Dieting is basically a modern phenomenon. But it has been around for centuries, in one form or another. Throughout history, there have been plenty of crazy diet ideas. Here are but a few, in no particular order:
1. Tapeworm Diet – Who would have ever thought that a diet that seems straight out of a scene from a horror movie would actually get traction in the diet world. But apparently some people don’t mind the idea of ingesting a tapeworm and letting reside in one’s digestive tract. The tapeworm secretes proteins in the intestinal tract which makes the digestion of food much less efficient. That means you can consume more calories and still lose weight. The use of tapeworms as a dietary measure has been banned in the U.S.
2. Sleeping Beauty Diet – If you have a hard time fighting the temptation to eat unhealthy food, maybe you just need to hibernate. At least, that’s what proponents of the Sleeping Beauty Diet say. If you are asleep, you can’t eat. And you do so under heavy sedation. Elvis was rumored to take part in this diet in his later heavy set days. While adequate sleep is connected to many health benefits, being sedated and oversleeping is not healthy.
3. Fletcherism, or The Chewing Diet – Taking its name from Horace Fletcher “The Great Masticator,” this diet approach from the turn of the 20th century stated that the way to a healthy body was to chew, chew, chew. Fletcher, who lived from 1849 to 1919, may be the first weight loss celebrity, as far as I can tell.
Fletcher was also a Renaissance man. He was a world traveler, wealthy businessman, amateur painter, speaker, author, and self-taught nutritionist. After being declined health insurance due to his size, Fletcher came up with the idea of chewing his food 32 times (one for each tooth) and then spitting out what was left. He believed that the body would ingest the necessary nutrients without putting on weight. His motto: “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate.”
4. The Cigarette Diet – Nothing says healthy like replacing fattening foods with cancer sticks. A Lucky Strike print ad from the 1920s read “Pass me a Lucky – I pass up the sweets.” The appetite suppressing qualities of cigarettes is well known, and at the time of this fad diet, it was actively promoted by many of the tobacco companies of the day.
5. The Calories Don’t Count Diet – Dr. Herman Taller wrote the controversial book Calories Don’t Count, which the FDA said was written solely to promote the sales of safflower oil. The book went on to sell more than two million copies, even though Taller was found guilty of mail fraud and conspiracy in 1967.
Taller claimed that you didn’t need to count calories as long as you avoided carbohydrates and concentrated on foods high in fat and protein. You also had to ingest his safflower oil pills.
6. The Drinking Man’s Diet – If you are a fan of Mad Men, this diet may sound a little like the show and how businessmen conducted themselves in the ’60s. However, the idea of two-martini lunches, steak and champagne in the evening doesn’t sound like diet as much as the justification for one’s alcoholic and philandering ways.
The Drinking Man’s Diet was first introduced to the world in 1964 by one Robert Cameron, who priced his diet pamphlet $1. After two years, he sold 2.4 million copies in 13 languages. I couldn’t imagine why the diet became so popular. Mr. Cameron lived until 2019 when he passed away at the age of 98. Not an endorsement, just something to think about.
The Prolinn Diet or The Last Chance Diet – In 1970s, Dr. Roger Linn advocated eating nothing but his liquid called Prolinn, which was a liquid protein consisting of less than 400 calories, and the following ingredients: slaughterhouse byproducts (ground-up and crushed animal horns, hooves, hides, tendons, bones, etc.) which were treated with artificial flavors, colors, and enzymes to break them down.