet (often known as keto) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets. Photo credit: Healthline

Despite the many fitness and diet fads that have come and gone over the years, there is really no better way to lose weight than to maintain a balanced diet and regular exercise. This is one way to keep the pounds off for the long term, rather than just depending of short term diet plans. MIMS

Read more:
#Globesity: Slimming alternatives for the obese to power through their weight battle
Battle of the binge: Authorities step in to combat obesity
Staggering WHO figures reveal childhood obesity gone up tenfold since 1975

Sources:
https://theconversation.com/the-long-strange-history-of-dieting-fads-82294
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/10563419/The-10-weirdest-fad-diets-in-history.html?frame=2762877
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-fad-diets-that-work
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-diet-for-weight-loss
https://www.dietsinreview.com/diets/the-chewing-diet/
http://www.weightlossforall.com/fletcherizing-the-chewing-diet.htm
http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/WolfFiles/story?id=1537630
https://reportshealthcare.com/cabbage-soup-diet/