Diets Throughout History: Lord Byron and His Vinegar

Throughout history, people have tried some pretty odd things to fit societal expectations of beauty. Lord Byron was one such person.

A prominent figure of Europe’s Romantic literary movement, Lord Byron was one of the most influential people during Britain’s early 1800s. He was also reportedly obsessed with staying thin. He tried all sorts of weight-loss methods like wearing layers of wool clothing so that he would sweat continuously, eating only light meals for days at a time then bingeing on huge portions, and strictly limiting his food intake to only bread and vegetables.

In fact, Lord Byron was so fixated on his diet that his friends often took note of it. In one journal, a dining companion of his wrote: 

“His system of diet here was regulated by an abstinence almost incredible. A thin slice of bread, with tea, at breakfast – a light, vegetable dinner, with a bottle or two of Seltzer water, tinged with vin de Grave, and in the evening, a cup of green tea, without milk or sugar, formed the whole of his sustenance. The pangs of hunger he appeased by privately chewing tobacco and smoking cigars.”

Not exactly the most balanced day of eating.

But undoubtedly, one of his most well-known weight-loss methods was the vinegar and water diet. Byron would either mix a drink of vinegar and water or douse his food in the stuff.

Of course, vinegar is common to have on the dinner table – as part of a vinaigrette, sauce, or (if you live in Great Britain) something to sprinkle on your fish and chips!

But anyone who has drunk vinegar on its own will be the first to tell you that it doesn’t exactly whet the appetite. This was more or less why Byron consumed as much of it as he did.

While vinegar on its own is unpalatable, Byron’s methods of using it to lose weight were definitely problematic, and if he were alive today, would most definitely be diagnosed with an eating disorder or two. This was a man who was clearly tortured by his negative body image and sought to “fix” it using the unhealthiest, most extreme methods possible.

And since Lord Byron was such an influential figure, his eating habits didn’t go unnoticed by the general public. Many people (particularly women) started following his vinegar-based diet in the hopes that they would also achieve a “desirable” level of thinness. There was even worry among health professionals at the time that Byron’s influence would be harmful to the youth. 

Perhaps Lord Byron could be considered one of the earliest diet influencers, but that doesn’t mean that what he did was healthy, or that it created a positive mindset around food. 

Over the years, research has repeatedly shown that fad diets may help you lose weight based on strict calorie restrictions or dramatic changes to your food. However, these aren’t sustainable and can often lead to a greater increase in weight over time. 

At the end of the day, eating a balanced diet full of your favorite nutrient-rich foods is going to taste way better and do more for you in the long run. 

As always, get curious about what new and nutritious foods you can add to your diet! If you want more inspiration, we’ve got you covered.


[1] History of Vegetarianism. England Early 19th Century. Accessed 2022.

[2] BBC. Lord Byron: The celebrity diet icon. 2012.

[3] Social Health and Research Center Inc. Diet Culture: A Brief History. 2022.

[4] Mayo Clinic. Apple cider vinegar for weight loss. 2022.

[5] Lowe, M.R., Doshi, S.D., Katterman, S.N., Feig, E.H. Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Frontiers in Psychology. 2013. 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577