The Scarsdale diet is a fad diet that was designed in the 1970s for weight loss.
Originally published in Herman Tarnower’s book “The Complete Scarsdale Diet”, the diet has since been determined to carry health risks and is not considered one that is particularly good or of nutritional value to follow.
A Diet Of The 1970s
Developed by cardiologist Herman Tarnower, the Scarsdale diet was similar to the Atkins diet in that it encouraged a high protein and low-fat diet that emphasized fruits and vegetables.
The book was published in the 1978s to a fairly regular reception. However, after Tarnower was killed by ex-lover Jean Harris in 1980, book sales soared.
After a made-for-tv movie “The People vs. Jean Harris” came out the following year, book sales went even higher.
Those following the diet outside of all of the news surrounding Herman Tarnower were fashion elites and society women who were looking for a quick weight-loss program.
However, it was soon discovered that the diet’s fat ratio was believed to actually increase the risk of heart disease, and while followers of the fad diet saw some results early on, their weight loss was not sustained.
A High-Protein, Low-Calorie Diet
The Scarsdale diet works by following a very restricted eating plan. Only 1,000 calories are allowed per day, no matter one’s activity level, gender, or body size.
Three meals are eaten per day, and snacks aren’t allowed with the exception of carrots and celery. This high-protein program also tells followers to consume quite a bit of fruit and vegetables over the two-week period.
Each day, the calorie consumption is designed to be broken down as such:
- 43% of calories from protein
- 22.5% of calories from fat
- 34.5 percent of calories from carbs
Compliant foods that one could eat while on the Scarsdale diet include:
- Black coffee
- Diet soda
- Leafy greens
A Highly Criticized Diet
Though Tarnower’s book gained quite a bit of attention after his murder, meaning that thousands of people ended up trying the diet, health professionals were quick to point out the flaws in the diet.
Experts came out saying that the diet “prohibits nutrient-dense foods”, which can put individuals at risk for a variety of different nutrient deficiencies. Further, the diet restricts calories to a level that can be unsustainable for some, especially if they are more athletic of naturally need a higher calorie intake to support their bodies.
A Pop-Culture Phenomenon
The real popularity behind the Scarsdale diet comes down to the unfortunate and untimely death of its creator, Herman Tarnower. The diet didn’t work for most people following it, but the popularity of the trial and subsequent movie, in which Jean Harris was played by Ellen Burstyn, was the real cause for people trying it out.
Eventually, the popularity of the book, movie, and diet ended up fading off, particularly after reports of the increased risk of heart disease and lack of weight loss started to circulate.
A Calorie-Restrictive Diet
The Scarsdale diet is one of many fad diets that don’t quite hold up when examined by experts. Though it remained popular for some time due to the murder of Herman Tarnower, it has slowly become more of a relic of decades and diet trends gone by than a popular diet in today’s world.