What do cigarettes, cabbage, and tapeworm have in common? They join with the likes of cookies, grapefruit, and sedatives to bring some of the most ridiculous fad diets the world has ever offered. Unfortunately, many of them started right here in the United States.
The very first fad diet to become widespread was made popular by Lord Byron, one of the leading figures of the Romantic period, who was famous for his poetry, flamboyance, and, oddly enough, his diets. In fact, you might say that Lord Byron was the first diet icon of modern history. Through his years, Lord Byron tried a variety of tricks to keep his figure slim, including wearing heavy, wool layers to sweat away pounds, bingeing on huge meals then following up with an excessive dose of magnesia, and living on a diet of vinegar-soaked biscuits and potatoes. Yuck.
Most of Lord Byron’s dieting antics were too outlandish or extreme for the masses to follow, but Byron’s diet tip of drinking water mixed with apple cider vinegar must have seemed doable because it became the first fad diet of the modern world, popularized in 1820. 105 years later, fad diets had become a marketing strategy for a variety of brands, including Lucky Strike, who encouraged consumers to light up instead of indulging in sweets. From that point, diets centered around everything from grapefruit to tapeworm-packed capsules had their time in the spotlight as the latest dieting trend.
These diets also had their fair share of consequences, some that were deadly. Still, fad diets continue to attract millions of people struggling with their weight. Today, the Keto diet is the most popular way Americans are shedding pounds for the new year. But we guarantee that most people who are on this diet now won’t be on it in a year, and they’ll most likely gain all the weight they lost (and then some) by the time we ring in 2020.
So if fad diets don’t actually work, at least not for the long haul, what do you do? The answer is found in a term almost as well known as ‘fad diet’, and that is ‘lifestyle changes’. Most people groan when they hear this term because it gives a mental image of one completely overhauling their lifestyle in one fell swoop. But that definition actually fits more with fad diets than lifestyle changes.
Actually, lifestyle changes are all about making small, gradual changes that eventually lead to a complete change over time. In an article on YourWeightMatters.org, Dr. Kimberly Schorn, a North Carolina-based dietitian who has garnered a large online following for her tips on living healthier and managing weight, used milk as an example for how lifestyle changes work. Instead of completely giving up milk cold turkey, she advises starting with a small change like switching from whole milk to 2% and so on and so on.
Why do small, simple changes work best over quick fixes? One, it’s not nearly as overwhelming to switch from whole milk to 2% as it is to give up milk altogether in one day. Two, your body needs certain amounts of food from all of the food groups, so it’s never good for your health to give up one of those food groups or to limit yourself to just one or two. Three, small changes are easier to maintain and to become, well, part of your lifestyle. And lastly, small changes that lead to big changes have long-standing results that not only help you lose weight but improve your overall mental and physical health.