Jane Fonda Aerobics and 80s Diets

80s Diets to Avoid or Embrace

by Jane Duncan, freelance writer

Aug 30th 2019

Around 1.9 billion people in the world weigh too much, and millions of them go on diets every year. If you're over 40, you may just have tried one of the diets that were ‘big in Japan’ - and the rest of the world - in the 80s. If the sight of leg warmers instantly transports you to a Jane Fonda aerobics session, just a whiff of cabbage tempts your palate, or you remember your teens every time you tuck into a tub of cottage cheese, chances are, you were an 80s kid
The diet scene has certainly changed dramatically over the past 40 years, and you probably would never embark on one of these crazy diet plans now. However, don’t knock all of them: some have pretty good bases that still form a part of modern diet plans. These are just a few of the most famous diets from the decade of Dynasty. Which have you actually been on?

The Grapefruit Diet

This diet was actually invented in the 30s, returning in the 70s and 80s, owing to the humble grapefruit’s ability to ‘burn fat’. Of course, grapefruits don’t actually burn fat; exercise and adopting a sound diet do. People who went on this diet often proudly proclaimed they had shed 10 pounds in a week, just by consuming grapefruit before a meal. If you look at the diet plan more closely, however, it's easy to see why people lost weight short-term. The diet is, in effect, a low carbohydrate eating plan, similar to Keto and Atkins in its emphasis on high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods. Meat, vegetables and eggs were also allowed, as was a glass of skimmed milk, and all these things together ensured dieters did not consume very much sugar at all.
The 80s Grapefruit Diet

The Elizabeth Taylor Diet

The book, 'Elizabeth Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Image, and Self-Esteem,' saw the top Hollywood actor giving women advice on how to look and feel good. Taylor suggested that her readers keep their diets secret so as not to bore friends. Her diet was strict on the one hand, and ultra indulgent on the other, comprising dry toast and fruit for breakfast, and weird concoctions like tuna, tomato pasta, mayonnaise and grapefruit for her main meals. She also downed peanut butter and steak sandwiches, and advocated for pig-out days, which she alleged helped her stick to her diet on other days. She felt that staying in shape was a matter of loving yourself, and in this sense, she certainly hit the nail on the head.

Elizabeth Taylor 2
Actress Elizabeth Taylor at a Filmex "An Evening With Elizabeth Taylor" on Nov 8 1981 - photo by Alan Light [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Cabbage Soup Diet

Dolly Parton was a big fan of this diet, which involved consuming unlimited quantities of cabbage soup for seven days, accompanied by other foods on specific days. For instance, on day one, dieters would consume only soup plus fruit (except bananas). On other days, a baked potato with butter would be permitted for dinner, and brown rice and vegetables were allowed. The one constant throughout the week was the copious amounts of soup consumed. If you like cabbage, the concoction probably suited your taste, as it was made with ingredients like dry onion soup, which lent it an appealing flavour and aroma.
Cabbage Soup - public domain image
Image by Krzysztof Jaracz from Pixabay

Hmm,I think I'll stick to Crispy Pancakes - Mark (editor) 

The Scarsdale Diet

This diet promised to help people shed 20 pounds in 14 days, and reviews of results were actually good. It followed quite a sensible approach, since it essentially required dieters to consume three meals a day, comprising 43% protein, 22.5% fat, and 34.5% carbohydrates. The only downside to this diet was how strict it was. Not only did it involve precise measurements/weight of food, but also demanded that food be prepared and garnished in a very precise manner.

The Scarsdale Diet was one of many that spread like wildfire thanks to celebrity support. Consumers think they are in a unique age of influencer marketing, yet the big diet boom of the 80s shows the extent to which people have always turned to ‘experts’ for dietary and health advice. Today, dieters generally embrace either the low-calorie or low-carb options, both of which have produced pretty interesting results. Interestingly, celebrities seem to talk much less about dieting, and much more about what Elizabeth Taylor espoused: building your self-esteem.