Crazy fad diets are morbidly fascinating to me. The lengths people will go to when desperately trying to fit in with a shamefully limited standard of socially-sanctioned acceptability can be scary indeed. I already wrote about a super healthy sounding diet regime consisting of 500 calories and top ups of homeopathic form of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) per day. Others of interest:
The Inuit Meat-and-Fat Diet In 1928, celebrated arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson outlined his proscribed diet, which he based on his time spent living with the Inuit. Like the Inuit, whose diet has long been a source of fascination to scientists, he recommended everyone subsist on fish and blubber regardless of geographical locale or body type – or, lacking blubber, meat and fat. Exclusively.
The Tapeworm Diet Among the vilest of all known diets, the Tapeworm Diet was – maybe – an urban legend that still persists. Word was, stars of the 50’s were able to get their hands on a capsule that set a parasite loose in your body and caused dramatic weight loss; there was some antidote pill that prevented one from dying. When opera diva Maria Callas lost a dramatic 65 pounds, rumor had it the tapeworm diet was her secret. Others just thought she had a tapeworm due to her propensity for eating raw liver. Yes, some people still talk about “swallowing the worm.” They should be avoided.
The Vegetable Oil Diet: In the early 60s, obstetrician Dr. Herman Taller advanced a novel dieting theory: eat as much as you want, and wash it down with vegetable oil. (Dispensed via pill.) Calories Don’t Count was a national bestseller – even though, technically speaking, they do. The FDA later charged Taller with just peddling safflower oil and he was convicted of mail fraud.
and who could resist trying this little beauty
The Sleeping Beauty Diet: You’ve heard that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain…doesn’t it follow that if you sedate yourself and sleep for days, you’ll get really thin? Some folks in the 1960s thought so; and anyone who’s read Valley of the Dolls will recall that it’s how Neely O’Hara gets showbiz-slim..
Insaneville diets I have heard of or known people trying:
Kimchi diet, where you pretty much just eat kimchi. I suppose this is a sort of cousin to the cabbage soup diet, but with some spiciness thrown in there (and, as ladymags tell us, spicy food aids weight loss!)
Slimming teas, slimming shakes, etc. I was in a pharmacy the other day and a group of young women were asking the woman behind the counter about the slimming shakes, and one of them asked if she could just eat breakfast and then only have a shake for lunch.
Eating shit-tons of celery, because apparently celery has negative calories (the calories in it are burned by all the chewing you have to do!). I have been told this by a friend, who was not joking.
The ‘lemonade’ or lemon diet: mixing up some lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water and pretty much using that as your food source. Also called the Master Cleanse, and technically a fast because you aren’t really getting enough nutrients. Downsides? Glad you asked! Feeling lethargic, depressed, lacking focus, dizziness, nausea and the possibility of death. I was once asked to do this diet with a friend as her “diet buddy”. Yeah nah.
General starvation-based diets. You know, some sort of no breakfast or no lunch or no dinner, or only eating a handful of popcorn for lunch, type thing.
The babyfood diet. After all, babies aren’t fat, right? So just do what they do! Oh, except for that whole being much much tinier than an adult and needing less food to survive thing…
All up, this shit sounds like a pretty good way of punishing your body. You know, that thing you live in and experience the world through, and only have one of. But desperation and feelings of inadequacy are pretty fucking powerful motivators. As one of the Jezebel commenters pointed out, this is one of the most popular diets of them all:
The Shame Diet: Popularized before record keeping existed, the shame diet involves forcing women to hate themselves and deny themselves the foods that give them pleasure. Practiced by both men and women, usually on women, but occasionally men and even animals. So popular, it’s been used in old Hollywood, modern Hollywood, Broadway, Buckingham Palace, and even the White House! Celebrity Fans: Pretty much all of them.
(Edit: I realize I sound like some sort of condescending super-human who has never been susceptible to stupid societal pressure to do crazy shit to my body. That is most definitely not the case. I write this post because I have been fully in the throes of this stuff, and loathe it).