Part 1 - Background and History of Diets
Do you think DIET is a bad word? I posed this poll and question on various social media outlets over the last 10 days. I was curious what everyone's opinion was around this term - especially with the start of a new year, let alone decade!
This question sparked a lot of conversations over the last week. The actual poll results on the question were 60/40 in favor of the Negative - yes, they did consider it a bad word.
Culinary Lore detail the origin of the word DIET as the following:
The word diet used to mean the food and drink that we habitually consume did not appear in English until the thirteenth century, but it also had another sense, meaning “a way of life.”
The second meaning is more in line with the word’s origins, as it comes from the Greek diaita via diaitan. Diaita was a noun that meant a way of living, and also had a more specific meaning, signifying a way of living as advised by a physician, which could include a “food” diet and other daily habits.
The Latin Diaitan was a verb which meant “to lead, govern, or arbitrate one’s life.” The Latin word diaeta came from these roots. This word described a dietary regimen, as well.
In the Middle Ages, diet more often had this connotation of a dietary (or other) regimen prescribed by a doctor. Such “diets” were often fasts of one kind or another so that diet usually referred to a confined and regimented way of eating done for a specific purpose. This sense, of course, survives in the popular use of the word “diet” to describe a way of eating specifically done to achieve a weight loss goal.
Interesting, right? I’m curious who the genius was that started using “diet” in marketing… right? The one person who is responsible for over 90,000 results “diet books” on Amazon. Just google “diet” and you’ll get about 1,720,000,000 in .65 seconds (try it! It’s kind of fun).
If you are a women, you’ve dieted in the past with the majority of you trying more diets than you can count. Myself, included. If I recall correctly, the first “diet” I went on was right after high school. It consisted of a lot of running and very few calories. I also regularly consumed Shape magazine and Fitness something or other. While I didn’t recognize it then, every other page, picture or advert had something to do with losing weight. It took me until a good age to figure out that the headlines/articles and diets in then magazines were basically regurgitated in some way shape or form every couple months. I didn’t stop at the first diet either - I went on to many many other ones. Some I did specifically for weight loss, others for more the health benefits.
From what I’ve read (and trust me the history is kind of fascinating!) the dieting specifically aimed at women for weight loss occurred in 1918 by Lulu Hunt Peters - she published a book “Diet and Health: With Key to the Calories” which urged women not to exceed 1200 calories per day. That seemed to pave the way for things like Weight Watchers. Previous to hers aimed towards women, William Banting published the Banting Diet in 1863 based on his own weight loss results.
My favorite part of the research was stumbling upon this article from the Scientific American (link to article at the bottom). This was written in 2013 and it's still very very relevant IMO. This is an excerpt from the article.
The Marketing Diet Here’s how it works:
1. When a commercial comes on the TV, mute it, and go do something else until your show comes back on.
2. If a commercial comes on the radio, mute it for a few minutes until your programming comes back on
3. If a magazine is mostly advertisements, don’t read it, or find the article you want on-line where you can implement ad-blocking software, and where it won’t be sandwiched between a glossy Godiva ad and a South-Beach Diet promotion.
4. Packages are advertising. Keep that in mind.
5. The grocery store is basically a giant immersive, marketing experience. Also keep this in mind.
Think of every ad impression as a little brain calorie. Every time you see an ad, your likelihood to act upon that ad increases just a little bit more than if you hadn’t seen it. As you accumulate these brain calories, you could end up with a marketing-brain-calorie surplus, and then you’ll be more likely to behave in a way that you might kick yourself over later (this is that ground-breaking scientifically-advanced part I mentioned at the top)
One of the difficult things about diets is that we have to give up something that we often crave, and we often give in. But how many of us really love the assault on our senses that is a Dairy Queen commercial with creepy disembodied Rolling Stones lips urging us get a blizzard with our bacon cheeseburger? What would we really be missing?
I think this is GENIUS. I like to imagine that if we were left up to our own devices without all the chatter around us, we would make better choices. In fact there would be LESS choice which I think is also fabulous. Who needs 120 different types of cereal???
In Part 2, I'll be sharing stories and experiences from everyone anonymously who responded to my social media request for their insight. See ya then!
Full link to article: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/food-matters/the-marketing-diet-want-to-lose-weight-give-up-marketing-the-groundbreaking-scientifically-advanced-technique-guaranteed-to-melt-away-the-pounds-and-fix-every-problem-in-your-life/