The Weight of History

A sensible serving of dieting highlights.

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

1963: Weight Watchers founded by a Queens woman whose friends helped her curb cookie cravings.

Martini Glass

1964: The Drinking Man’s Diet advocates martini lunches, sells 2.4 million copies in 13 languages.

1972: Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution is published.
The American Medical Association calls it a “serious threat to health.”

1977: Slim-Fast promotes its “shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a sensible dinner” mantra.

The Last Chance Diet recommends abstaining from all food except a protein drink of ground animal horns, hooves, hides, tendons, and bones. It sells 2.5 million copies.

Slim Fast

1980: Dr. Herman Tarnower, the creator of the wildly popular Scarsdale Diet, is murdered by his lover.

1981: Fruit-heavy Beverly Hills Diet craze attracts followers such as Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster, Maria Shriver, and crooner Engelbert Humperdinck.

1988: A 145-lb Oprah displays 67 lbs of animal fat—equivalent to the weight she lost on a liquid protein diet.

1992: Oprah hits 237 lbs, hires fitness guru Bob Greene.
Oprah Winfrey
Dr. Atkins releases his New Diet Revolution, one of the top 50 best-selling books of all time.

1996: Fat substitute olestra hits the market amid reports of “anal leakage.”

2002: 280-lb Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is told he has 10 years to live. He loses 110 lbs, starts anti-obesity crusade.

2004: Bill Clinton says he lost 35 lbs with the South Beach Diet and “working out with a German man.”

2005: Atkins Nutritionals declares bankruptcy.

2007: US diet industry reaches $58 billion.

2004: Americans spend $46 billion on diet products.

2004: 13% of Americans try low-carb diets. Krispy Kreme blames its losses on Atkins. A Florida man sues Atkins for a blocked coronary artery.

Slim Shady

2008: Eminem, a.k.a. Slim Shady, turns down Slim-Fast’s offer to be its spokesman.

We Recommend


Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.