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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

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Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist
Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist

Don’t Try This at Home. 10 Crazy Fad Diets You Won’t Believe.

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Crazy fad diet

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This month we’ve been talking all about those diets that come and go. You’ve seen it happen over and over again. A social media influencer starts talking about the latest and greatest diet she’s discovered. And suddenly, everyone jumps on board.

These trendy diets — usually focused on weight loss — are commonly called “fad diets” because they are here today and gone tomorrow.

Some of these fly-by-night diets are even physician-endorsed.

A few of them hang around for a while. But for the most part they go in trends. At the time, they seem like a great idea and loads of people jump on the diet train. But then when we look back years later, they seem ridiculous.

And in that spirit, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the craziest diets from the past. Spoiler alert: I don’t recommend you try ANY of these.

Crazy Fad Diet #1: The Tapeworm Diet

Yes, it’s an actual worm. This particular parasite lives in the intestines of its host. And while it’s there it absorbs some of the food and nutrients they consume. The result? The host loses weight. So in our thin-obsessed culture back in the 1950’s, people started intentionally infecting themselves with this parasite so they could eat and lose weight.

They’d consume the tapeworm when it was just a cyst (baby). Then it would potentially grow to a length of up to 25 feet, nourished by the food eaten by the host. Eeeeew. And yes, there were side effects. Tapeworms can cause seizures, meningitis, or dementia. Again, not recommended.

Crazy Fad Diet #2: The Sleeping Beauty Diet

You can’t eat while you’re sleeping. So back in the 1960’s some people — including Elvis allegedly — would sedate themselves for days in order to lose weight. You might get thin, but you wouldn’t be awake to enjoy it.

Crazy Fad Diet #3: The Cotton Ball Diet

Yup. This diet encourages you to eat cotton balls. Apparently they’re quite filling. Lots of fiber I suppose. Some people ate them dry, while others soaked them in gelatin. Not only do cotton balls not meet any of your nutritional needs, the fiber is not a variety that your body can actually use.

Crazy Fad Diet #4: The Graham Diet

Not all diets are about weight loss. Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister in the 1830’s, claimed that if you ate a diet composed mainly of vegetables and whole grains, excluded spices, and limited dairy, you could control your lust… and your alcoholism. As many vegans will attest, this method doesn’t work. But, next time you eat a s’more, you can think of Graham and the slightly sweet crackers he created.

Crazy Fad Diet #5: The Grapefruit Diet

Also known as the Hollywood Diet, this one has made the rounds a few times starting in the 1930’s. The thinking here is that if you eat a half a grapefruit with (or perhaps instead of) each meal, the enzymes in the grapefruit will help your body burn fat. This is, of course, not true. But if you like grapefruit and tolerate them well, they can be a delicious source of nutrients. But be mindful, they can also interact with several types of medication.

Crazy Fad Diet #6: Cabbage Soup Diet

I’ll start with the good news: you can eat as much as you want. Now the bad news: you can only eat cabbage soup. While this vegetable can be a great source of fiber and nutrients for those who tolerate it well, it’s hardly enough to sustain you long term. First popularized in the 1950’s, this fad diet never seems to completely die.

Crazy Fad Diet #7: The Subway Diet

Remember Jared from the year 2000? He became a star of sorts after losing weight by subsisting on sandwiches from Subway. He ate reduced portions and avoided ingredients like mayo on his sandwiches. I don’t recommend you live off of any one thing, especially a fast food product. And I definitely don’t recommend you listen to Jared. In 2015, his fame ended in scandal. You can google it if you want.

Crazy Fad Diet #8: The Cigarette Diet

In 2022 we know that smoking is a deeply unhealthy habit. But back in the 1920’s the brand Lucky Strike decided to capitalize on the supposed appetite suppressant qualities of their cigarettes. Their advertising slogan called “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” encouraged dieters to rely on cigarettes in order to avoid high-calorie desserts.

Crazy Fad Diet #9: The Master Cleanse

This diet doesn’t involve actual food. You would swear off food for days in favor of a beverage consisting of cayenne pepper, lemon juice, maple syrup, and water. You’d start your day with a saltwater flush that would have a laxative effect. Then you’d drink only the “lemonade” for the rest of the day. The supposed “magic” ingredient in this diet is the capsaicin from the cayenne pepper. People did lose weight. They also developed nutritional deficiencies. And then they generally gained it all back once they returned to eating actual food.

Crazy Fad Diet #10: The Baby Food Diet

Yes, it’s exactly what you think. This diet encouraged you to eat only baby food for both breakfast and lunch each day. But don’t worry. You get to eat like a big girl at dinner. This diet would certainly cut calories, especially if you opted to go all in and eat it with a tiny baby spoon. But I think it would be a bit awkward in the corporate lunch room.

Don’t try this at home

Again, please don’t try any of these crazy diets. Food is powerful. We rely on it to provide calories for energy and nutrients that keep our bodies functioning. I never recommend that any of my clients play around with crazy fad diets. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or address a medical issue like IBS, a fad diet is never the answer.

If you’re ready for some guidance on therapeutic eating approaches that can make a difference in your health, energy, digestive symptoms, and overall well-being, let’s talk. I’ve helped over 1,000 people reclaim their lives from digestive symptoms.

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