1864: First known diet book published: "Letter on Corpulence," calling for low carbs and daily booze, by William Banting, an English casketmaker who became alarmed when he could no longer tie his shoes. 58,000 copies sold.
1873: First mention of anorexia.
1890s: Chemist Wilbur O. Atwater elucidates the concept of food components--proteins, carbohydrates and fats--and measures their calorie content.
Early 1900s: Scales become widely available; calorie-counting born.
"The Great Masticator," a San Francisco art dealer named Horace Fletcher, writes bestseller saying chewing each bite 32 times controls your weight. Dinner table conversation comes to a halt as people around the nation "Fletcherize." Future cereal king John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Mich., introduces rainwater douches, sweat packs and plunge baths, used in addition to Fletcherizing.
1917: "Diet and Health, With Key to the Calories," by Lulu Hunt Peters, prescribes 1,200-calorie-a-day diet. Sells 2 million copies.
1926: Bulimia first discussed by doctors.
1930s: Dinitrophenol, an insecticide and herbicide, taken by thousands to control weight. Twelve women blinded; others die. Makes comeback in 1980s.
1935: Johns Hopkins professor introduces banana-and-skim-milk diet with AMA approval. Also popular is Hollywood 18-Day Diet, 585 calories, mostly grapefruit.
1948: TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) founded by housewife Esther Manz; first support group for weight loss.
1957: Injection of human chorionic gonadotropin becomes most popular medication to lose weight. Derived from urine of pregnant women, rabbits or mares, it proved useless. Still available.
1960: Jack LaLanne's exercise show is most watched daily TV program.
Overeaters Anonymous founded in L.A. by housewife Roxanne S.
1961: "Calories Don't Count," by Herman Taller, sells 2 million copies; against carbs and refined sugar; advocates large quantities of unsaturated fat. (In 1967 Taller is convicted of mail fraud for selling "worthless" safflower capsules.)
1962: FDA seizes Jack LaLanne's Protein Wafers and Instant Breakfast. Health claims overstated!
1963: Weight Watchers founded by housewife Jean Nidetch.
1967: Irwin Stillman publishes "Quick Weight Loss Diet" (high-protein, low-carb). 20 million people try it.
1970: Eight percent of all prescriptions are for amphetamines, which suppress appetite.
1972: Robert Atkins publishes "Diet Revolution" (eat all the fat you want; high-protein, low-carb). A bestseller.
1975: Stillman dies of a heart attack.
1978: "The Scarsdale Diet" published by Herman Tarnower (700 calories a day; high-protein). Also a bestseller.
1979: Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise. Very low fat. Fat-free era begins.
The CDC reports deaths of 58 people from going on liquid protein formula made of ground-up animal hides, tendons and bones.
1980: Tarnower shot to death by girlfriend Jean Harris. She said she had run out of the amphetamine (desoxyn) that he had prescribed for her.
1981: Cambridge Diet, one of most dangerous ever: a 320-calorie-a-day liquid diet. Postal Service and FDA stop mail order sales after two months. Thirty people die after pyramid marketing scheme replaces mail order.
1981: Judy Mazel's Beverly Hills Diet. Exotic fruits. "The more time you spend on the toilet, the better," Mazel says. Revised as "The New Beverly Hills Diet" in 1996.
1983: Jenny Craig chain opens.
Karen Carpenter dies of anorexia.
1988: Oprah Winfrey, dragging a wagon piled with 67 pounds of fat, announces on her TV show she has lost that much with Optifast.
1992: "Weigh Down Workshop," a Christian diet program, is started by Gwen Shamblin. Pray more, eat less. Now in 30,000 locations in 70 countries.
Studies show a combination of fenfluramine and phentermine produces weight loss; factories work around the clock to keep up with the Fen-phen demand.
Atkins reissues low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet book.
NIH panel of obesity experts concludes diets don't work. Short period of sanity ensues.
1993: Cardiologist Dean Ornish publishes "Eat More, Weigh Less." Adds meditation and group support to Pritikin. Low-fat era kicks into high gear.
"Stop the Insanity," by Susan Powter, is bestseller. Low-fat and anger.
Oprah Winfrey hires personal trainer to help her lose weight she regained.
1994: Leptin discovered. Makes fat mice thin. Genetic research continues.
1995: Resurgence of low-carb, high-protein diets begins.
1996: Redux approved by FDA.
1997: Fen-phen is taken off the market after studies link it to heart valve disease.
1999: Atkins reissues his diet book again. At least four other low-carb, high-protein diets and their ancillaries hog the bestseller list: "Sugar Busters!," "Protein Power," "Eat Great, Lose Weight," "The Zone."
Sources: "Losing It: America's Obsession With Weight and the Industry That Feeds on It," by Laura Fraser, and news reports
CAPTION: John Harvey Kellogg, diet guru and cereal king.
CAPTION: Oprah Winfrey lost 67 pounds on a liquid diet; Herman Tarnower wrote "The Scarsdale Diet" and then lost his life.
CAPTION: Susan Powter's 1993 book advised dieters to eat low-fat and get angry.