Health Freaks

America's Diet Champions and the Specter of Chronic Illness

By Travis A. Weisse

Health Freaks

274 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 graph

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-8300-3
    Published: September 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-8299-0
    Published: September 2024

Paperback Available September 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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Travis A. Weisse tells a new history of modern diets in America that goes beyond the familiar narrative of the nation's collective failure to lose weight. By exploring how the popularity of diets grew alongside patients' frustrations with the limitations and failures of the American healthcare system in the face of chronic disease, Weisse argues that millions of Americans sought "fad" diets—such as the notorious Atkins program which ushered in the low-carbohydrate craze—to wrest control of their health from pessimistic doctors and lifelong pharmaceutical regimens.

Drawing on novel archival sources and a wide variety of popular media, Weisse shows the lengths to which twentieth-century American dieters went to heal themselves outside the borders of orthodox medicine and the subsequent political and scientific backlash they received. Through colorful profiles of the leaders of four major diet movements, Health Freaks demonstrates that these diet gurus weren't shady snake oil salesmen preying on the vulnerable; rather, they were vocal champions for millions of frustrated Americans seeking longer, healthier lives.

About the Author

Travis A. Weisse is visiting assistant professor at New Mexico State University.
For more information about Travis A. Weisse, visit the Author Page.


"Health Freaks is an ambitious, wide-ranging survey of the American diet. Weisse explores both the fringes of dietary cultures and mainstream challenges to the 'standard American diet' in order to ask bigger questions about what drives American dietary fads and faddism."—Rachel Louise Moran, University of North Texas

"In this exploration of the lives of four 'diet gurus' in the alternative diet movement during the twentieth century, Weisse deftly analyzes the various and popular forms of alternative medicine through diet and nutrition. It's a significant contribution to our understanding of food and diet and a fun read on the history of health and medicine."—Benjamin R. Cohen, Lafayette College