15 “Can´t Belive” Weight Loss Methods Throughout History
Weight loss is nothing new! For centuries now, men and women have desired to be the “ideal” weight, even before they knew what BMI was!
Today, we know that a healthy diet and adequate exercise is the best way to maintain a perfect BMI and to stay healthy. But over the years, people have had some ideas that are a little different. In this article, you’ll learn about:
• The man who soaked his potatoes in vinegar to lose weight
• The dieters who eat like cavemen
• Some not-so-safe weight loss methods
You may have heard of some of these weight loss methods, and others may be new to you. Some are based in science and others are just bizarre. Are you ready to learn a bit of history? Here are 15 weight loss methods throughout history you won’t believe.
Sungazing is a practice that dates back to the ancient Egyptian times. It is precisely what it sounds like: staring directly at the sun. While historically it may have been a part of a religious or a spiritual practice, today a small subset of people still stare at the sun to lose weight and “increase energy.”
So how does it work? Well, sungazers start with short periods of time where they’ll gaze at the sun on the horizon. Gradually these people will build up to as much as a full hour of staring at the sun. People who are firm believers in the practice claim that, as a result of exposing their eyes to UV rays, they somehow experience a loss of appetite and an increase of energy. Still others say they no longer need sleep and a few claim to have “superhuman powers.”
Please take it from us: staring at the sun is not safe. Even if you could lose weight by sungazing, you could also permanently damage your eyes, leading to cataracts and eventual blindness. In other words, this is a weight loss method you should definitely skip.
2. Arsenic Poisoning
Obviously, arsenic poisoning is another weight loss method you’ll want to avoid. However, it’s a weight loss method Victorians would frequently use to trim down a bit. Now, to be fair, not all dieters knew they were ingesting the poison. Chemicals like arsenic at that time were not regulated like they are today, and trace amounts of the substance would be found in diet pills.
The premise behind these arsenic pills was that the supplements would help rev up the metabolism. In other words, the arsenic diet was the Victorian equivalent of a supplement like ephedrine. Peddlers sold these pills as a weight loss pill and, like today, naïve Victorian dieters believed the hype. The result? Well, you can probably guess.
There are plenty of weight loss methods that are more modern and less deadly than arsenic poisoning. So, again, this is obviously not a recommended way to reach your ideal BMI!
3. Cabbage Soup Diet
The cabbage soup diet is much more modern than the arsenic diet. The fad reached its heights in the 1990s but people still follow the diet today. Curious about what this weight loss method entails? Well, it’s simple. For a week, you’ll eat very little other than cabbage soup that you’ve made yourself. The promise is at least 10 pounds of weight loss, and a jump start to reaching your ideal BMI.
Cabbage, in most cases, provides fewer calories to the body than are required to digest. So in theory, this is a good way to boost your weight loss. But here’s the thing about the cabbage soup diet: many people choose to follow the diet for much longer than a week. The result of that is malnutrition, digestive issues and other complications. Sure, you’ll lose weight, but generally speaking that’s due to starvation.
The cabbage soup diet can be safe, when done properly. It’s recommended, though, that you talk to your doctor before beginning anything as extreme as this weight loss method.
4. The Chew and Spit Diet
You know it’s a good idea to chew your food thoroughly. Chewing well not only aids in digestion, but it’s also a good way to make sure you’re taking your time while eating. Eating slowly will help you achieve your weight loss goals by allowing your brain to register a “full” feeling.
But what about a chew and spit diet? In the early 20th century America, a man named Horace Fletcher began a diet fad. He claimed that chewing and spitting was a perfect way to lose weight. Basically, dieters would chew their food (as many as 700 times per morsel) to extract the flavor and then spit the fibers that remained.
Obviously, this caused some digestive issues. A serious lack of fiber and other nutrients caused bowel movement frequency to drop to as little as once every other week. Today, people who chew and spit are diagnosed with disordered eating. In summary, the chew and spit diet isn’t one we recommend.
5. Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a weight loss method that follows a specific principle. That is, when your body is deprived of carbs, it switches to burning ketones instead. Ketones are derived from fatty acids and are burned by your brain and organs for energy.
A ketogenic diet severely restricts the consumption of carbohydrates. In most cases, dieters will consume only 30 grams of net carbs daily. That’s the equivalent of two pieces of white bread. Side effects reported by ketogenic dieters include crankiness, headaches and fatigue.
But studies show that a ketogenic diet can be effective in trimming belly fat and even reducing the risk of disease. When monitored closely by a physician, a ketogenic diet can actually be a weight loss method that works for some people. As with any diet program, chat with your physician before you begin a ketogenic diet.
6. The Paleo Diet (Caveman Diet)
Another recent diet fad is the Paleo diet. The premise behind this diet is that we should eat the way our ancestors did, and that unprocessed hunter-gatherer foods are foods our bodies were programmed to thrive on. Paleo dieters consume red meat, seafood, fruit and nuts – pretty much anything that doesn’t come as a result of our modern agricultural lifestyle. Grains are a no-no, as are potatoes and beans.
What people perhaps forget when they begin the Paleo diet is that our ancestors had an average lifespan of around 30 to 35 years. That doesn’t exactly denote a “thriving” culture. Our lifestyles were much different, too. Doctors say that a Paleo diet high in animal fats and sugary fruits may have been acceptable to a caveman’s active lifestyle, but most people in the modern world are relatively lethargic.
Nevertheless, the Paleo diet has grown in popularity over the past decade or so. And once again, we’ll advise you that, should you choose to give it a try, it’s best to talk with your doctor first. The Paleo diet may have adverse effects on your heart health and more.
7. The Vinegar Diet
Here’s another weight loss method straight from the olden days. In the early 19th century, Lord Byron was kind of like the pop icon of the day. He spent a lot of time maintaining his figure: thin and pale. So how did he do it? With vinegar!
Lord Byron would eat vinegar-soaked potatoes and would drink the stuff, too. The rest of his diet consisted mainly of biscuits and soda water. Lord Byron would wear thick, wooly layers to cause himself to sweat off excess water weight and would weigh frequently. Then, at supper, the man would binge eat, followed by a healthy dose of magnesia.
As you might have guessed, this is not a healthy weight loss method. That said, vinegar has does its perks. Apple cider vinegar is known to help improve weight loss and also to promote healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The key is moderation – just a tablespoon or two each day is plenty. There’s no need to soak your spuds.
8. The Tapeworm Diet
If you’re familiar with tapeworms, you know they’re parasitic. Once a tapeworm enters your body, its head attaches to the wall of your intestines. From that point on, the tapeworm will eat the food that you consume as your body digests it. The worm thrives nicely on your digesting food and can grow to more than 80 feet long in some cases.
We think that sounds more like a horror film than a diet plan. But the Victorians saw it differently. Women and men alike would swallow a tapeworm cyst, then gradually allow the parasite to grow within their bodies. Did they lose weight? Yes! But they also suffered severe abdominal pain, dementia and epilepsy. When they were through with the worm, dieters would either take a course of anti-parasitics or would allow a doctor to insert a meal instrument down the throat to extract the worm.
Tapeworms are super-dangerous and can be fatal in some cases. Fortunately, there are medications which can rid your body of any tapeworms should you accidentally ingest one.
9. John Harvey Kellogg’s Weight Loss Methods
Yes, that’s right. John Harvey Kellogg is the man who first introduced corn flakes to the world. But Kellogg didn’t introduce corn flakes to make money. He created them to change the way Americans ate.
In the 20th century, Americans subsisted on a whole lot of meat and a whole lot of high calorie foods. Kellogg believed that these rich foods were leading Americans to “sin” and sought to create something a little more bland. The corn flakes of the 1900s contained no sugar and were quite unlike the cereal we buy in the grocery store today.
Kellogg wasn’t the only dietary reformer of his day. There were others, including the man who invented granola and the man who invented the graham cracker. However, John Harvey Kellogg’s weight loss methods went far beyond switching to cereal for breakfast.
Kellogg opened a sanitarium in 1903. Sitting on 30 acres, this sanitarium hosted many dieters who underwent some bizarre methods of weight loss Kellogg’s contraptions included hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, mechanical horses, foot vibrators and more.
Our advice to you is that if you want to eat corn flakes for breakfast to reach your perfect BMI, go for it! But there’s no research to suggest that mechanical horses will, in any way, work to shed your unwanted belly fat.
Breatharianism is similar to sungazing in that it was formerly used as a spiritual or religious practice. And, like sungazing, some extremists still observe breatharianism today as a weight loss method.
Breatharianism is based on the belief that one does not need nutrients or, in some cases, water. Instead, humans are said to be able to live solely sustained by prana, a life force recognized by Hinduism. Self-proclaimed gurus today teach would-be dieters to gradually sustain themselves with only the air they breathe. This is done through a week-long to three-week long process.
Side effects of breatharianism do include weight loss, as dieters consume zero calories and starve their bodies. Other side effects include severe dehydration, weakness, vomiting bile, dizziness and more. In short, we don’t recommend breatharianism as a weight loss method. You need to eat to live.
11. The Vegan Diet
The vegan diet is likely one you’ve heard of. It’s a little different from the other diets on this list, however, because it’s more of a lifestyle choice than a dietary one. Vegans consume no animal byproducts at all. That means no eggs, no dairy products … not even honey, as it comes from bees.
Reasons people choose veganism are usually related to protecting the rights of animals. However, there are some people who choose the lifestyle as a method of weight loss. Those who criticize the plan say that malnutrition is a risk, as well as a protein deficiency.
That’s true, when veganism is “done wrong.” However, when meals and snacks are carefully balanced, veganism can actually be quite an effective way to lose weight. Following the plan, dieters can lose a healthy one to two pounds per week, and still consume all the nutrients required for a healthy lifestyle.
In fact, studies have shown that dieters following a vegan plan lose weight more quickly and efficiently than those following a diet containing meat. As with ay weight loss plan, it’s critical to research the diet before you begin. You may even choose to visit a nutritionist who specializes in the vegan diet.
12. The Five Bite Diet
Another more recent, more dangerous diet fad is the Five Bite Diet. This one’s simple. You skip breakfast. Then, you eat five bites of food at lunch and five more bites at dinner. Medical professionals harshly criticize this fad, saying that it’s dangerous and can even lead to starvation.
You may be surprised to learn that the Five Bite Diet was invented by a doctor. Doctor Alwin Lewis was featured on the Dr. Oz show, causing this dangerous trend to spread quickly in 2014. While the diet does restrict calories to around 800 each day, it doesn’t create long term eating habits that are healthy and sustainable.
The goal of Dr. Lewis when he invented this extreme plan was to allow dieters to drop to a BMI of 18.5. As you may know, 18.5 is on the low end of the BMI scale, and there are certainly more health-conscious ways to attain that goal.
To put it in summary, we don’t recommend you start the Five Bite Diet. Instead, try one of the other, healthier diets on this list to begin your weight loss program.
13. Master Cleanse
You may have heard about the Master Cleanse diet from Beyonce, or from one of her fans. The diet consists of ten days of liquid; you’ll drink a liquid similar to lemonade and consume no solid foods for over a week. For the first few days, you’ll work to cut out caffeine and processed foods, and will gradually transition to a liquid diet. Then, on day five, you’ll begin the Master Cleanse drink.
So what’s in the drink? The Master Cleanse Juice contains lemon juice, pure maple syrup, cayenne pepper and spring water. You’re also permitted to drink laxative teas, and are required to consume a quart of warm salt water every morning to help your bowel movements along.
Side effects of the Master Cleanse include bad breath, dizziness, cramping, hair loss, nausea, irritability and gallstones. The diet allows around 700 calories per day while you’re on the liquid-only portion, so many dieters also feel weak. As you may imagine, the Master Cleanse does not provide proper nutrients essential to your health, either.
In the short term, you’ll probably lose weight on the Master Cleanse diet. However, it’s not sustainable weight loss and the side effects are pretty nasty. In other words, it’s not a safe or recommended weight loss method.
14. The Cotton Ball Diet
We haven’t seen too many modern diet fads more dangerous (and bizarre) than this one. The cotton ball diet is just what it sounds like. Dieters dip cotton balls into smoothies or even condiments, then eat them. Cotton and all. The idea is to feel full without consuming calories, but this fad diet can really mess you up.
There are many dangers to this diet. First, most cotton balls aren’t actually made from cotton. They’re made from synthetic materials, like polyester, that are super-bad for your body and digestive tract. Furthermore, cotton balls are typically made using harsh chemicals, and even bleach – another no-no for your health. Finally, swallowing substances like cotton balls can cause obstructions to the intestinal tract. These obstructions can be fatal.
The cotton ball diet is just a bad, bad idea. If you feel the inclination to munch on cotton, splurge on a little piece of cotton candy – then please go visit your doctor.
15. Illegal Drugs
We had to make mention of this one here; consider it our public service announcement. For decades now, people have been turning to the use of illegal drugs to aid in weight loss. There are certainly over the counter and prescription medications that can help you lose weight. What we’re talking about here are the hard drugs.
Cocaine, methamphetamines and other drugs are known to make users lose weight. Of course, common sense dictates that this weight loss is in no way healthy, and can lead to serious long term complications, or even death. There are other drugs on the streets, too, which are marketed specifically for weight loss. These drugs include combinations of prescription meds like bupropion and others – those combinations can be deadly!
Just about any other diet on this list of dangerous diets is less dangerous than turning to prescription drugs. If you’re considering this method of weight loss, stop and think! There are many approved drugs that your doctor can prescribe that are safe, non-habit forming and very effective! You can absolutely reach your perfect BMI without the use of illegal drugs.
Weight loss is by no means a new goal. For centuries – even back to the ancient Greek and Roman times – men and women have searched for methods to help them achieve the perfect weight. Whether you want to look good, improve your health or just fit in a different clothing size, there are plenty of options for you.
Our advice to you when choosing a weight loss method is to use your common sense. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it seems gross (like swallowing tapeworms) it probably isn’t a good option. And if your weight loss method promises you’ll lose any more than one to two pounds per week, it may not be a safe option.
Always use your brain. Collaborate with your doctor or a nutritionist to determine which weight loss method will best suit your lifestyle. Don’t put your health at risk just to lose a few pounds – there’s a better way! After all, a healthy diet and a moderate exercise schedule is a tried and true method of weight loss.