Fad diets Too good to be true

Janet Chrzan portraitAtkins. South Beach. Whole30. Zone. Keto. Banting? Yes, Banting. Not the Frederick Banting of Banting & Best, discoverers of insulin, but his distant relative William Banting, author, in 1863, of the self-published Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. Not the first fad diet by any means — Banting, a prominent London undertaker, had tried a bunch — it is the model, acknowledged and otherwise, for all the high-fat, low carbohydrate diets now so familiar and one of the first to seize the public imagination.

In Anxious Eaters: Why We Fall for Fad Diets, Janet Chrzan and Kima Cargill examine fad diets and the people who follow them as anthropologists might examine foreign cultures. Janet Chrzan helped me understand why people are drawn to fad diets and how they help to soothe, at least temporarily, some of the anxieties that surround food.


  1. Anxious Eaters: Why We Fall for Fad Diets, by Janet Chrzan and Kima Cargill, is published by Columbia University Press.
  2. Janet Chrzan has a website
  3. William Banting’s Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public is a fascinating light read.
  4. Olivier Bernard’s The life cycle of a fad diet is fun.
  5. Here is the transcript; thanks to the supporters who make this possible.
  6. Slight apologies for the banner photo; inspiration abandoned me.

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