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

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39 thoughts on “Stop the Insanity! – Top 10 Craziest Diet Fads”

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  1. don’t forget the “all protein, zero carb” diets. I wrecked my kidneys doing that. Insanity, yes – unhealthy, OH YES!

  2. I invented my own crazy plan: The Cabbage/Cookie Diet. You can eat as many cookies as you want, but you have to eat an entire head of cabbage between each cookie! The catch, of course, is that you’d be ready to puke by the time you got to your third round of cookies and cabbages.

    Please note: This is not something I actually tried; I came up with it purely for comedic effect.

  3. Tapeworm diet. Oh yeah. That’s like amputating your leg so you’ll weigh less.

    How about the Phelps diet?

    1. Seems like a good idea if you’re training hard, though he went right on the alcohol diet after winning all those medals.

  4. This is a good list. I am still amazed at how many people still buy into this stuff. Man, i cannot imagine ingesting a tapeworm…

  5. Too true Mark, so much crazy stuff out there when the real good ways of eating like Primal or EF are so easy and simple and make so much sense.
    In spite of this the fad diets will keep rolling, part 2 of this in a years time will have some interesting developments!

  6. Mark, since doing Ironman Lake Placid on 7/20 this year, I have followed the PB diet, and similar workout routines, pretty closely. Except for the fact that I have enjoyed a fair (copious) amount of beer since then as well. End result: a loss of about 3 lbs of body weight, and even a little bit of body fat. Go figure 🙂

    But seriously, I can’t believe some of these “diets” existed. Lemonade, maple syrup and cayenne pepper? Seriously? Seriously? wow.

  7. Inez you say you wrecked your kidneys on a zero carb diet. Perhaps your kidneys were not optimally healthy from the start. There are people on zero carbs with no problems.

    Apparently there is a new diet out – Why the Chinese Don’t Count Calories to coincide with the Olympics.

  8. Tapeworm diet? That’s disgusting. I can’t believe anyone would actually do that. Totally agree with your post though. Whilst I don’t follow the Primal Diet as such I think the key to staying trim is to stick with a balanced, healthy eating plan and avoid gimmicky, fad diets.

  9. You forgot my personal fave: The Hollywood diet – caffeine, cocaine and cigarettes. Come on, all three come from parts of plants. That practically makes them veggies right??

    1. A revolutionary idea! Why chew your food when you can drink, snort, and inhale it? If that doesn’t work you can ensure you lose weight AND get all your nutrients… intravenously!

  10. Mark, The great heavyweight boxing world champion, Rocky Marciano, had a lot of unusual personality traits mixed with odd behaviors. When he sat down to eat with others in usually posh restaurants, he would reach over and help himself to food from their plates… stabbing a piece of meat or something else he desired. Well, in your list of bad diet ideas, you mention the “chew don’t swallow” routine and where it came from, its origins, I don’t know, but Rocky liked meat, steak in particular, but spat out the meat residue after he thouroughly chewed it and swallowed the juice.

    Just imagine, if you can, eating dinner with a champion boxer who made himself welcome to your food, then ate meat and spat it out into a napkin. Quite a scene, but little anyone could say or do about it and keep their teeth. All factual too I think as this information was found in a old Sports Illustrated article on the champ.


  11. You’re wrong about the Macrobiotic diet causing deficiencies. It’s no more or less faddish than a vegetarian diet. There is no dairy in this diet, the food is hoped to be locally grown and in season for your climate .. all sounds sensible to me. If a nation of people live naturally by the diet, how can you call it a fad?

  12. After reading this, I think you have missed out one diet, the Purposeful Infection diet, you purposefully inject yourself with life threatening illnesses, so the energy given off from eating food is used to fight the disease, instead of being stored as fat. This means you can eat as much as you want, yet you don’t put on weight.

  13. How about the Dr. Scarsdale Medical diet I have been using that one on and off for years and it works very well & I am a nurse lol…2 week diet loose up to 20 llbs. and it usually stays off pretty good I do not really see what is so unhealthly about this diet.

  14. Those are some pretty stupid ways to loose weight. But I have a friend that had came up with her own REALYYYYYY stupid diet, the sad part it actually worked for her. My friend weighed 194lbs and she now weighs about 115-120lbs. Now my friend was not into drugs at all but she had had a bad break up was so depressed about her weight that she decided to go on an extacy diet. When she take the pill she did not feel hungry at all and within the next two months she had lost about 50 or 60 lbs. Her bigest problem is now trying to get off her diet plan and by the way she started this diet about 2 years ago. She finally got the bod of her dreams and is now an addict. The moral of this story beauty isn’t everything. I promise this is a true story.

  15. if you want to die from a tape worm eating all your nutrients untill you die and if you get it removed before its to late then your body has eaten all your muscle for nutrients.

  16. Good way of telling, and good post to obtain information on the topic of my presentation subject matter, which i am going to present in college.

  17. what about the STD diet… you purposely get an STD to put off the pounds and then to die in an additional 10 years…. oh yeah have fun with that one 😉

  18. EXTREMES DON’T WORK – balance is found in moderation whether it’s red meat, glutens, eggs, carbs or any other “evil food of the week.”

    If we didn’t waste out health eating excess refined wheat flours, corn sweeteners (glucose) & refined oils like rapeseed (Canola) we wouldn’t be in such a mess in the first place. We are WAY off the map, nutritionally.

    Take your life’s health in your own hands & be responsible!

  19. I just started my diet. Mainly I don’t eat the stuff I’ve been eating these past 8 months. I’ve gained 27 pounds. Eliminating the obvious, I added veggies, fruits, water and exercise. I eat every two hours. A banana, then half a sandwich, then avocado, power bar, hard boiled egg etc. I drink 16 oz bottles of water b-4 I eat and one after. I walk EVERY WHERE taking different streets for variety. Its been 5 days and I’ve lost 2.5 pounds and I have much more energy. 🙂