Andy Warhol had a different approach to maintaining his physique. He reportedly ordered foods he disliked when out at restaurants, asking for a to-go box upon leaving. He would then give this to a homeless person.
Sleeping was another possibility. Elvis Presley was rumored to be an advocate of the Sleeping Beauty Diet. Its long pill-induced sleeping bouts were said to inhibit eating.
A more recent effort to mimic celebrities, the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet was joined by the Hollywood 24 Hour Miracle Diet, the Hollywood Daily Miracle Diet Drink Mix Meal Replacement and various dietary supplements.
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In the early 1900s, overweight businessman Horace Fletcher slimmed down and made dieting a pop culture phenomenon with his Chewing Diet. He recommended chewing food until it became liquid to prevent overeating.
Another method rumored to be popular in the early 1900s was the Tapeworm Diet. Theoretically, one would swallow a tapeworm or tapeworm pills. The worm would then live in your stomach and consume some of your food. While vintage advertisements have been found, there is no evidence that tapeworms were actually sold.
Other diets have allured fans over the years with the promise of easy weight loss through a single miraculous food. There’s the Grapefruit Diet, which recommends half a grapefruit before every meal; The Peanut Butter Diet and the Ice Cream Diet, both promising as much of said food daily as desired; and the Shangri-La Diet in 2006, which claimed you could beat hunger by drinking olive oil about an hour before each meal.
One standout example was the Cabbage Soup Diet, first popularized by celebrities in the 1950s. This diet involved consuming nothing but soup for seven days. The original recipe called for cabbage, vegetables, water and dry onion soup mix, but other renditions added ingredients like fruit, skim milk and beef. It became trendy again every ten years or so, with the internet making it easier to share.
Some diets and their supporting theories went beyond food.
In 1727, writer Thomas Short observed that overweight people lived near swamps. His Avoiding Swamps Diet thus recommended moving away from swamps.
Instead of moving away from swamps, Breatharianism recommends not eating. Followers in a 2017 interview claimed food and water are unnecessary, saying they subsist on spirituality and sunlight alone. The prolonged fasting would eventually lead to starvation, but devotees have been spotted eating and drinking.
The more dangerous Cotton Ball Diet surfaced in 2013. Dieters reported consuming up to five cotton balls at a time, saying they felt full and lost weight. With its unfortunate side effect of intestinal obstruction, this diet faded away.
But not all unusual ideas are bad. The Seven Day Color Diet, published in 2003, suggested eating foods of only one color each day. For example, red day would include tomatoes, apples and cranberries. This actually emphasizes healthful foods to include, rather than crazy concoctions or restrictions.
While intriguing, fad diets are usually short-term quick fixes. They may produce initial rapid weight loss, but this is more likely due to their lower calorie intake than the follower’s usual diet, and often consists of water loss.
Instead, we should remember that there’s no simple secret to losing weight. Achieving sustained weight loss and maintenance requires reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity levels – with or without grapefruit and cabbage.