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Health and Fitness in the 60s Then and Now..We’re Still at it 50 years Later….

Fitness is a life long commitment. There are no two ways about that. If you are just jumping on the bandwagon every time a new diet fad hits town, you will be sorely disappointed. Sure, you can lose weight (maybe even drastically or quickly), but if you can’t sustain it, you will just slip back into your old lifestyle. I have seen lots of people go from fat to thin to fat again

Even celebrities are not spared this agony…


Popular actress/yo yo dieter Kristy Alley lost weight when she was a Jenny Craig spokesperson, only to put it back again once she parted ways with the programme. It was only after she went on “Dancing with the Stars” and embarked on her Organic Liason program, was she able to gain control of her weight.

What does this say? That COMMITMENT and not some fad diet is the key to managing your body woes. Although I do think that her stint on the show (see 10 other stars that lost weight while competing in it) probably helped more than anything else but hey,  I could be wrong.

Anyway, that got me thinking, how has the fitness industry evolved throughout the years? I went back half a century to find out.

The 1960s was an era where momentous events in history were made. Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” speech, the assassination of JFK, the first man on the moon, the love and peace hippy era and psychedelic fashion (think Austin Powers) were just some of the highlights of that colourful decade.

But since there is enough attention paid to the above mentioned, I thought it would be interesting to unearth the development of fitness and nutrition during that period and now. I am inspired at how the health and fitness industry has evolved and one thing is for sure, body image is as important then as it is now and we are still suckers for things that promise you the world with minimal effort. Luckily, we are becoming more and more aware of gimmicky trends and I am happy that more emphasis is being placed on healthy eating and living now.

*This inspired me to start writing a piece on how we let society define attractiveness for us (coming soon)


Here are then and now pics about fitness in the 60s then and now:

1. Fitness Equipment that promise quick results (imo) – Then and Now

1960s fitness poster

Then – 1960s

In the 1960s, they had the Trim Twist where you twist off the inches from your body. I like how they show executives and made up housewives in bee hives “twisting” their way slim. Groovy baby..

present day - twist and turn


Do these things like even work? I am so surprised that it’s still in production half a century later… Please let me know if you have actually tried this… and succeeded. 

2. Bizarre / Fad diets – Then and Now

Google the word diets and you will probably have a gazillion results all promising you rapid weight loss results with minimal effort. But did you know that the 1960s had some pretty messed up diets as well? 

Diets in 1960s

The Sleeping Beauty diet – Practised by the King himself, Elvis Presley. The idea is that you are heavily sedated so that you sleep for days without consuming anything. So the weight comes off like magic since you are sleeping, you can’t be eating anything. Right…..

The Vegetable Oil diet – Developed by Obstetrician Dr. Herman Taller who advocated that you could eat as much as you want just as long as you washed it all down with vegetable (safflower) oil. Huh? Seriously.. 

*Eventually, he was found guilty of mail fraud, conspiracy and violating the FDA regulations.

Read about other bizarre diets in history here

Read about other diets in 1960s here

Present Day Diets

From Master Cleanse which involves drinking a concoction of maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to the Hollywood Cookie Diet and so much more, the only constant is that people are still fleeting from one diet trend to another. Enough already! 

Everyone wants quick fixes which DO NOT exist. Eat clean by consuming more vegetables, cut down on processed and refined foods, opt for healthier cooking styles, etc (I sound like a mother hen here) and see results slowly but surely.


3. Personal Training – Then and Now

I like these fitness advertisements of the 1960s, personal trainers promising to help you be HE-MAN. It’s inspiring to see then, in a world where they didn’t have the latest weight machines, pre-workout supplements or rampant steroid abuse,  they still managed to look good the old fashioned way.

body building for guys

1960s fitness training

Fitness posters then – 1960s

Design has evolved though:

personal training 1


Fitness posters now



4. Sugar Alternatives – Then and Now

The 1960s was the time where the sugar substitute trend started taking off. Saccharin was extremely popular and cyclamate (which has since been banned from 1969 in the U.S.) as well. Read more here.

Below is an ad during the 1960s to encourage parents to give children sugar alternatives.

1966 ad for sugar in Time magazine

What an ad! and what is Watusi?


Looks like sugar alternatives are here to stay though as we now have a whole host of sugar alternatives that are widely available to us more than ever before. Although the jury is still out on the effects of taking sugar substitutes in the long run, there is no denying that it is tremendously popular and people have benefited from it. But everything in moderation okay; as there are some who are entirely dependent on it. Like needing to drink diet coke. Every. Single. Day.



Sugar Substitute ads now

Know more about your artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes here

5. Diet Shakes – Then and Now

Oooh, then we have diet and meal replacement shakes. Two of the most popular ones were:

Knudsen 225 and Metrecal

diet 225 - knudsen

metrecal meal replacement shakes

Diet shakes then – 1960s

Fast forward to our present day and age and guess what? Shakes are still the rage!

meal replacement shakes

herbal life shake

 Present Day Meal Replacement Shakes

The stores are filled with them now. At Watsons, you are practically spoilt for choice. Elsewhere in the world – From Slimfast in the States, to Herbal Life and other brands… You can now drink your way slim. Does it really work? I don’t know. Maybe for the short-term yes.  I have seen people lose weight on meal replacement programmes but as I said, it’s all about sustainability and are you sure you are able to do this for the rest of your life?

I know I can’t.

Inspiration from the 1960s:

One thing that was really inspirational from the 1960s was the founding of Weight Watchers. Up till today, it is still going strong and helping tens of thousands of people in their quest to manage their weight through a sensible program. 

For me, fitness, health and nutrition is and will always be a huge part of my lifestyle. I don’t find it tedious at all and in fact, am zealous when it comes to running and eating well. Everyone ages, it’s how gracefully I do it that is important to me. 

50 years later, I still hope to be writing about fitness and health 😉


Thanks for reading! 

If you enjoyed it, I would love to hear from you guys! Share your tips or thoughts by leaving a comment or dropping me a line using the contact form or simply give me some encouragement by liking offshewent on Facebook here:)




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