The Drinking Man’s Diet

Oh, I’m on the Drinking Man’s Diet,
It came from a book I was loaned.
It’s really terrific and quite scientific
And I’m half stoned.

For breakfast some cornflakes and vodka,
But cornflakes have carbohydrate;
So I don’t eat those fattening cornflakes,
I eat the vodka straight.

The lyrics are from Allan Sherman. For those of us not exposed to this fellow, he was a writer and singer of novelty songs, and the original voice of The Cat in The Cat In The Hat cartoon. He would like to harpoon the current topics of his day (in the 60s), and something that had some media currency at the time was a book: The Drinking Man’s Diet.

It was the 60s, man. It was a less careful time. I was brought home as an infant held by my mother in the front seat of a car with a metal dashboard – not strapped in a car seat in the back with more fasteners and belts than a jet pilot. There were no seat belts, either. The playground of my elementary school was not cushioned in 12 inches of wood chips, but was hard-packed dirt. The playground had a wooden gate that you could get on and swing in a circle – great for falling off of, or smacking some other kid full in the face with a big can of wooden-gate whoop-ass. The swings were also wooden, and great for whacking kids in the side of the head – either unintentionally or otherwise.

For grown-ups, it was even more carefree – or careless, depending on how you look at it. Everybody smoked, or at least it seemed like it, and drinking too much was more of a joke than anything else – cops would stop you as you wove across three lanes and tell you paternally to go home and sleep it off. Near my home was a department store that had a bar attached to it – it was essentially the Drinking Department. I imagine the thinking was: when the family wants to go to a store, Dad will want to come to this one so he can get hammered while Mom buys shoes and maybe some clothes for the kids.

And if he gets stopped by the police on the way home? We’ll he was going to go home to sleep it off anyway, so he and the cop would be in agreement.

It was a time of less rules, I suppose – and if there were more needless traffic deaths than was necessary, it was just a consequence of the American Way of Life – amen.

Only in this sort of time could a book like The Drinking Man’s Diet gain popularity. In a time where most of us believe it is not only right, but somehow just, to banish smokers to stand outside their office and smoke in weather that we would not allow our pets out in, there would be no market for such a politically incorrect little book.

Drink, drink, everyone drink;
It’s not as bad as we used to think.
With every Manhattan your stomach will flatten,
So drink, drink, drink.

The book did well – it sold 2.4 MILLION copies – and the man who wrote it, Robert Cameron, was still kicking at 93, and trim as well, when he reissued the book in 2004. See this article in Forbes. Here’s a sample menu – if this is what he’d been eating (and drinking) since 1964, God bless his soul:


1/4 cantaloupe or 4 ounces of tomato juice (5 carbs)
Ham or bacon, 2 slices (0
Egg, fried, boiled or poached (trace
Coffee or tea (0


Dry martini or whiskey and soda, if desired (trace carbs)
Broiled fish or steak or roast chicken (0
2 glasses dry wine, if you wish (trace
Green beans or asparagus (1
Lettuce and tomato salad with French or Roquefort dressing (4
Coffee or tea (0


Martinis or highballs, if you desire (trace carbs)
Hors d’oeuvres of 2 stalks of celery stuffed with pâté (5
Shrimp cocktail (4
Beef, pork, lamb, veal chicken or turkey (0
Green beans, 1 cup, brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup, or cauliflower, 1 cup (6
2 glasses dry wine (trace
1/2 avocado with French dressing (8
Cheese: Roquefort, Camembert, Swiss or cheddar (trace
Coffee or tea (0
Brandy (trace

Total grams of carbohydrate: 33

(Note that he refrains from alcohol for breakfast – you have to admire his willpower to make it all the way to noon without a drink.)

As this was published in 1964, this was before Dr. Atkins, so it could be concluded that this was the first popular low carb diet of the modern era – not Atkins.

Maybe it’s been forgotten because it’s just too out there.

Would I lose weight on this diet? I bet not. I think it would end up like the last stanza in Allan Sherman’s song:

Drink (hic!), drink (hic!),
booze everywhere (hic!);
Pass that decanter of bourbon there.
I’m fatter than ever,
but here’s what’s so clever:I don’t care!


12 thoughts on “The Drinking Man’s Diet

  1. I actually remember this diet from when I was a kid. I was friends with the children of the neighbors a house over from where we lived, and these people liked to PARTY. The dad was thin as a rail, so I think he was into the diet for other more obvious reasons.

    I think I was born slightly too late in time. I still like the music from that era, and I feel like I was born with a martini glass in my hand. This would have been what I’d chosen to try to lose weight (or just not care about it).

  2. I did the diet many moons ago. I don’t drink, but it was a great diet anyway and I lost loads of weight.
    Norma you can get it from and probably from any big bookshop.
    All you really need is a really good carbohydrate counter book, and stick to no more than 60g of carbohydrate a day, plus plenty of water to drink.

  3. From your article:

    In a time where most of us believe it is not only right, but somehow just, to banish smokers to stand outside their office and smoke in weather that we would not allow our pets out in, there would be no market for such a politically incorrect little book.

    My response:

    Either you’re a bleeding-heart liberal, from California, or just plain annoying to say that ‘most of us believe it is not only a right…’ You have no rights in that regard.

    Speak for yourself, not for the American people.

    P.S. I think the diet is brilliant. Actually, I really don’t care about diets at all! I have to go now….my Bourbon is getting low and my cigarettes are in the other room.


    1. You must have been drunk not to pick up that I was lamenting political correctness rather than praising it.
      Also – the Bourbon and Cigarette diet is quite popular in some circles – good luck on your journey.

  4. The book is available on Amazon. To summarize it in a couple sentences: Eat between 30 and 60 grams of carbs each day; alcohol (except sweet liquors and dessert wines) doesn’t count. Don’t pig out.

  5. I found the DMD when I was living in Japan in the 70’s, very popular with US personnel there. I was putting on pounds so I started the DMD and soon started seeing the difference. Cameron made the book popular because he knew how most diets put people off with their nannying routines don’t eat this don’t drink.that.
    Cameron said DO but don’t overdue it, he begins his book with the admonition ” If you eat too much you get fat, if you drink too much you get drunk, moderation in everything ” After a fortnight the fat starts breaking down in the body and you can actually taste the ketosis that’s taking place. The food items are very comprehensively listed and some surprises there too, apple juice which I loved and thought quite healthy was so high on the carb list,
    That little book has changed a lot of lives, a golfer friend of mine said about Scotland, “Y’ know you can even play golf up there when the sun is shining” and you can even use this book without alcohol passing your lips. But it was nice to have that Martini before dinner and not feel guilty..

  6. Reblogged this on drinkscoaster and commented:
    Given my future several months summering in wine country, I look forward with anticipation to attempting this diet. I expect, of course, to net gain weight, as everyone who goes on a low carb diet does over the long run, but I’ll give it the old college try.

  7. This is a great, to the point, “book” about low carbing. Real hard core low carbers would think 60 grams a day is to much, but when you start looking at the charts, you can add up 60 grams of carbs pretty quick. I like fruits so a 1/4 cantelope, 1/2 a cup of black berries with some cream and Splenda, that is a good deal. Plus, when I low carb, I actually eat better, more vegetables/salads then when I am not.

    Hats off to Cameron, this is needed, even if it is not politically correct.

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