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Rice No More: Nation’s First Celebrity Diet Fad Dies After 70 Sodium-Free Years

After more than 70 years of operation, The Rice Diet Program has officially closed its doors and mothballed its website. Based in Durham, North Carolina, the diet program was the first celebrity endorsed weight loss “miracle,” when stars like Buddy Hackett, Shelley Winters, and Lorne Greene were all singing its praises in the 1940s. But that was a three-quarters of a century ago, and as the diet craze turned hot and became watered down, the Rice Diet simply got overcooked.

Rice Diet

Founded in 1939 by Dr. Walter Kempner—a man known to wield a whip used to spank his patients—the program was affiliated with Duke University and was originally designed to treat people with kidney and heart problems. When overweight patients began to shed the pounds, Kempner saw dollar signs and experienced great success for decades. However, the tenets of the diet were not sustainable.

The Rice Diet was basically a strict starvation diet—about 1,000 calories allowed per day—and guess what you get to eat? Unsalted rice, fruit, vegetables, and cheese and nuts if you make it past the first few weeks. On such a low caloric plan, weight loss is basically guaranteed. But the Rice Diet was no match for more liberal diets that allowed red meat, salt, and dairy, and for the longest time, the only way to partake in the diet was to travel to Durham for a retreat, which insurance rarely covered.
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Kithe Brewster Uses Duke Diet to Make a Healthy Name for Himself

UPDATE 9/29/11: Kithe reached his 100-pounds lost milestone in September 2011, and spoke with DietsInReview.com to tell us about his journey, how he feels, and what this means for his career and life. In fact, in our interview, Kithe reveals that he’s actually lost 115 pounds total! Hear all about this, plus his progress with Ellen, in our Kithe Brewster interview.

When you work in the fashion industry, your appearance is one of the most important tools of the trade. Tall, thin, tan, fit, and a little natural spark keep these beautiful men and women in business. So what’s a man who weighs 300 pounds to do? He conceals it. So says Kithe Brewster, a celebrity stylist who has worked with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Tyra Banks, spent three years as Heidi Klum‘s personal stylist, and most recently dressed Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Cynthia for her wedding. He knows a little bit about what he’s doing, calling himself a “master of style and wardrobe” and being “good at masking it.” We believe him.

That skill helped Kithe conceal his weight and 49-inch waist from clients, friends, family and even himself. He didn’t realize how much his weight was affecting his health until last summer, when he fainted at a fashion show. He thought it was due to exhaustion, no doubt a result of his non-stop, international schedule; instead, it was because of his high blood pressure and cholesterol. “Something had to be done. I didn’t have any more chances,” he told us.

This was the trigger moment for Kithe, the moment he reconciled to stop neglecting himself and putting his “plane-hotel-world” career before his health. Listen to our interview with Kithe as he talks about beginning his weight loss journey with Duke Diet and Fitness, a renowned weight loss program founded at Duke University.


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