My Homage to Fads

I admit it. I am a bit skeptical when it comes to fads. I think that’s based on the fact that I have been around for a while. 58 ½ years to be exact. And I have been involved in fitness for about 36 of those years, after spending my first 22 completely ignoring my health, unless Doritos and dip have some magical benefit heretofore unknown. At 22 years of age and 265 lbs, I was looking at, as Dean Vernon Wormer put it a life of being “fat, drunk & stupid”, which is, as he put it, “no way to go through life”. So I started running , going to the gym, which was the YMCA at that point, and eating around 1200 calories a day. That, more or less, is how I started down the road to fitness. It took a while, and there were a lot of bumps in the road, but my “program” was to eat fewer calories than you expend and exercise.

That’s it.

Simple Carbs?

Complex Carbs?



Eat in the morning ?

Eat at night?

Protein before or after workout?




I didn’t really concern myself with these questions. I’m a little more sophisticated now, but weight control still boils down to “calories in / calories out” from my perspective. And fitness is still a combination of resistance, core and cardio, with a fair amount of stretching thrown in.

But what about the fads, the “hot, new” idea that have come and gone. Some effective, some less than, some down right harmful. So this is my homage ( pronounced “O-maj”) to 15 of the most popular of the diet & exercise fads. Here, in no particular order;



The message that candy is bad and cigarettes are good was promoted by the American Tobacco Co. in 1928 with the “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” ad campaign promoting Lucky Strike cigarettes as weight-loss supplements for women. The campaign was incredibly successful until the candy industry threatened to sue.


At that point in time the only people who got pissed  about smoking ads were the people pedaling sugar, because it was cutting into their profits. Ah the good old days.


  1. Relax-a-Cizor

Marketed in the 1950s as the world’s first wearable exercise machine, the Relax-A-Cizor was supposed to allow people to get fit while they ate, sat, or even slept by giving a series of electrical shocks. At least 400,000 were sold before the U.S. government banned it because it caused “miscarriages, hernias, ruptured blood vessels, urinary discharge, and a list of other hideous ailments.



Jane Fonda revolutionized the fitness world with her namesake ’80s workout videos. Fonda not only dominated the watch-and-learn video fitness craze with 17 million tapes sold,  but Barbarella also popularized what is now considered the go-to uniform for ’80s aerobics: leotards with leg warmers.


founded in 1969 by professional-dancer-turned-fitness-guru Judi Sheppard Missett,  Jazzercise was the Zumba of the 80’s and is still going strong today, though it hit its peak back in the Pat Benatar days.


Weight Watchers was actually founded back in the early 60s. Some of their spokespeople have included Charles Barkley, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, Jenny McCarthy, and the Duchess of York. The company has received praise for its moderate approach to calorie restriction and emphasis on fruits and vegetables


Jenny Craig and its nationwide network of physical consultation centers arrived in the ’70s, got huge in the ’80s, and, unlike so many other fads, lived to see the ’90s. Part of the reason was, in the 1990s, 1 out of every 10 Jenny Craig sales dollars went to advertising.


I don’t really know how to address this one. An appetite suppressant candy which sold well in the 70’s and early 80’s. I actually used it for a while. It was like a chewy caramel candy. It was fine, life was good, and then, well, you know the story. FYI, in reaction to the advent of the disease , they changed the name. To what, you ask? “Diet Ayds”.




After being in business for over 20 years to moderate success, the best thing to happen to the Thighmaster was one of the stars of “Three’s Company”. Suzanne Somers starred in their 1991 commercials. Within 18 months of the iconic advertising campaign, 6 million ThighMasters were sold.


The Scarsdale Medical Diet is based on a book written by Dr. Herman Tarnower, who is most famous for being killed by his mistress Jean Harris in 1980, at the height of the diet’s popularity. The diet’s followers adhere to a very specific ratio of 43 percent protein, 22.5 percent fat, and 34.5 percent carbs.

Um, I was told there would be no math.


In 1987, the original “Buns of Steel” hit the streets with Alaskan fitness instructor Greg Smithey. More than 1 million VHS tapes were sold and a DVD version is still available, although no longer a top seller.

  1. TAE BO

Billy Blanks brought the classic workout video into the modern era with the 1990’s martial-arts- and dance-inspired workout Tae Bo. Lots of people joined. I started my career in the 90’s as an instructor with 24 Hr, Fitness’s version, called Turbo kick-boxing (TKB) . Thanks Billy!

  1. WII FIT

It’s a stretch to call Wii Fit an exercise video; it’s more like an exercise video game. Still, the 2008 release for the Nintendo Wii system gave gamers control of on-screen fitness activities, a balance board, and an excuse not to hit the gym.

  1. P90X

The exercise video craze of the 1980s and ’90s might have evolved, but it certainly didn’t die. P90X has taught the lesson that if you work out really hard for a full hour a day for 90 days while eating well, you’ll probably be in great shape. It also paved the road for Insanity, and a host of other “ we’re the most intense, crazy workout you can do” knockoffs.


This sort of the live, storefront version of P90X, complete with it’s own language ( WOD, BOX , EMOM, GIRLS, ) it’s own look and it’s own attitude,  CrossFit went from zero locations to 10,000 in a little more than a decade.


In the world of weight-loss diets, low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating plans often grab attention. The Paleo, South Beach, and Atkins diets all fit into that category. They are sometimes referred to as ketogenic or “keto” diets.

But a true ketogenic diet is different. Unlike other low-carb diets, which focus on protein, a keto plan centers on fat, which supplies as much as 90% of daily calories. When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it can use quickly. This typically takes 3 to 4 days. Then you’ll start to break down protein and fat for energy, which can make you lose weight. This is called ketosis. It’s important to note that the ketogenic diet is a short term diet that’s focused on weight loss rather than the pursuit of health benefits. People use a ketogenic diet most often to lose weight, but it can help manage certain medical conditions, like epilepsy.


Without impugning any of these, except for the cigarette and electrical shock options, my message would be that fads come and go, foods and exercise go into and out of popularity. Just use your common sense, do your research and talk to a health professional if you need to. And a reminder;

What’s the best workout ?

The one you will stick to.

Talk later,


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