The Ten Strangest Diets of All Time

By: Ken Streater | Physical Health | Top Ten Lists

Science and societies continue to evolve. We know more today than we used to know, even though we also know we don’t know as much as we think we do. Wait. Did that sentence make any sense? Maybe not. But neither do these diets.

A friend of mine lost a lot of weight. I asked him how he did it, thinking he would list the Adkins Diet or Weight Watchers, or some other gizmo for the gizzard. His answer shocked me. But then I tried it and it worked. He said “diet and exercise” helped him lose weight. “What exactly do you mean?” I replied. “Just eat better foods and consume fewer calories than you normally would, and be more active,” he said.
Maybe he never heard of any of these crazy options:

1.    The Arsenic Diet
We now know that arsenic can kill you. In the 1800s people knew it too, but they thought that taken in small doses that it would help you lose weight. If feeling like crap because you are taking arsenic pills makes you eat less you would lose weight.

2.    The Shangri-La Diet
The inventor and proponent of this diet suggested eating certain bland foods in order to lose weight. This makes sense. When was the last time you gorged yourself on cardboard? Sawdust? Plain flour? In case just eating un-tasty food was not enough, this diet also requires you to drink olive oil before eating your meals. Go ahead. Pour yourself a glass and see how hungry you are!

3.    The Cotton Ball Diet
Why not eat a few cotton balls to fill up your stomach before eating? Better yet, just eat your shirt.

4.    Tapeworms
The theory was that tapeworms in your stomach would eat some of the food that ended up in your j-sac (stomach).  So, during the 1920s, before we knew a lot about tapeworms, people would just swallow a few to drop some pounds. The problem is that tapeworms can reproduce and multiply in your body and then destroy vital organs. And so began the first “just say no” campaign. Just say no to tapeworms if someone offers them to you.

5.    The Freegan Diet
It sounds so romantic and natural. Freegan. As in “free,” maybe like a butterfly or soaring spirit. What it really meant was “at no cost.” Freegans only ate food that was free to them. This would include leftovers from another diner’s table, dumpster food, or maybe just wild grass growing in a local park. The thought of it almost makes me gag. Maybe that was the secret.

6.    Fletcherism
Created in the 1800s by Mr. Fletcher, this diet required you to swallow just one bite at a time after chewing it 100 times per minute. Mr. Fletcher felt that only the fluids that were created by this much chewing would be easier to process and digest. By chewing your food 100 times a minute you are burning a ton of calories. Maybe that was how you lost weight. He also advised people to examine their excreta in order to analyze how their digestive system worked. That’ll curb your appetite.

7.    The Last Chance Diet
A fad diet in the 1970s, Dr. Robert Linn sold his concoction “Pro-Linn” which was a drink made up of slaughterhouse hooves and hides. With this diet you could only drink Pro-Linn.  Many people died due to a lack of electrolytes and damage to the heart muscle. Turns out “The Last Chance Diet” was aptly named. Amazingly, you can still buy Dr. Linn’s Last Chance Diet book! I haven’t heard for sure but I think the most recent edition suggests you eat each page after you have read it.

8.    Ear Stapling
Using acupuncture as the idea, but in a far less scientific and sterile way, this diet recommends driving a staple into your ear when you are hungry and then leaving it in as a mind-over-matter device. This diet has proven effective not so much to those who are doing the stapling but those who watch it. It would be hard to eat every time you recall the writhe on the stapler’s face as he or she hammered an office supply through their cartilage.

9.    Cigarette Diet
In the 1920’s cigarette manufacturers marketed that smoking cigarettes curbed your appetite. Even today the internet is filled with people wanting to know if this diet works. Of course it does! Nicotine is a stimulant, so your heart rate goes up and your appetite goes down when you smoke. The harmful effects of smoking shouldn’t be of concern. If you are skinny it doesn’t matter whether or not you take seven days off your life with each stag (an old fashioned slang term for cigarette). As long as you are slender what difference does it make how long you live!  

10.    Breatharianism
The granddaddy diet of them all! No need to eat! No need to drink! Let sunshine and air be your sustenance! All that we need to survive is daylight and oxygen. The founder of this movement, Wiley Brooks--who is still alive--claims to be from another planet. Maybe there is better sunshine and air there, because it has been reported that on planet earth Wiley eats quarter pounders with cheese and drinks diet soda. By the way, if you are considering becoming a Breatharian, medical research indicates that not drinking water and not eating could be harmful to your health.