The 7 Worst Fad Diets in History

Here are our "favorite" bizarre fad diets from over the years. We wish we were making these up.
fad diets don't work on scrabble tiles

So your friend is eating grapefruit for twelve days. Your co-worker insists on nothing but raw food for life. Mom’s new diet consists of cabbage soup three meals a day. And everyone seems to be drinking apple cider vinegar before eating.

Fad diets. They come and go. Some draw people in, others send people packing. When it comes to new diets, the only constant is change itself.

Every once in a while, however, a fad diet appears that makes us scratch our heads and go… huh?

Table of Contents
The Clay Diet
The Air Diet
The Tapeworm Diet
The Cookie Diet
The Fletcherizing Diet
The Sleeping Beauty Diet
The Cotton Ball Diet

Worst Fad Diets in History

Here are our favorite weird fad diets from over the years. We wish we were making these up.

1. The Clay Diet

“Want to lose weight, but have trouble curbing those hunger pangs? Then put some dirt in your water. Problem solved!”

So claim the advocates of the clay diet. The idea is that bentonite clay — a super-absorbent volcanic ash — will remove toxins and heavy metals from your body. Upon ingestion, the clay swells up to twelve times its size and pushes out slow-moving waste in the gut, boosting your metabolism. Stars like Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz have done it, and you can find clay pills on the market, too. The main selling point is weight loss. Want to lose ten pounds in twelve days? Sign us up, right?

Slow down. Dr Anton Emmanuel, a gastroenterologist at University College Hospital, London, says: ‘The clay acts as a resin and binds everything — both good and bad — making it harder for the body to digest vital nutrients such as iron and calcium.’ Eating clay can also perforate your bowels and cause heart and kidney failure.

People love the word “detox.” Did you know the body detoxes itself? Your liver and kidneys do it all day long. If you want to curb hunger, have a snack rich in protein and fiber like fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Time and portion your snacks so that you don’t overeat, but no need to go hungry. Just don’t eat dirt.

2. The Air Diet

Did you know that AIR is full of nutrients and is absolutely filling? Neither did we. It’s not. It’s a lie.

The air diet, or the virtual eating diet, is a French-inspired, and yes, celebrity-endorsed, plan in which (you guessed it) you eat nothing. Instead, you take a forkful of real, actual, eatable food, put it to your mouth but do NOT eat it. Don’t do it! Simply breath in its aroma and imagine it swishing around in your mouth. Then swallow.

Apparently, your brain is not very smart, because you’re full now. Have a nice day!

You are allowed to drink soup…that is, water mixed with salt.

Which is how this diet works. Supposedly, by going through the motions, you are satisfied. We don’t need to convince you why this could be detrimental to your health. It could create a fear of food, bring your metabolism to a dead halt, and break your muscles down.

What’s the healthy alternative here? Eat. There’s so much good, delicious, healthy, nutritious food out there, just waiting for you to scarf it down and lose weight at the same time. Eat lots of plants and you’ll be fine. No matter who you are: food is good. Always.

3. The Tapeworm Diet

Oh boy.

A tapeworm is a flat, segmented worm that lives in your intestines. It can grow up to 55 feet long, live for 25 years, and have babies of its own while growing inside of you. You’re probably confused. This IS a diet, right? WRONG.

For the tapeworm diet, you ingest a pill that contains a tapeworm egg. The egg will hatch and a tapeworm will grow inside of you, eating whatever you eat. In theory, it eats all of your calories away. Never mind that a tapeworm is a parasite. It is not your friend. The tapeworm doesn’t always limit itself to your digestive tract, it can travel all over the body. It can cause pain, diarrhea, nausea, fever, allergic reactions, infection, disruption of critical organs, blockage of bile and pancreatic ducts, and neurocysticercosis, which may lead to dementia and vision issues.

Over the years, people have ingested tapeworms to shed pounds. It was actually a popular diet in the Victorian era but continues in some cultures today. Thankfully there are no celebrity endorsements for this diet, but many women did admit they would swallow a tapeworm to lose weight on Tyra Banks’ talk show.

Want to eat fewer calories? No problem. Fruits and vegetables are great options. You could eat ten cups of broccoli for only three hundred calories. Don’t eat a tapeworm.

It pains us to know that there is a cookie diet in this world and that it doesn’t work. We could really use it in our lives.

All you have to do for this diet is eat four to six cookies a day. Not just any cookies, mind you (sorry). These are high-protein, high-fiber cookies infused with nutrients. Some versions of the diet then allow you to eat any other meal of your choice once a day, for a total of about 1100 calories per day. That’s the high range for these cookie diets, by the way. Many are lower than 800 per day.

We’re not big fans of low-calorie diets. The fact is, you’ll lose weight if you eat nothing but a bag of marshmallows every day, but your muscle will all turn to fat and flab and you’ll feel really sick. We want you to eat healthy, wholesome, real food, packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. You can eat even cookies from time to time.

5. The Fletcherizing Diet

“Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate,” claimed Dr. Horace Fletcher, founder of one of the first-ever fad diets. This Victorian-era doctor one-upped your mom by not only telling you to chew your food but to chew each bite 100 times. Even liquids had to be chewed, or “masticated,” to properly mix with the saliva.

Some of Fletcher’s ideas were ahead of their time, like being sure of exactly what’s in your food before eating it. Others, like never eating while angry, worried, or sad, just seem strange. And as if weight loss wasn’t enough, Fletcher even went so far as to claiming mastication would cause your, erm, bowel movements to smell better. These oddities weren’t enough to drive people away, however, as notables like Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, and John D. Rockefeller gave the diet a try.

The Fletcherizing diet could very well lead to weight loss. Because when your meals take you over an hour, you’ll never want to eat! Time and studies have shown us, though, that it’s more about what you eat than how you eat it. Fletcher didn’t really care what you ate as long as the “food swallowed itself.” But we know that your body needs good, wholesome food. Just eat it slowly.

6. The Sleeping Beauty Diet

Sleep is great. It replenishes you, helps your memory, boosts your mood, and strengthens your immune system, in addition to causing weight loss. Ignore all those people who humble-brag about never sleeping. Soak in that slumber!

Some dieters have gone off the deep end. Their plan: You only worry about hunger when you’re awake, right? So sleep! All the time!

This plan is dangerous. It recommends taking prescription meds to fall asleep for at least ten hours a day — and sometimes up to 20. Hopefully, we don’t need to tell you not to live on sedatives. Overdose is a big risk. Elvis Presley supposedly tried the diet once and put himself into a coma because of it.

We’re huge proponents of sleep, but the recommended amount is 7-8 hours a day. Aim to stay in that range and don’t veer too much outside. Your body will thank you for it.

7. The Cotton Ball Diet

We live in the information age. The internet has shaped the way we talk, think, communicate, and view the world. But in a million years, people will look back on the internet and say its biggest impact was the cotton ball diet.

Born in chat rooms and on YouTube, the cotton ball diet is just like it sounds: you eat cotton balls. If you need unimportant stuff like “flavor” or “nutrition,” you can dip the cotton ball in juice or smoothies before swallowing it. The cotton ball is supposed to help you lose weight by making you feel full without taking in calories.

The cons of the diet? Where to start… Choking, for one. The cotton balls also block your digestive system, damage your organs, and dehydrate you. Never mind the fact that cotton balls are not actually made of cotton, but rather bleached polyester. The toxins from the synthetic materials could build up over time and severely damage your organs.

Many supermodels have been rumored to rely on the cotton ball diet to stay slim. Sadly, many teenage (and younger) girls have supported the diet online. A lot of doctors link the diet to an eating disorder stemming from perverted conceptions of beauty.

Stay Healthy, Friends

Who knows where people come up with these fad diets? The underlying hope is that people will drop pounds —FAST. But there’s something way better than that number on your scale. It’s your health.

At Fresh N Lean we want you to eat healthy, wholesome food packed with nutrients and flavor. That’s why we created the healthiest meal delivery service out there based around a simple nutrition philosophy that’s been working for centuries.

There’s no reason why losing weight and being healthy should taste bad or make you feel uncomfortable. Food is a gift! Enjoy it.

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