It’s easy to think that our obsession with looking good and eating clean is a relatively modern one. Certainly, most of the people telling us to shun carbs and live off lettuce like to present themselves as at the cutting edge of dietary thinking. However, if you look back through human history, it turns out that we have been eating stupid things in the name of looking sexy for a lot longer than you might expect.
Whether you were a 20th century Lindy Hopper or an early American minister, prescribing strange foods for imaginary ills has been part and parcel of life for as long as we’ve been eating. Though they may have faded into obscurity, these eating fads have certainly left an impression. These are the seven weirdest diets of all time.
1. The Baby Food Diet
Though still advocated in some dark corners of the internet, this fad has faded from view since it first burst onto the scene in 2011. The programme basically consists of eating up to 16 jars of baby food every single day. Not only is the plan useless, but it also requires a lot of embarrassing trips to the supermarket.
2. The Cigarette Diet
For a long time, looking pale, sickly and stick thin, with a lit cigarette drooping out the corner of your mouth was about as fashionable as you could get. This came to a head in the 1920s, when doctors started to prescribe cigarettes as a means to stave off hunger. Small wonder that the entire world soon became hooked.
3. The Cotton Ball Diet
Most modern diets, however weird, at least involve eating something edible. This is what helps set the insanity of the cotton ball diet apart from the rest of the field. Participants are required to eat up to five whole cotton balls a day, soaked in their choice of orange or lemon juice. First becoming popular in 2014 after a series of seriously strange YouTube videos, the fad has been condemned as an incredibly dangerous and stupid thing to do.
4. The Graham Diet
For millions around the world, Graham cereals are still the only way to wake up in the morning. This makes their strange origins even weirder. In 1830, Presbyterian Minister and all round enemy of fun Sylvester Graham believed that Americans’ poor health was almost entirely down to their desire for too much sex. He therefore created his no famous "Graham's Crackers" as an attempt to reduce the libido of his flock, and the Graham diet was born.
5. The Soap Diet
Although this advice from the 1930s thankfully didn’t involve eating soap, it was arguably just as weird. Back when people didn’t really understand science, enterprising entrepreneurs created a range of skin care products that were claimed to reduce fat and improve health by simply being scrubbed onto the skin. Incredibly, the public bought it hook line and sinker.
6. The Tapeworm Diet
To most of us, the idea of a 24ft long parasite living in our small intestine is the stuff of nightmares. However, there’s a strong possibility that you would have felt differently if you were trying to lose weight in the 19th century. Prescribed in the form of a pill containing tapeworm eggs, this diet was a favourite at the turn of the 20th century, until it was outlawed for unsavoury side effects such as cysts and chronic stomach pain.
7. The Vinegar Diet
Naturally, famous poets haven’t the time for worrying about food and physical health. They’d much rather do something stupid and have us dismiss it as eccentricity. You don’t fool us. Playing on his reputation for ridiculousness, Romantic poet Lord Byron popularised a diet in the early 19th century which involved a single egg, tea and regular swigs of malt vinegar. We can imagine that it was just as difficult to stomach as a long poetry recital.
Looking at this list, it would be easy to argue that we’ve reached peak dietary sillininess. Cotton balls, after all, are tough to top. But, as surely as the sun will rise, we know in our heart of hearts that someone will come up with something even more stupid in the near future. We wait with baited breath.