Top 10 Craziest Diets in History

Three Beautiful Women in 1950's Fasion

Fad diets have been around for centuries… However, people in earlier times had to work harder to get fat. And not all of them worried about their being obese… On the contrary, excess weight used to be a symbol of prosperity/ obesity was considered a sign of success, power, and wealth.

Those who searched for ways to shed the pounds were avoiding “exercise and diets (in today’s context)” – at all costs! There were many different diets throughout history, like Cabbage Soup Diet, Vinegar Diet, Cotton Ball Diet, etc. All these diets sound crazy Today, but history proves that desperate dieters look for desperate measures. Read more about Top 10 Craziest Diets in History in further text.


Julius Caesar painting, Rome

The practice of throwing up after a meal is actually older than Hollywood.

Idea: Get rid of the food before you have time to digest it and turn it into fat. In the context of the Romans, they seemed to really enjoy eating and thought of it as a way to make room for more food.

Reality: By now most people are aware of the health consequences of repeated vomiting. But, just for the record, it causes heart problems, osteoporosis, tooth decay, kidney problems, and so forth. Despite that, people still do it and we call it bulimia.


Idea: On this seven-day weight-loss diet, you can eat as much low-calorie cabbage-based soup as you want, plus small amounts of one or two other foods like fruit or leafy greens at the beginning of the week, or beef and brown rice toward the end of the week.

Reality: You may lose weight from eating very few carbs, but… when you return to your old diet, you’ll miss all the foods you couldn’t eat during your cabbage soup cleanse and end up eating larger quantities, which leads to regaining your lost weight.


18th Century, a Royal Picnic

The anorexic and bulimic poet Lord Byron popularized the vinegar diet in the 1820s.

His basic idea was: Drink plenty of vinegar daily, plus one cup of tea and one raw egg mixed in. Side effects include vomiting and diarrhea.

No wonder he lost weight.


Idea: You eat up to five cotton balls (or the equivalent amount of tissue paper) dipped in orange juice, lemonade, or a smoothie in one sitting. You fill your stomach without eating enough calories to gain weight.

Reality: This is an extremely dangerous/  insane method that could kill you!


Idea: Wash away fat in the shower (!?) Slimming soaps that gained huge popularity in the 1930s., known as “Fat-off,” “Fat-O-NO” and similar, despite grandiose claims, had no magical fat-blasting contents. They were hand soaps made with potassium chloride and other basic ingredients.

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The Sleeping Beauty Diet was popularized in the 1960s. Followers (like Elvis Presley) would heavily sedate themselves and sleep for days.

Idea: If you sleep, it means you won’t eat, and if you don’t eat – you won’t gain weight. Like, for instance… patients in a coma – they don’t get fat.

The Results: Elvis Presley left the treatment 10 pounds heavier than when he’d started. Elvis’s body may have outsmarted him. Being an intelligent machine, the human body will shut down to a minimal level of energy consumption when asleep. Being awake and just reading quietly will burn more energy, as brain activity consumes a decent amount of calories. And if you eat and drink without restrictions during the day (like Elvis did), you cannot lose your extra pounds – when asleep.


Idea: The color blue is supposed to suppress appetite. So if you want to eat less, wear blue glasses…

One of the Japanese companies used this information to create a pair of diet glasses with blue-tinted lenses that are said to make food look unappetizing, thus reducing your desire to eat (?!)


The ear stapling practice is loosely based on auricular acupuncture, a form of Chinese healing therapy in which needles are left in the ear for up to one week. With ear stapling, you leave the staple in for six weeks to three months. Proponents of this method say the staples stimulate a pressure point that controls the appetite.

This weight-loss method (in the 2000s) hasn’t been proven effective and can cause a host of dangerous side effects, like serious infection and permanent disfigurement.


Cigarette Smoking image, white and black, 50's

In the 1920s, people who were hungry were encouraged to grab a cigarette instead. Doctors prescribed it. The diet motto was – “Too much food may kill you, but cigarettes will only give you lung cancer” (?!)

There were several cigarette companies in that period, which boasted the appetite-suppressing qualities of their products. Lucky Strikes for example eloquently urged smokers to “Light a Lucky & you’ll never miss sweets!”


The Tapeworm diet was one of the Hollywood elites’  most dangerous and absurd diets in the 20th century. There were other absurd diets too like Marilyn Monroe’s diet consisted of raw eggs whisked in milk or Elvis Presley’s sleeping for three days at a time. The Tapeworm diet could easily take the No1 spot on this Top 10 Craziest diets in History List.

Marilyn Monroe photo, Black & White

When people learned (in 1954) that tapeworms—parasitic worms that live in a person’s intestines and consume their nutrients, cause weight-loss in their hosts, not everyone had the same, disgusted reaction. Some people jumped on that train and started ingesting cysts – baby tapeworms, in order to eat without gaining a pound. However… there are some facts regarding this parasite: a parasite tapeworm is a “foreign body” within the hosting body, that can grow up to 25 feet long in the intestine(!) The adult tapeworm has up to 1,000 segments. Furthermore, tapeworms can cause seizures, meningitis or dementia.

I believe that many dieters didn’t know what these “magic” pills contained. Years ago, I’ve heard an anecdote about the tapeworm diet. This anecdote was about a dieter who was taking “magic” pills every day in order to lose his extra pounds, but, has forgotten to take the last one – which was supposed to help him get rid of the parasite! Later on, I found out that the anecdote was actually – a real story!

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Two years ago, there was an amazing documentary movie on Greek TV about the famous America-born Greek soprano Maria Callas. Well… That was the first time I heard (and was shocked!) about Maria Callas shedding close to 100lbs within a year – by apparently swallowing a tapeworm.

When New York soprano Maria Callas first entered the opera world, she was fully comfortable with her 390-pound figure – which is considered well into the obesity category by today’s standards. Soon, she felt the pressure to look thin after a cinema director L.Visconti said he would not work until she shed about 70lbs. She too sensed the urgency to drop the weight when she realized her figure was getting in the way of performing. So… Maria Callas shed more than 100lbs in such a short space of time that rumors swirled she had ingested a tapeworm to lose the weight.


Fresh Oranges with White Measuring Tape

Luckily, most of today’s diet plans have to do with changing one’s eating habits. Ok, not all diets are healthy and safe… but, you can find plenty of valuable info on the web and make a smart choice – choosing a healthy, balanced diet, backed by real science!

Here are my favorite Healthy Diet Plans: Med Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Flexitarian, Dash, etc.

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