Orson Welles once observed, “Gluttony is not a secret vice.” Indeed, many people who find themselves on the path to Welles-worthy body proportions are eagerly looking for quick fixes to get rid of the excess weight they have gained.
Over the years, diets ranging from ineffective to lethal have assaulted an XL size population willing to try anything. For the sake of brevity and as a warning, here is our pick of the 10 weirdest diets of all time.
The Blue Vision Diet: This weight loss strategy first appeared in Japan around 2015 and did not limit the individual to specific foods or portions. Instead, dieters wore blue sunglasses while they ate – the concept was that food would look less appetizing if it was tinted blue, so less food would be consumed.
Of course, the diet didn’t take into account the aroma of the food – playing games with vision doesn’t turn off the olfactory senses. And, obviously, that doesn’t work when you’re enjoying a slice of blueberry pie or a bowl of Boo Berry. Unfortunately, a blue tint has not disturbed anyone’s love for food.
Daniel Diet’s book: In the Old Testament, Daniel and three of his friends declined the rich dishes and wines of of King Nebuchadnezzar kitchen in favor of a diet consisting only of legumes and water. “At the end of the ten days,” the scripture declared, “they seemed healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who had eaten the royal food.”
However, taking Daniel’s example out of context may create more problems than solutions – no serious nutritionist would advocate a complete existence on pulses and water. Biblical scholars point out that Daniels’ actions were meant to be presented as a form of political and spiritual resistance – as a Jewish captive in Babylon, passing on the culinary culture of his captors was a symbol that he was not going to give up his heritage . Additionally, the Book of Daniel emphasized miraculous events rather than dietary well-being, most notably with Daniel’s visit to the lion’s den.
The cigarette diet: During the 1920s, the Lucky Strikes brand of cigarettes positioned itself as a weight loss aid. With the marketing slogan “Reach for a lucky charm instead of a candy”, the brand happily advocated smoking as an alternative to an unhealthy diet.
Today, of course, we know that cigarettes bring anything but good health to those who are victims of their addiction. While we can laugh in hindsight at the blatant quackery of this Jazz Age publicity nonsense, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the naive folks who may have thought they were smoking their way to The well-being.
The cotton ball diet: This fad percolated in 2013 under the belief that one could lose weight if cotton balls soaked in juice were consumed. The reasoning: the cotton balls would fill up in the digestive tract and the individual would not be hungry.
Reality: The wrapped cotton balls sold in stores are not pure cotton, but are made from chemically laced polyester that can clog the intestinal tract and lead to damage to internal organs. But that assumes that the fake cotton balls enter the digestive tract – since these balls cannot be broken down, they can easily cause choking that can lead to death.
The Drinking Man’s Diet: This unlikely approach first appeared as a one-dollar pamphlet published in 1964 by the San Francisco writer Robert Cameron, who advocated for a low-carb, high-protein diet. In addition to such low-carb staples like well-marbled steaks, pate de foie gras and veal cutlets, Cameron also promoted other low-carb gems like brandy, gin, rum, vodka and other popular drinks.
Cameron’s book sold over a million copies, and it briefly caused a media sensation – even funny Allan Sherman wrote a song about diet. While Cameron’s pamphlet would be denounced as unhealthy by Dr Frederick Stare, founder of Harvard’s School of Public Health, the publication has never been out of print.
The Graham Diet: 19th century Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham devised this diet for reasons that had nothing to do with weight loss – he believed that an unhealthy diet fueled immoral sexual urges and depraved behavior. As a result, the well-meaning if somewhat humorless theologian insisted that people focus on a predominantly vegan diet and abstain from alcohol; milk, eggs and cheese could only be consumed very occasionally.
Graham also believed that white bread contributed to naughty thoughts and acts – although he never really defined the connection. As a result, he created a whole-grain alternative to sliced bread, and that creation is all that remains of that unlikely diet today: the graham cracker.
The morning banana diet: japanese pharmacist Sumiko Watanabe created this diet for her husband, who wrote a book about how this diet helped him lose 37 pounds. The diet involves the consumption of an unlimited number of bananas for breakfast with a serving of room temperature water or milk. Lunch and dinner can be whatever the individual wants, but there are no desserts and nothing should be eaten after 8:00 p.m. Bananas are the only acceptable snacks between meals.
Critics of the diet have pointed out that the unregulated portions of lunch and dinner disrupt the diet, while overindulging in bananas isn’t the healthiest way to start the day. As with most fad diets, this effort disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. And, by the way, what’s a banana without peanut butter and jelly?
The Twinkie Diet: Few dietitians would credit this famous junk food staple as the key to good health, but in 2010 Marc Haub, professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, showed he could lose 27 pounds in 10 weeks on a diet of high-sugar, high-fat, low-calorie items such as Twinkies, Little Debbie snacks, and packaged pastries and junk food.
How did Haub get his results? By limiting his intake to 1,800 calories per day, which is about 800 calories less than needed for a man of his size to maintain an appropriate body weight. So the amount of calories and not their source was the key to the success of this weird diet.
The tapeworm diet: In Victorian times in England, a popular dietary strategy was to ingest a tapeworm egg. The egg would hatch and the tapeworm would grow in the body, eating whatever the individual consumed. Because tapeworms are hermaphroditic, they can reproduce on their own and hatch more tapeworms in the body.
Sounds like a good idea, right? In fact, no – the parasitic tapeworm can grow up to 55 feet long and travel out of the digestive tract to infect internal organs. Along with the aforementioned Cotton Ball diet, it’s one of the most dangerous weird diets out there — and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s still followed today.
The vinegar diet: 18th century English poet and philosopher Lord Byron was a writing genius and a health food idiot. One of his fads was to keep a slim physique, and he subscribed to a fad of his day that insisted that drinking glasses of vinegar could help stave off excess weight.
While Byron maintained a slender physique, his leanness came at a terrible price: consumption of vinegar as a liquid staple created severe stomach pains that led to acute diarrhea and malnutrition. He died aged 36 from a fever contracted in India – if his vinegar diet hadn’t weakened him so much, it’s possible he could have easily survived the fever and lived to a ripe old age.
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