A scene reenacting John Harvey Kellogg’s “Chewing Song,” from The Road to Wellville. The film portrays the future cereal titan’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, a wellness and dieting retreat popular with prominent Americans like Amelia Earhart, Henry Ford, and Sojourner Truth.


“‘Weight loss’ was a pursuit that had, somehow, landed on the wrong side of political correctness. People wanted nothing to do with it. Except that many of them did: They wanted to be thinner. They wanted to be not quite so fat. Not that there was anything wrong with being fat! They just wanted to call dieting something else entirely.”

— Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age” (New York Times, August 2017)

The million-dollar question: Does “diet” still sell?

Although half of US consumers are actively trying to lose weight, 91% of US consumers “believe it better to eat a well-rounded diet than use diet products,” research firm Mintel reports.

61% of American consumers believe that diet foods are not actually healthy—an attitude that has translated to a 20% decline in sales of weight-control tablets, and more than $400 million in lost sales for Lean Cuisine’s frozen meals.

Meanwhile, the growth of the functional food category over the last five years signals that consumers want more than just nutrition from their foods. As people focus their attention on establishing eating habits centered around health and wellness, the challenge to the diet industry is whether to pivot or jump ship.

Fun fact

Lord Byron wasn’t just a poet; the “Don Juan” author was also the inspiration for one of the earliest celebrity dieting fads. Legions of aspiring Romantics in the 1800s subsisted on a Vinegar and Water Diet, drinking water mixed with apple cider vinegar before each meal to maintain a chic gaunt look.

Take me down this 🐰 hole

book review of Louise Foxcroft’s Calories and Corsets touches on the long history of dieting with an eye towards trends that affected the British society set.

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