Diet Pop Culture – Choice Quotes from Diet Paperbacks

I have a sort of unofficial hobby of collecting diet paperbacks — something about them fascinates me in the same way I am fascinated by infomercials.

Not only are they often unintentionally hilarious, but they have a certain formula and flavour that promises to reveal something about how marketing, emotion, and motivation interact.

So I’ve gathered a small collection over time. (I buy them used. For one thing, I enjoy the older ones for their vintage charm, but I also figure I’m doing a public service by removing them from the market, while not directly lining the pockets of the authors.) But collecting and actually reading them are two different things, requiring different moods.

Lately, I’ve found myself in the reading mood, and I’ve stumbled across some truly bizarre gems. Here’s one for today:

“About seventeen years ago a very close friend of mine said in a moment of anger, ‘Look, Blimpo, why don’t you just go over there and be fat!’ Blimpo? Me? This statement affected me as if someone had taken a big steel pot, put it over my head, and smashed it with a metal spoon.”

Fit for Life, Diamond, 1985

There’s a lot of hilarity to be unpacked here, the most obvious being, to me, that the steel pot/metal spoon scenario would swiftly become violent reality if one of my “very close friends” talked to me like this.

But the underlying message here is that verbal abuse is a good motivator to lose weight…rather than a good motivator to administer a well-deserved ass-kicking.

Just think of all that wasted calorie-burning potential.

Share your bits of diet culture ridiculousness in comments.







109 responses to “Diet Pop Culture – Choice Quotes from Diet Paperbacks”

  1. The Raisin Girl Avatar

    Mental note: add “verbal abuse from ‘very close friends’ to things that don’t motivate me.”

    It never occurred to me, you see. Because I don’t happen to surround myself with abusive people. It seemed like such a healthy lifestyle choice, but I’m apparently robbing myself of a source of motivation. Ugh.

    And I agree. If I could issue you a license, it would be a license to do just that nifty little pot-and-spoon thing to anyone who said something akin to that to you. I would also issue this license to myself, of course.

    PS: Did you know that a snack-machine cheese Danish has Vitamin A, protein, and Calcium? I didn’t. My new health goal: to look at the nutrients provided first, rather than the number of calories.

    1. Carolyn Avatar

      @ Raisin Girl

      (YOINK!) I’m stealing that motto!! FRACKEN AWESOME!!

  2. Shieldmaiden1196 Avatar

    I’d love to contribute a gem to this, but shortly after I read ”Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere” and “Healthy at Every Size” I took one of those big reusable grocery bags, loaded it with every diet book, diet cookbook, self help be thin so you can be worth something book, and took them to a secondhand bookstore.

    I am reminded of these, though, which made me laugh so hard the first time I saw them that I cried off all my makeup.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Oh I love the WW cards.

      And getting rid of your diet books was probably the best way to go, really. You’d have to be a masochist to enjoy them the way I do :)

    2. Julia Avatar

      I am killing myself laughing at the WW cards. My husband is looking at me funny. THANK YOU!

      1. Michelle Avatar

        You might also enjoy the Gallery of Regrettable Food if you haven’t seen it already.

        Here’s one of my favourites: More Fun with Coffee.

        Wait, no, this is even better: Party Cake, Party Cake, Baker’s Shame.

        Although, you know, I really love The Unbearable Sadness of Vegetables. Oh hell, just read them all.

    3. dominique Avatar

      C’est dégueulasse!! (That’s gross, En Français.)

      I couldn’t help but saying this out loud while looking at those crappy cards, ROFL, LMAO!!


      Even a rat would turn up his nose!

  3. WendyRG Avatar

    Strange coincidence that you should quote Fit for Life. I remember reading the book back when it came out and actually going on the FFL diet. Of course it worked–anything that makes you restrict your calories does–but of course I gained the weight back. I do recall something in the book that really struck me at the time. I was actually quite disturbed to read that the wife side of the team had only gained something like 9 pounds during her entire pregnancy, because she was following the FFL rules…and she was sooo proud. I, on the other hand, am proud to say that I left FFL behind the minute I found out I was pregnant.

    Sadly, though it has been about 18 (!) years since my flirtation with FFL, I still have moments when a little voice starts screaming inside me: “You’ve combined proteins and carbs! You have sinned most grievously and will be fat forever!!!” God, it really messed with my mind.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Fit for Life was one of the first diet books I ever read, though I didn’t go on the diet. But I was totally convinced briefly that it was SCIENCE! at the time.

    2. Arwen Avatar

      Fit for Life was one of my first diets, too; I was probably 14.

      I was raised vegetarian and so was vegetarian at the time, and I don’t lose weight easily so was restricting calories as well as following FFL. I believe the writers of the book were also vegetarian and made some minor encouragements in that direction.

      I remember reading it one hungry day – I did most of my reading of diet books to remind me why I was staying hungry – and there was something about how “people aren’t really meat eaters: you don’t see a squirrel in a park and want to kill it and eat it.”

      And I thought, oh, man, squirrel. I bet that would be delicious. If squirrel were a diet food and I’d feel less starving, I’d be out there with a trap.

      That bugged me for a long time; it was the pinnacle of thin diet book writers with sufficient calories to their needs making pronouncements in cultural privilege.

      1. Carolyn Avatar

        “And I thought, oh, man, squirrel. I bet that would be delicious. If squirrel were a diet food and I’d feel less starving, I’d be out there with a trap. ”

        Holy Schnoodles. I have had those thoughts! And they are hilarious if they weren’t so utterly depressing and sad. If there was an award for best comment ever, I would nominate this.

  4. jaed Avatar

    Fit for Life

    May I rant briefly about how much I hate that phrase? Thank you.

    The reason I hate it is the implications. The opposite of “fit for life” is… yes… unfit for life. Unfit to live. Not suitable to be allowed to go on living. I know the phrase has a double meaning, and part of the meaning is “be fit for the rest of your life”, but there is this ugly subtext to it, and it’s not even all that subby. Be “fit” – meaning “thin” – or don’t live.

    1. WendyRG Avatar

      Well said!

    2. Michelle Avatar

      unfit for life. Unfit to live. Not suitable to be allowed to go on living.

      God, I never even thought of that, but you have a very good point. And it’s really eerie and freaky. Right up there with a lot of the neo-eugenic stuff that gets spouted about weight (and disability.)

    3. unscrambled Avatar

      I have been thinking of notions related to “unfit for life,” specifically in the intersections of fat, disability, and women of color for awhile. Thank you for bringing it up here. ::brain chewing::

  5. clairedammit Avatar

    I picked up Fit for Life II at a library book sale and put it down, never to pick it up again, when the authors claimed that the carbon dioxide we exhale is poisonous.

    (I think I donated the book back to the library. I hope the next person who bought it didn’t read it either.)

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I know, right? SCIENCE!

      1. SunflowerP Avatar

        If you imagine that in the voice of Magnus Pyke from the Thomas Dolby song “She Blinded Me With Science”, it makes pseudoscientific claims much more entertaining.


  6. Emgee Avatar

    Yes Michelle, I have the same thoughts about the neo-eugenics stuff, especially surrounding the healthcare debate in the U.S. Because you see, the problem is not that being obese makes you die, it’s that we don’t do it quickly enough, thus putting this enormous financial drain on the healthcare system. If it was instantaneous, do you think people would be as upset about the obesity epidemic? After all, we deserve it, we brought it on ourselves, i.e., not fit to live.
    And it’s hard not to surround yourself with abusive people when they are your family. My dad probably doesn’t even remember the day that he told me that I look like a “fattening hog”, but I do.

    1. Lindsey Avatar

      I just shocked my own sister with my account of some very abusive comments by some fellow students from elem. school about my weight. She just couldn’t believe I could remember back that far… but it was pretty darn memorable.

      But, isn’t the abuse what is sadly getting ratings and it’s own sick, cult following? Look at Jillian and Bob, as well as with gyms named “Boot Camp.” Do we really need to be cut down so much to start progressing in life? Uh, no.

  7. Emgee Avatar


  8. Elizabeth Avatar

    I have a similar interest in old diet books. In my youth I read them un-ironically, of course. I recently saw a 1970s Richard Simmons book–and I will say that I think RS has calmed down a bit since then, but it was really, really bizarre and severe (plenty of “Blimpo” type language, as well). I wish I could quote it exactly, but is long since recycled into toilet paper or something (no way was I going to let that potentially fall into vulnerable hands). I do remember that RS happily told me that, should I desire a sweet snack, I ought to suck on a (yes A, as in one) frozen grape because it could last an HOUR.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Wow. Making a frozen grape last for an hour would be considered an eating disorder behaviour in some settings.

      1. Cairsten Avatar

        I can’t think of a setting where making a single grape last for an hour shouldn’t be considered disordered.

  9. Vanessa Avatar

    That book messed with me for years. I tried it, lost weight, and then could never lose weight on it again once I gained it back (duh). The thing that got me about it was how creepy the Diamonds sounded. I was so tired of reading about Harvey Diamond’s pronouncements and his anecdotes that I eventually dismissed the whole thing. This is how I learned to “juice fast,” i.e. starve myself until I was dizzy and cross. This book was dangerous and a real example of quackery. I also picked up a book a few years back by Marilyn Diamond and her NEW husband called “Fitonics for Life,” and she tells of how harrowing it was living with Harvey and how controlling he was and that she had to go to the ashram a bunch of times a week just to deal, that is, until she found her new husband and her new calling- to write “Fitonics for Life.” Scary.

  10. julie Avatar

    I remember an uncle doing this diet when I was a kid, I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. By now, it’s old hat, and I’m no longer surprised by stupid diets, and I never expect them to work. Not that I try, but I watch friends do it, and I don’t waste my energy to dissuade them. I watch them lose, gain, be frustrated. I offer no advice, and rarely does anybody ask anymore. Unfortunately, my mom and sister (who can eat much much more than me and will never gain weight) used to think it was fun to call me fat, tease me until I cried or lost my temper, broke shit. I cannot kick my mom’s ass, though it seems maybe it would have taught her a lesson. Now I just watch her eat 3 ice cream sandwiches, all the time telling me that tomorrow she eats only salad. Sometimes I tell her she’s a hypocrite, usually I just shake my head, roll my eyes, but I no longer allow her self-righteous attitude, and will rip her a new one if she pushes me too much.

  11. Gorda Avatar

    Hey, I remember those Diamond guys! The book was translated into Spanish as “La Antidieta” (The Anti-Diet), because of the way it is clearly NOT A DIET, you know? Just a lifestyle change? Anyway, I remember it as a good book for stealth dieting because you could eat as much as you wanted and you didn’t have to pass on anything as long as it combined properly with everything else you had eaten, so it took your mum a couple of weeks to notice the weird things her teenage daughter was doing at the table and to put two and two together and then put an end to it.

    Allen Carr (the Stop Smoking guy) tried to revive all that food combination bs in his “Easyweigh To Lose Weight” book a few years later. All I remember is an anecdote about how he had his epiphany watching a squirrel in his garden bury a nut to eat later, and he discovered that was what humans needed to do, leave some food for later, or something.

  12. Twistie Avatar

    Oh man, if I had a dime for every copy of that book I sold during ten years working in bookstores….

    Then again, there were so many books and most of them made me howl with laughter just at their titles. Anyone else remember the Popcorn Diet? But FFL made me want to hurl it across the room for more of less the same reason as it clearly gets Jaed’s panties in a wad. The semantics just annoyed the ever-lovin’ snot out of me.

    PS: YOU’RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (jigs for pure joy)

    1. Michelle Avatar

      When I worked at a bookstore (in 1999), the big one being sold was PROTEIN POWER. So many people came in asking for it that eventually my eyes glazed over as soon as I heard that “P…” sound start, and I would automatically start walking them over to the shelf before they even finished their sentence.

  13. Mikuto Avatar

    I don’t have any diet books, but I was enrolled in a “medical weight loss center” about 5 years ago when I lived in Michigan. Part of the literature they handed out said (paraphrasing):

    “An orange slice added to ice water can be a sweet treat!”

    To which I said (not paraphrasing): Bullshit!

    The mentality of people that think water with an orange slice is dessert nearly drove me crazy while I was at that clinic.

    1. Wendy Avatar

      As recently as five years ago? Angels and ministers of grace, defend us. Good on you for calling bullshit on that one. Reminds me of the Richard Simmons book I owned back in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, in which he suggested that, if you don’t enjoy salad greens without dressing (and really, who does?), try lemon juice with a little artificial sweetener added.

      I didn’t like them that way, either.

  14. unscrambled Avatar

    Also, being a self-flagellation fan with a penchant for fcked up books, I’m totally looking this one up now.

  15. JennyRose Avatar

    Who remember Susan Powter when she was begging us to “Stop the Insanity”? I know I read her book. It was all about how great she was and not to eat fat. Fat makes you fat. Get it?

    The pendulum swings quickly these days. I think the don’t eat carbs/Atkins thing is over and now it is “eat good carbs.”

    I like to squint when I see all the diet books in the store. They are so promising and yet they do not work. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a new round of diet books next year. January is the best month to squint and imagine.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I totally remember watching Susan Powter infomercials (as I said, I am also an infomercial lover, even to this day.) There was something strangely fascinating about her. Also, there was an interview with her featured in the book Losing It by Laura Fraser (which I seem to mention all the time here.) Interesting stuff.

      1. Sarah R Avatar

        I remember Ms. Magazine publishing a profile of Powter and being all like “Whaaa?”

        1. Michelle Avatar


    2. Twistie Avatar

      Oh man, I had completely blocked Susan Powter out of my memories!

      Drat. Now I have to rebuild that mental wall. She gave me nightmares.

  16. Henchminion Avatar

    I’ve come to realize lately that when people are trying to have conversations with me about weight and dieting, they’re hardly ever actually talking about weight and dieting. If I take a deep breath and ask myself What is this conversation really about? the underlying intent becomes obvious really quickly. Usually they’re trying to say one of the following things.

    “I feel uncomfortable and I hope that you’ll like me better if I tell you that I’m ‘working on myself’.”

    “I want to demonstrate my social dominance, but throwing grass, pounding my chest and bellowing OOK! OOK! OOK! is considered rather gauche, so I’ll try to impress you by more subtle means.”

    “I would like you to join my social circle, so I’m trying to create a bond between us by claiming that we are more similar to one another than to Those Other People who obviously don’t behave like we do.”

    “I am insecure about my position in the hierarchy of this social circle, so I’m trying to shift the focus elsewhere and create group cohesion by hinting that you could be rejected and ostracized at any time if you don’t live up to our standards.”

    Now that I realize diet talk is mostly about hairless apes messing with social hierarchy, I find it has become much easier to decide whether to respond with compassion or just smack ’em down.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I totally think a lot of this talk (and a lot of other talk and behaviours) are about the primate social hierarchy. The amusing part is most of us are arrogant enough to think that it’s about something else and never bother to examine it in those terms.

      Because, you know, we’re HUMANS, not ANIMALS!!!! And therefore more interesting and profound.

    2. Twistie Avatar

      (Pounds chest at Henchminion)

      OOK OOK OOK!

  17. Sandrad Avatar

    Any one remember the “F-Plan” diet? Fill up on a concotion of all bran,raw bran, bran flakes, almonds, dried apricots. You were supposed to eat it before meals for an appetite supressant. Mmmmbran and skim milk. I guess the “F” is for fart. Yes I tried it.

    Aaah Boot Camps, what a scam. they start with 10 or fifteen clients and after 5 days are down to 3 (maybe). Easier than printing money.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      In studies, they call this “attrition,” and it’s a bad thing. But in boot camps, it just proves how INTENSE AND AWESOME the program is.

      But you know what I’ve found is an awesome pre-meal “appetite suppressant?” Milkshakes. Have a milkshake and then have your dinner and you’ll see what I mean. (Wait, didn’t we talk about this recently? Now I’m just repeating my stories.)

      1. Jade Avatar

        By milkshake do you mean the ‘rocky road icecream recipe’ kind or the ‘throw tons of fruits, veggies and milk together’ kind?

        Because I’m not good at making the latter.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          No, I’m talking ice cream + milk. I wouldn’t even consider the latter to be a milkshake…more of a smoothie, maybe?

          1. Jade Avatar


            I actually did something to this effect at Steak n Shake a few weeks ago, without planning it. I ordered a peach shake and some sliders, cause sliders seem less messy than just one burger to me. Only they were short staffed, so it was probably 30 minutes before the sliders came out. Tastiest decision to date, I tell you.

      2. Another Michelle Avatar
        Another Michelle

        Chocolate malts made with frozen custard totally work too. After I had one of those this afternoon, I barely ate anything for dinner. Best. Diet. Ever.

  18. ako Avatar

    But the underlying message here is that verbal abuse is a good motivator to lose weight…rather than a good motivator to administer a well-deserved ass-kicking.

    It seems to be nearly an article of faith in some circles that fat is caused by insufficient quantities of verbal abuse, and if you just insult people enough, you’ll make them thin. And if you don’t constantly go “You’re fat, fat, fat, everyone looks down on you for that, you’re inferior, lazy, lacking in moral character, stupid, ridiculous, and unworthy of respect”, you’re enabling them, and preventing them from getting thin.

    Which is a handy way to excuse the desire to verbally abuse people. Because then it’s easy to pretend you’re not spraying contempt all over them because you get off on mistreating people; rather, it’s for their own good! You’re helping them by convincing them they’re ugly idiots who don’t merit respect and will die alone! You can get all the thrills of viciousness, and all the thrills of self-righteousness! If you ignore the harm to your fellow human beings that this hateful approach to life causes, it’s perfect!

    1. closetpuritan Avatar

      That pretty much sums it up.

      And pretty much sums up why FA is so threatening to such people.

    2. erica Avatar

      yes. THIS. And it seems in the media the “we’re telling you this FOR YOUR OWN GOOD” attitude is common. Like, they are going to tell me the fifteen different ways I am likely to die early according to their research, and how it’s really my fault that I will, because I couldn’t tolerate walking around hungry and crabby all the time, like grown women are apparently supposed to.

  19. Christine Avatar

    Michelle, I’m positive I’ll come across some old diet books when I clean out my bookshelves for a yard sale later this summer. They’re yours if you want ’em. (Besides, any potential buyers can take one look at me and tell they clearly didn’t work.)

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Yeah, you know what? I need to get me a PO Box and then people can send me strange diet books.

      This is the best use for a PO Box I can think of, really.

  20. Meredith Avatar

    Oh, Susan Powter…I remember those books. I had them all. I read that one with the cover pic of her shoving the veggie shishkabob in her mouth multiple times. One of her cookbooks is still in my collection because I like a few of the recipes in it, but I use full-fat ingredients now (ha ha!)

    I will say in Susan’s defense, she was the first public figure I remember who seriously called bullshit on the diet industry – for all the good it did. We’ve still got a diet industry and she’s a complete lunatic (check out her current website,, for proof) , but she dropped the scales from my eyes at least.

  21. papumorgado Avatar

    I miss your posts, I was so happy today when I saw there was a new one! I was reading big fat deal today and a previous post was about “dieting advices”. I’ts kinda funny !

  22. Deanna Avatar

    Speaking of Richard Simmons, did anyone besides me ever get the “Deal-a-Meal” cards? I bet I still have them here somewhere. I remember you had cards that were in slots on one side, and as you ate during the day, you moved the appropriate card to the other side. Once all the cards were moved, you were done eating for the day. I think I stayed on that one for all of a week. I always ran out of cards early in the day. Now he has something similar called the food mover. (I do have to give Richard some credit. His exercise videos were the first I saw that used real live fat people, people in wheelchairs, etc. Of course, all exercise was supposed to lead to the grand goal of dramatic weight loss.)

    Then there was the series of tapes I bought in the late 80s after viewing a late-night infomercial called “The Neuropsychology of Weight Control.” (After a bit of Googling, I’ve discovered this program, which promises to reset your metabolism, with no dieting, no strenuous exercise, and giving lip service to setpoint theory, is still for sale. )

    Then there were the first SlimFast shakes that came out in powder form. You were supposed to mix it with milk and drink 2 shakes a day and a “sensible” dinner. My husband called me one day to tell me how much he was enjoying the shakes. Later we discovered that he wasn’t adding 1/2% milk, he was instead using half and half!

    1. Synj Avatar

      That last bit reminds me of a dear friend who was doing her best to follow the dr. advice when she was pregnant and not gain more than X (ridiculously low) pounds, and it triggered all her old dieting behaviors. towards the end she could barely eat anything b/c the baby was taking up so much room that more than 1/2-1 cup volume left her naseous. But she kept up the frackin’ low-cal, low-fat, low-whatever diet. After a week or so of that her husband feared for her safety (her dr. kept commending her non-weight-gain, the ass), and unbeknownst to her, refilled the skim milk jug with 1/2 &1/2, and all of a sudden she was enjoying her cereal, was much less hungry, and being much less snippy! (her husband did tell her AFTER she had the baby and was too tired to obsess)

      1. Michelle Avatar

        That is scary.

    2. Michelle Avatar

      I never tried them, but watching the ads as a kid, I always thought the Deal-a-Meal cards looked like an AWESOME game. They were all bright and colourful and came in their own carrying case. I would have had a blast with them, apart from, you know, the whole food restriction bit.

      1. Jerome Avatar

        I remember doing Deal-A-Meal as a child. It wasn’t very different from WW at that time; it relied on exchanges and you had a certain amount to work with each day. They both sucked. I also remember the powdered Slim-Fast shakes but I was never able to stick with that diet for very long. FA is way better than any of the above!

    3. Miss B Avatar

      I totally did Deal a Meal in Junior High. I liked it a LOT because I actually got to EAT. My Mom restricted my food intake like crazy but with those cards I could go “Look! I can have THREE CUPS of popped popcorn!!!” and snacks and full meals!!

      It was like heaven….all that food…

      To this day I still love popcorn as an evening snack. Hee!

  23. Jerim Avatar

    Do you remember the “diet” that involved a red light and drinking from red cups or glasses. I don’t remember all the details but at the time it was fascinating…

    1. Michelle Avatar

      YES! I was going to write something about that, haaha. That has to be the stupidest thing I have ever read or tried in my life. But made for hilarious memories. I can’t believe you went along with it (at my insistence)! It was based on ASTROLOGY, from what I remember.

  24. NicNac Avatar

    HAH! I tried one diet where you had these little plastic pods/vials/containers. You were supposed to take the top off and smell them while you eat, the theory being that the smell would make your food unappetizing and you would end up eating less. They did smell bad, but all it did was make me not want to smell them.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      OMG that is totally like that thing I linked a while back…AromaTrim or something. Only it was a nasty-smelling piece of plastic, in that case.

    2. Mehitabel Avatar

      There is a anecdote (don’t know whether it’s actually true or not) that Thomas Aquinas sprinkled ash on his food to prevent himself from enjoying it. Sin of gluttony, you know.

  25. NicNac Avatar

    We missed you, BTW!

  26. Kjen Avatar

    I remember reading Oprah’s Bob Green – his first book. Actually, it wasn’t that bad – filled with advice about eating when you’re actually hungry and listening to your body to guide what you should eat and how much. Nevertheless, he still insisted that you exercising intensely enough would yield incredible results.

    After that there was Dr. Ian’s Fat Smash Diet. The most annoying diet I have ever been on. Exact meal plans, serving sizes, etc. A lot of diets are for people with money because the diet usually demands that you remake/remove everything in your fridge and buy new stuff rightthisminute.

    I don’t re-read either of those books. But I do have a weakness for reading mag’s latest celebrity diet. Currently, the Kardashian sisters are leading the pack – the only way they seem to get featured is for their diets!
    But save your money, like I should be saving mine, all celebrities eat the SAME thing according to these articles give or take a few servings of actual meat. Light breakfast, salad for lunch and meat with vegetables for dinner.

  27. dominique Avatar

    Here in Quebec we did had a crap diet supposedly recommended by the Montreal Cardiology Institute. (MCI called bullshit on it when they became aware that some random asshole used their «seal» for this awful diet. However, Food-Industry funded as it is I doubt this association always utters great advice for our health either.)

    It’s in French but worth translating if you want to laugh really hard.

    I also remember being told to suck on frozen fruit by various physicians when they were lecturing me (pardon me, giving me healthful advice) about my weight.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Oh, for a long time there was a similar thing in the US, a fake American Heart Association Diet that would be faxed around at random. Can’t remember exactly what it consisted of…but I seem to dimly recall some kind of special “fat-burning” soup? I wonder if these are similar.

      1. Meredith Avatar

        Was that the famous Cabbage soup diet? (another one that won’t go away, just resurfaces with a new name every few years…)

        I remember co-workers of mine going on that back in the 90s. They complained a lot about flatulence, but I don’t think they lost any weight.

        My first diet paperback (bought by my mother, natch) was The Woman Doctor’s Diet for Teenage Girls. Anybody remember that one? It was basically an Atkins-type plan – low carbs, high protein, horrid recipes. I can still remember one of them — eggs scrambled with a couple of tablespoons of bran, which was supposed to puff up into a “pancake” substitute when cooked, and you were allowed a teaspoon or two of “diet jelly” to make it palatable. Yes, I made this and worse, I ate it. Ugh.

        I think she also suggested frying ground beef and tomato sauce on top of a slice of processed cheese and pretending this was lasagna. WTF?

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I think it stole the idea from the Cabbage Soup diet, yes (and maybe even the exact recipe!)

          Right now, I’m also reading The Doctor’s Quick Teenage Diet (or similar title) by Stillman. Not the same as yours, but probably fairly similar!

        2. Twistie Avatar

          Interestingly enough, there’s a reference to a cabbage soup diet in a song Eddie Cantor popularized in the early 1920’s. I believe I have also seen reference to such a diet from before the turn of the century, but I don’t have it at my fingertips ATM. I shall have to ask Mr. Twistie about the song. He’s the Eddie Cantor expert around these here parts.

        3. Christine Avatar

          Yep, yep, yep – my mom got me that one, too. The author’s name was Dr. Barbara Edelstein (or similar). The only thing I remember about the food was cottage cheese on a baked potato (the author saw a fat teen order it once in a diner). I ate that for *years* afterward because it was really pretty darn good. (It’s one of the diet books I’m sure I’ll run across eventually when cleaning out my mom’s house. When I do, I’m so sending it to Michelle.)

          1. Christine Avatar

            OK, now that I see my reply didn’t go directly under the post to which I was responding, I need to specify that I’m talking about “The Woman Doctor’s Diet for Teenage Girls” book.

      2. dominique Avatar

        LOL it had no ”fat-burning soup”, but we heard about this one too!!! I remember eating this ”fat-free salt-free guilt-free taste-free” soup for too long and spending hours in the bathroom because, you know, fiber and too much liquid. Really, it was gross. It said ”the more you eat soup, the greater your weight loss”. You betcha… I felt like a water balloon. I even HEARD the water swinging in my tummy. DÉGUEULASSE!

    2. Meredith Avatar

      haha – I can still read French well enough that I didn’t need to translate it. What a crock of merde. What really made me laugh was the comment at the bottom that she should specify that 5 kilos is actually a little more than 10 pounds, because a lot of women were disappointed that they didn’t lose the promised amount. Gee, I wonder why?

      And why is 10 pounds always the magic number anyway? Even if you’re not really overweight to begin with, that’s not even enough to drop a clothing size for most people.

  28. Judy Long Avatar
    Judy Long

    The only real insults I have received about my weight have come from ‘well meaning health care workers’. The last one being a nutritionist at the local fitness center. In order to swim in the pool there I had to go through several assessments. She was ‘concerned’ that I was taking care of my dad and not taking care of myself. (Dad had Parkinson’s & I was his full time caretaker.) She wanted to put me on a diet to reduce my weight, yada yada yada. All unsolicited assvice.
    Then there was the acupuncturist who wanted to do trades with me when I used to do massage. Except that she shamed me because I was eating a cookie before my acupuncture session.
    Who the hell do these people think they are?

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Hey Judy — totally off-topic from your comment, but I’ve tried to email you twice just now, and the emails were rejected by hotmail right away and bounced back. Could you email me? Hopefully you have an alternate email I can reach you at. Thanks!

      1. Judy Long Avatar
        Judy Long

        sent you a message via hotmail & yahoo. hope you get them – judy

    2. NicNac Avatar

      Judy, my dear- are you a Betty?

      1. Judy Long Avatar
        Judy Long

        But of course – I’m Clever Betty. Are you a betty?

        1. Michelle Avatar

          what in the hell is a betty

          1. NicNac Avatar

            A Betty is a member of the crew that reads/posts on We all tend to be wild, raucous, smart, kick-ass women, so we kinda evolved into a interweb family/sisterhood led by our AlphaBetty, Lucy.
            After I first read your blog I posted the link over at Lucy’s because I knew it would resonate with so many of us (plus you’re hilarious!) It’s good to know The Betties are visiting.

          2. Michelle Avatar

            Hahha, awesome! Thanks for the explanation!

        2. NicNac Avatar

          I am BaDahBoom Betty!! I knew when I saw ‘assvice’ that i had met a sister in the Bettysphere.

  29. […] accolades go out to Arwen: I remember reading it [Fit for Life] one hungry day – I did most of my reading of diet books to […]

  30. Jen Avatar

    I’d like to give a shout out to The Rice Diet, which I found on my local library shelf back in the early 90’s. Don’t remember who wrote it… but the long and short of it was “eat nothing but rice and grapefruit until you’re skinny enough to start adding other healthy foods back in”. So I boiled up a whole bag of rice and went to it (you’ll have to forgive me… I was about 15 at the time). After about five days on this diet my body began to automatically regurgitate rice. Every time I ate it, it would just involuntarily come right back up… I’ve never before or since then ever had a food cause reflexive vomiting… and it took me over a decade before I could eat rice again. But I would LOVE to get my hands on that book again… just so I could read it and laugh!

    1. Michelle Avatar

      This is CRAZY. Rice is so inoffensive…I eat it like cereal a lot of the time. But trust a wacky diet to turn delicious food into your sworn enemy.

  31. KellyK Avatar

    I’m not sure they’ve gotten any saner in the last 20 years. I’ve done South Beach, and *carrots* are a forbidden food until you’re on “Phase 3” (the maintenance phase). Corn, I think, stays forbidden throughout.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I need to read more contemporary diet books. Surprisingly, they are not on the curriculum of the dietetics program at my university /sarcasm

      1. Elizabeth Avatar

        You know, they actually ought to be. Not as an actual “this is the truth” course, but as a “this is the crap your clients will come in believing” course. I would think a one-semester review of the major types of fad diets, with maybe some attention to analysis of the current faves and learning generally how to debunk this shit, would be an incredibly valuable course for a practicing nutritionist.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I agree. It would be incredibly handy to have a good handle on all of that before interacting with clients. There was a course about controversies in nutrition that I wanted to take, but it was either not available the semester I wanted it, or something.

          Luckily, I got my own education in basic fad diets by reading the following books:

          Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets
          Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa
          Losing It: False Hopes and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry
          Never Too Thin (probably the best history book on body image, dieting, and public health/nutrition recommendations that’s been written to date)

          There are always “new” fad diets coming out with new names and new gimmicks, which can make it seem frustrating, but they’re always a previous fad diet in disguise, or with some slight variation.

          You’ve got your basic high protein-low carb; your basic high carb-low fat; a few different combos of protein-fat-carb ratios; your “magical potion” diet (said magical potion often causes diarrhea, whether it’s a soup or a “cleanse” or a “fruit fast”); and food combining. There are others, but those seem to be the most common ones.

          (And I’m not mentioning your basic calorie restriction diet without nutritional wackiness, because calorie restriction pretty much underlies all of them in some way, and so kind of goes without saying.)

          1. Sandrad Avatar

            May I suggest “Terrors of the table : the curious history of nutrition” by Walter Gratzer. Its a wild ride and also introduced me to my personal public health hero – Harriet Chick: Lets see, cured rickets, prooved the existance of vitamin C, water clorination? She da woman. AND still made keynote speeches at 100 years old!!!

  32. La Avatar

    I remember a couple that my best friend and I went on as teenagers (in the 70’s). We did the 4-day diet….Day 1: 7 bananas; Day 2: 7 Eggs; Day 3: 7 Hot Dogs; Day 4: 7 Apples.

    I about LOST MY MIND – I felt so bad. I can remember drooling over the pizza commercials. After we got done, we had lost a couple of pounds and then we would immediately PIG OUT! I don’t think I made through all 4 days even once.

    Then there were the “Aids” chocolate thingys. They were the size of caramels. My parents didn’t want me to be the fat child of course, so they bought a huge box of those things for me. They never made my appetite any less, but they tasted good. I ate several of them everyday (even though you were only supposed to have one).

    Of course, back in the 70’s we tood Dexatrim – about came out of my skin with those things. There must have been enough caffeine for an elephant in those things.

    All to no avail – I am still fat. I am trying very hard to be more FA of myself – but, it’s hard. The other day, I traded seats with my mother-in-law because my only choice of seating was a rather narrow chair and my rear end didn’t want to fit in there. What did she say? “When are you going to do something about this?” Pissed me off!!! I really wish that everyone who has these comments could “walk a mile in our shoes!” Then they would understand.

    Susan Powter made me feel so bad because I remember a picture of her at her fattest – that she showed on her infomercials. She was sitting on her bed with her chubby legs in front of her looking like the end of the world had come. For some reason, that image has stuck in my head for many, many years. Every once in awhile it rears its ugly head.

    1. Meredith Avatar

      Re the MIL’s snippy comment: my first thought was to reply “What, you mean buying a wider chair? Good idea. ”

      It makes me really sad to read the nasty things people’s family members say to them about their weight. I can’t stand busybodies, especially ones that think they can say cruel things because they’re only doing it for “your own good” — when actually they’re doing it for their own good. Nothing is quite as delicious as passing judgment on other people.

      If the MIL nags you again, tell her you don’t take diet advice from people who’ve never been fat, because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

      1. KellyK Avatar

        I was going to suggest a similar comment about the chair. That or, “I was thinking…never.”

        1. KellyK Avatar

          Also, depending on who owns the chair, a Saws-All could fix that problem right quick.

    2. julie Avatar

      I never took AYDS, but I remember dexatrim. It was speed. I played cards all night, except for a midnight jog (what was I, 15, if even that old?), when I’d hide behind bushes whenever cars went by, as I knew it would be suspicious for a teenage girl to be jogging in the middle of the night. I didn’t have to eat, and after a few days, my head would spin so much from standing up, that I’d have to lay down, wherever I was. Lucky thing I lived in some safe, boring suburbs.

  33. Meredith Avatar

    Not that this would surprise anyone here, but has an article debunking Fit for Life that was originally published in 1986. I bet the guy who wrote it never got invited on the same talk shows that promoted the Diamonds.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I love Quackwatch. Thank you for the link!

  34. SingOut Avatar

    I’ve sold all my diet books, but I remember the sense of hope that came along with the purchase of each one. *sigh*

    A note about Protein Power: this book is awful and absurd, and the authors are truly deranged, but I have to admit, there’s a recipe I got from that book that I make to this day: they call it Chicken Parmesan, but it’s SO MUCH MORE.

    You take a boneless, skinless chicken breast and pound it flat. Lay on a couple slices of salami and a couple slices of mozzarella, roll it up, toothpick it shut, cover it with marinara, and bake.

    Now, I made a couple of adjustments. The original recipe said to cook the chicken in the microwave. (seriously! are we being punked?!) Also, it specified a low-fat cheese and sugar-free marinara.

    When I make it now, I sear the chicken in a little olive oil, pour on my homemade marinara, then top it with a handful of part-skim shredded mozzarella, cover it with foil, and bake. I take off the foil for the last few minutes to brown the cheese.

    My Splenda requests this meal every year on his birthday. Thank you, Protein Power!

    1. Melissa Avatar

      The Protein Power couple has apparently seen the light and now they no longer recommend culinary horrors or low-fat cheese.

      Their latest book recommends full fat foods (though it also recommends some awful protein shakes….ugh) and they are also the creators of a Sous Vide machine that makes some kick-ass juicy damn meat. It’s used by some top chefs apparently.

      Microwaving totally negates the deliciousness that is chicken + cheese.

      1. SingOut Avatar

        The magic is chicken + cheese + salami, but yeah. The microwave should enter into this equation.

        1. SingOut Avatar

          OMG! I meant the microwave should never enter the equation. Please forgive. :)

  35. Emgee Avatar

    OMG, Meredith, I love this, I will be shamelessly stealing it to use with my mother. Who, I believe, is a long-lost twin sister of Miss B’s mother. Which reminds me, has anyone mentioned the illustrious “Grapefruit Diet”–pretty much a protein diet, no dairy, no starch, no fruit except you had to eat a half grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice with each meal to “burn the fat”. My mom made me do this with her every summer starting about age 9 or 10. I did lose about 10 lbs in 10 days, but was so ravenous for carbs I regained it almost instantaneously. And hate grapefruit.

  36. Emgee Avatar

    Crap. That was supposed to go under Meredith’s comment with her quote: “If the MIL nags you again, tell her you don’t take diet advice from people who’ve never been fat, because they don’t know what they’re talking about.” Sorry about that.

  37. Elizabeth G. Avatar
    Elizabeth G.

    I was reading the book “Intuitive Eating” recently (which actually isn’t a bad book — it does have weight loss in there as a potential goal, but the main focus is on restoring a normal relationship with food, which is why I bought it), and I noticed towards the end that it mentioned reducing the risk of dying. I was like, “what?”

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I’ve read that book…I bought a copy of it several years ago and read it a couple of times, and then I think I sold it to a used bookstore. I liked it, but it just…I don’t know, didn’t really stick with me the way other things have.

      I don’t recall the reducing risk of dying thing. What was the claim, specifically?