Stop the Insanity! – Top 10 Craziest Diet Fads

Desperate to lose weight for your upcoming wedding, high school reunion, or beach vacation? Then you might just be desperate enough to try (or have tried) a fad diet.

Although they promise quick results, these diets are virtually impossible to follow (unless you actually enjoy lemonade mixed with maple syrup and cayenne pepper) and often have highly unpleasant side effects (we’re looking at you cabbage soup diet!). Stick to a Primal eating plan and you’ll never be tempted into an unhealthy and unproductive extreme fad diet.

Read on to learn about our picks for the top 10 diet fads of all time:

Martini Madness


When England’s William the Conqueror grew too large to ride his horse in 1087, he retired to his living quarters where he substituted food for alcohol in a desperate attempt to lose weight. Evidently, the diet worked, because William died of complications from falling off the horse, but was it replicable? In 1964 Robert Cameron published “The Drinking Man’s Diet,” a weight loss book that emphasized carbohydrate control but also recommended that readers drink gin and vodka, which, in and of themselves, are low-carb beverages. Although the book quickly became a best seller, physicians of the era were up in arms, warning (quite understandably) that alcohol should not be considered a regular addition to any diet. And even today, we’re inclined to say that anything beyond the odd glass of wine probably isn’t healthy.

Chew on This

chattering teeth

In the early 1900s, San Francisco art dealer Horace Fletcher unveiled a new weight loss technique under which you were allowed to chew your food – 32 times to be exact, one for each tooth – but could not swallow it. Fletcher – or the Great Masticator, as he was often called – theorized that by only chewing your food in this fashion – a technique that was dubbed Fletcherizing – your body would absorb all the nutrients it needed and you would be able to enjoy the taste of food without the risk of weight gain. Of course, we now know that the body doesn’t absorb nearly enough food through chewing – leaving out fiber in particular – and that while you can lose weight, it is generally due to malnourishment. However, some tenants from this diet should be taken to heart. Chewing your food thoroughly is always a good thing (just make sure you swallow it!)

Doing the Worm

Earth Worms

Eat, eat, eat and always stay thin – or so claims a promotional poster for The Tapeworm Diet. Under the plan, all you had to do is simply swallow a worm-laced pill and watch as the worm dined off your food. Besides the obvious ick factor associated with eating a worm, (not to mention the bloating, nausea, and diarrhea which came with their presence), there was a very real danger that the worms could lay eggs in other tissues, such as the nervous system, which could cause seizures, dementia and meningitis. Thankfully, this terrible diet has died out… or has it? Although the worm in question – the taenia saginata cysticercus – cannot be legally purchased or transported in the United States, there are several internet sites available to teach you how to become infected with the worms. And believe us, it’s as gross as it sounds!



Like grapefruit? Want to eat it for every meal? Well, on the grapefruit plan, you will…for 12 days…grapefruit, grapefruit, grapefruit…all day grapefruit. Sound boring? Absolutely. Will it work? Well, yeah, but only because your daily intake on this diet hovers around 600 calories or less (beefed up of course by the odd egg and the occasional cup of coffee). However, it should be noted that just as quickly as the weight drops off – and those citrus ulcers break out – your weight will rebound when you begin eating like a normal person again!

Doing the Cabbage Patch


Ever tried the “Sacred Heart Diet”? How about the “Military Cabbage Soup,” the “TJ Miracle Soup Diet,” or the “Russian Peasant Diet”? Why would a diet need so many aliases? Well, when the key ingredient is freakin’ cabbage you need to do something to jazz it up! Popular in the mid-80s, the cabbage soup diet required followers to consume as much cabbage as they want for seven days (and presumably stay away from open flames!). Although recently updated to account for its lack of protein, the cabbage soup remains deficient in a number of nutrients and should therefore only be consumed as part of a more well-rounded diet.


Introduced in 1987, the F-plan advocated a high-fiber, low-fat, calorie-controlled eating plan. The idea is to fill up on fiber and you’ll be less inclined to overeat from other food groups. However, the diet literally sang the praises of carbohydrates, with a particular emphasis on the consumption of potatoes, legumes and grains, which we now know is not a recipe for optimal health.



Popularized most recently by one Ms. Beyoncé Knowles, the diet requires users to drink six to 12 glasses of lemonade laced with cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Still hungry? Have another glass…and another… and another. Knowles, who famously used it to slim down for her role in Dream Girls, was the first concede that the diet was only a temporary fix, very publicly going on the record to say that while she did lose weight – 18 lbs over the course of the 10 day plan – she put it back on almost immediately after resuming normal eating. And you will too. See? Celebrities – they are just like us!

Beer Belly

beer bottles

Think you can lose weight drinking beers and knocking back tubs of ice cream? Then you might interested to learn about the beer and ice cream diet, a concept built around the very real scientific law of thermogenesis. Based on this principle, the diet’s developers theorized that you could lose weight by consuming cold foods because your body had to work hard to warm up the meals before you could digest them. Effective? Nope, but people sure did have fun giving this one a whirl (or a swirl…if you’re into ice cream humor!)



Popularized by faux-Brits Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, the Macrobiotic diet borrows from the traditional Japanese diet, emphasizing whole grains, vegetables, beans, and modest amounts of fish and then throwing in a part about every meal needing to hit a balance between yin and yang. While the diet is generally sound in that it advocates a diet rich in vegetables, it can cause a number of nutritional deficiencies, including inadequate intake of protein, Vitamin D, calcium, and iron, among other essential nutrients. Our verdict? This diet is probably best left to the celebrities.

Hey Fattie

no fat

Remember when we were told that fat was bad? And the stores responded by stocking reduced fat foods. And then Americans were thin…wait, what? Nope, it didn’t happen like that, and here’s why. When food manufacturers reduced or altogether eliminated the fat in products, they added sugar to improve the taste. As for the claims that following a low-fat diet could improve your health, a 12-year study published in 2006 the Journal of the American Medical Association found that low-fat diets did not significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease or stroke in women (with the same being said for men, just not in this particular study). So to clear up any confusion, low fat diets DO NOT WORK and fat is not the enemy. In fact, a diet that contains a high amount of healthy fats is considered only one thing in our books – healthy!

wickenden, Elisabeth Audrey, Rick Harris, Darwin Bell, Got Jenna, Babi Santander, pearmax, Gregoire G, Daniel Y. Go, kidsnwork Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Top 10 Health Marketing Buzz Words (Ripe for Skepticism)

Health Suicide in 10  Easy Steps

More Tuesday 10 Posts

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!