My earliest memories of diets and calorie restrictions revolve around Ayds diet candies and Roman Meal bread.
Ayds (pronounced "aids") was an individually wrapped candy that was either an appetite suppressant or a placebo. It had a very strong presence in my childhood home in the early 70s. I clearly remember the chocolate and caramel flavors nibbled before meals by my mother and older sister, usually with a nice hot cup of coffee. I was a kid - somewhere in the 5 to 7 year old range - and I'd sneak in and chow down on those candies by the handful. They were tasty and, I'm sure, oh so chemical. Probably accounts for the tics and recurrent blackouts today. Ayds candies would surely have fallen out of market favor by now even if the PR disaster of having a product name pronounced the same as a dread disease hadn't driven the product off the shelves.
Roman Meal was a wheat sandwich bread at a time when all I remember seeing on grocery store shelves was white, white, white. It screamed diet with its darker color and the Roman Meal Diet Plan. I think you could write to the address on the package for the diet plan. It may have been included in some packages. We found the Roman Meal Diet Plan in my grandmother's papers when she died in 1995. As "diets" go, it's a reasonable eating plan. At least it lists real foods. Of course, slices of Roman Meal bread feature prominently. It includes black coffee or tea at every meal, never mentions a glass of water. My grandmother must have been an extremely caffeinated woman.
And there was the summer of great weight loss. I think it was the summer I turned 11. I was a healthy kid, a solid kid. I was growing into a pudgy kid when Dr. Eaves told my mother that if a girl did not lose extra poundage before puberty set in she was doomed to fight the weight monster for life. Those hormonal changes would make it more difficult. From that appointment day through the rest of my summer vacation, my mother was in a mad race against my pubes. I remember gallons of Shasta diet drinks - lemon lime, black cherry, root beer - and chef salad after chef salad. I did lose weight. I also lost inches, helped in that by a growth spurt that summer. But I shudder to think of the artificial sweeteners and artificial colors I downed that summer. I can't remember drinking water. I probably swallowed a good bit of chlorinated water swimming in my cousin's pool, but I don't think that counts.
Swirling throughout this memory mish-mash, there are a few memories of receiving praise for sticking with it or looking good. That's a minor part of the memory gel. Most of the memories involve that panicked race against puberty (at which point I think I would go from chubby child to fat woman and... I don't know.... maybe give up on life or something?) and the womanly unity I felt with my mother and sister and other female relatives (who were usually either "on a diet" or had recently fallen "off a diet") in looking for a quick fix. Some thing that would fix our bodies without really engaging our minds. Oh yeah, and we didn't relish sweating.