Weird diet trends have caught the attention of the masses since the invention of the full-length mirror. Because it’s normal for most people to struggle with unwanted weight gain at times, the promise of “a diet that works better than liposuction,” often sounds appealing. Sometimes weird diet trends work for weight-loss, but cause other problems. Other times they work for instant dramatic weight-loss, but the pounds come right back after a few weeks. And then there are some that just don’t work at all. We took a trip down memory lane to dig up some weird diet trends that just didn’t last.
The 7-Day Cabbage Soup Diet. The cabbage soup diet emerged in the 1980’s. No one really knows who created the diet and wrote the famous cabbage soup recipe. But the recipe, and the diet plan instructions, were often transmitted via chain-fax from office to office.
Basically, you make a large pot of cabbage soup – enough for seven days. (The recipe is specific and includes a head of cabbage, celery, tomatoes, carrots, chicken broth and spices.) Then you eat as much of the soup as you want every day, several times a day. There are also some other allowable foods you can add. But the bulk of your food intake will be cabbage soup.
The cabbage soup diet was so popular because it worked to help people shed 10 to 14 pounds in seven days. But the major problem with the cabbage soup diet was the extreme calorie restriction. Most people who followed the plan were taking in less than 800 calories per day. People reported dizziness, listlessness and nausea toward the end of the week. Other cabbage soup dieters had side effects of gas and stomach cramps. And of course, after the seven days of soup and extreme weight loss, the dieters sadly gained back the weight they had lost.
The Tapeworm Diet. Yeah – we wish this one never happened. A tapeworm is a flatworm parasite that can live in the digestive tract of animals and humans. Tapeworms attach themselves to the intestine of its host where it feeds on partially digested food the host has consumed.
In the 1990’s, it became a thing to swallow a capsule, containing a tapeworm egg or larva. People who wanted to lose weight without dietary restrictions would swallow the tapeworm and let it feast on everything they ate. Meanwhile, they would shed plenty of weight. When they reached their desired weight, they would take a prescription drug to kill the parasite. Sounds like a winning plan, right?
Not exactly. Because a tapeworm will grow anywhere from 15 to 80 feet long, the growing parasite will cause swelling in the stomach – which kind of defeats the purpose of eating it. But that’s just the beginning. The pain associated with a tapeworm infection is debilitating. Those who tried the tapeworm diet reported serious abdominal cramping, feelings of dizziness, weakness and diarrhea, among other side effects. Other less fortunate folks had more invasive tapeworm infections. That’s when the tapeworm’s offspring decide to migrate into other tissues and organs in the body – causing more serious problems like appendicitis, brain and nervous system impairment, seizures, and organ failure. Sometimes these invasive infections can be treated with strong pharmaceuticals. Other times surgery or organ transplants are necessary. In severe cases, the condition is fatal.
The Grapefruit Diet. A 1980’s fad diet that seemed to linger for a while is the grapefruit diet. The claim to the grapefruit diet was that eating half of a grapefruit, before each meal, would cause the body to burn fat (because of the supposed fat-burning enzymes in the grapefruit). Dieters were also instructed to give up carbohydrates and instead eat high protein meals. In addition, they had to restrict their calories to around 800-1,000 per day and drink water and coffee. Promoters of the grapefruit diet promised ten pounds of weight loss in 10-12 days.
Well the first problem here is the ten pounds in ten days issue. Of course, we know that it’s extremely unhealthy to shed ten pounds in ten days. Secondly, 1,000 calories a day isn’t enough for the optimal functioning of the average body. And finally, it’s been studied, and grapefruits don’t actually burn fat.
Cotton Ball Diet. Also classified under diets we wished never happened, the cotton ball diet came about in 2010. Hungry models desperate to stay thin were dipping actual cotton balls in orange juice and eating them. Apparently, choking down five or six cotton balls will make your empty stomach feel nice and full – as if you’ve eaten a big meal.
While filling the belly with indigestible, calorie free, cotton balls, instead of food, was absolutely resulting in rapid weight loss (without hunger pangs). It was causing serious problems too. First, people eating only cotton were not getting any actual nutrients. They were malnourishing themselves. Secondly, some girls were suffering with intestinal obstructions after eating cotton. Since the body can’t digest it, the cotton would just sit in the intestines or stomach, not letting any other food or fluids pass through. These obstructions required surgical removal. Finally, eating cotton balls was the first step, for many young people, into a full-fledged eating disorder.
Baby Food Diet. Another weird diet trend from 2010 is the baby food diet, created by Tracy Anderson, a celebrity trainer. It’s been reported that the famous Lady Gaga was one, of several famous women to use baby food to lose weight.
Basically, the baby food diet is another extreme caloric restriction diet. People following the plan are instructed to replace their breakfast and lunch meals with 14 jars of baby food (each jar ranging from 25-75 calories). Then they have the option of a lean, carb-free chewable dinner – or simply another meal of baby food.
Obviously, this fad worked for quick weight loss. Baby food dieters were consuming under 1,000 calories a day, on average. But just as quickly as it became popular, the diet fizzled. It seems not many grownups were thrilled with the idea of eating pureed peas from a jar 14 times a day. Who knew?!
Ice Cream Diet. In 2002, Holly McCord wrote a book called The Ice Cream Diet. In the book, McCord, a nutrition editor for Prevention magazine, promoted the plan for dieters to eat 1,250 calories and a full serving of ice cream each day. The rationale was that adding in the daily ice cream would help dieters feel less deprived of indulgent foods and help them stick to healthier foods at mealtimes.
Some sample meal options include an egg and two slices of low-carb toast for breakfast; a cup of tuna (with no oil) on low-carb bread for lunch; and one slice of vegetarian pizza with low-fat cheese and a side salad for dinner. Then dive into a full serving of ice cream (up to 125 calories worth) for your dessert. The general goal is around 1500 calories per day while you’re on the ice cream diet.
And while this diet is more healthful than swallowing cotton balls, it’s still a weird diet trend that just didn’t last. It was a hot diet for a couple of years, but it didn’t take long for this one to become so last week. We didn’t hear much about the ice cream diet after 2005.
Prolinn Diet. In the late 1970’s there was a diet created by Roger Linn called the Prolinn diet. Linn wrote about it in his book, The Last Chance Diet. The Prolinn diet was a diet eliminating all food. Prolinn dieters were instructed to consume a collagen-based drink instead of food. The Prolinn drink was low in essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals and amino acids. While Prolinn was intended to replace meals, it was not a sufficient meal replacement. Prolinn dieters were, in effect, starving themselves. Several of them died while following the diet plan. Others suffered heart attacks and arrhythmia. It was a bad idea.
Cigarette Diet. It’s not a big secret that nicotine is an appetite suppressant. In the late 1960’s, big tobacco companies decided to capitalize on that fact. A new brand of cigarettes was marketed just to women. They were called Virginia Slims. While there were already laws in place that restricted tobacco companies from making health claims about their cigarettes, the ad campaign for Virginia Slims was brimming with images of tall, elegant, thin women with their long, slim cigarettes. This ad campaign, and others like it, birthed a fad diet known as the cigarette diet. It was basically cigarettes and water, in place of food. And it worked. Models were using it to maintain a slim figure. Actors and actresses took up smoking to curb their appetites. And housewives were trying Virginia Slims to eliminate a few pounds.
As researchers learned more about the dangers of cigarette smoking – and the link to lung cancer and other horrible diseases, smoking cigarettes became a much less popular way to suppress the appetite and lose weight. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way baby.
Weird Diet Trends. It’s inevitable. We’ll see more and more ridiculous diet trends as the years pass. But it’s important to remember that get-thin-quick diets are almost never healthy. Diets that promise rapid weight loss without exercise are also not good for your overall health and well-being. Any diet that promises the loss of ten pounds in a week is seriously harmful to your body. Furthermore, even if you do lose weight on a fad diet, when you begin eating normally again, the weight will come back – and sometimes with a few bonus pounds. We’re grateful that these weird diet trends are in the rearview mirror.
The best way to achieve your body’s optimal weight is to eat a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, good fats and high-quality protein. Move a little every day. Avoid junk food and refined sugars. Load up on good quality, nutrient dense foods that will help your body thrive. Your health is worth far more than shedding a few pounds in a hurry.
Butler, N. (2015). 4 ways the cotton ball diet can kill you. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/eating-disorders/ways-the-cotton-ball-diet-could-kill-you#1
Davis, S. (2017). The grapefruit diet. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/grapefruit-diet
Tapeworm infection. (2017). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tapeworm/symptoms-causes/syc-20378174
The cigarette diet review: does it work? (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.dietsinreview.com /diets/the-cigarette-diet/