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An Iowa doctor recently contacted the state's Department of Public Health to ask for help -- a patient purposefully ate a tapeworm in an attempt to lose weight. (She bought it off the internet). Sounds ridiculous, right?
Ingesting a parasite isn't the only extreme attempt dieters have used to lose weight. Despite over 50 years of research that all tells us the same thing -- focusing on healthy habits, and not weight, works best -- someone is always proclaiming to have found the magic bullet to quick weight loss. These are just a few of the insane things that have been done in the name of weight loss.
David Burder/Stone/Getty ImagesBasically the dieters swallow the eggs of a tapeworm which then grow in the digestive tract where they eat part of the hosts food, thus reducing caloric intake. Genius! After the dieter reaches their goal weight (it’s not clear how to take the weight of the tape worms into account) they take an antibiotic that kills the tapeworm. As if the blech factor wasn’t high enough, now they have to pass the tapeworm. Also, this "diet" can cause brain damage -- since tapeworms are not well trained they may wander around to other parts of the body, including the brain.
The Chewing Diet
Jim Schemel/E+/Getty ImagesThis wasn’t so much about chewing as it was about, um, spitting. Art dealer Horace Fletcher “invented” the diet in 1903 when he was denied health insurance because he was fat. Rather than fighting for fair insurance practices, Horace started chewing his food and then spitting it out in an attempt to lose weight. The great thing about this diet? There are no food restrictions to remember, food groups to completely avoid, or calories to count. You just chew each piece of food between 30 and 80 times, then spit it out (what to spit it into is left to the individual dieter to decide.) This diet is especially popular on first dates and at weddings. In good news, if your family decides to food police you at a holiday dinner, feel free to take up this diet immediately -- that’ll teach them a lesson.
De Agostini/S.Vannini/Getty ImagesIt's kind of like the chewing diet. Only, instead of spitting it out, you take a bite of food and chew it until it literally liquefies in your mouth. It started out as a way to encourage people to chew their food and eat more slowly -- which isn’t necessarily a horrible idea. It then morphed into chewing until food liquefied. Then, escalated to dieters being advised not to eat any food that would not liquefy completely in their mouths. Unfortunately, that included all foods with fiber. This was before modern treatments for constipation so between chewing food and praying for an end to gastrointestinal distress, they didn’t exactly have time to cheat on the diet. So, it kind of worked? We wouldn’t recommend it though.
Matthew Hertel/iStock Vectors/Getty ImagesOn this diet, you eat one meal of low fat protein and green vegetables once a day and then take food substitutes that are comprised predominantly of reconstituted soy protein, five times a day. Dieters are warned that a single bite of bread can throw off weight loss for a week or more. Also, it’s a multi-level marketing company where people become "certified health coaches" by paying a fee (I know someone who was an unemployed social psychologist one day and a “certified health coach” the next) and then sign up other "certified health coaches" under them. Hmm, pyramid scheme? Like every other diet they have no proof of statistically significant long term success, but there are reports of hair loss and amenorrhea.
Izabela Habur/E+/Getty ImagesThis is a diet pill that suggests that you “wear dark pants and bring an extra pair to work.” Why? Side effects include uncontrolled anal seepage (Uncontrolled. Anal. Seepage.), fatty or oily stool, spontaneous bowel movements, kidney stones and life-threatening liver damage (for which there are class action lawsuits). Their own research shows that people who use Alli lose an average of, wait for it, 4 pounds more a year than people who don’t use Alli. I don’t know about you, but I could exfoliate and lose 4 pounds in a year and it wouldn’t ruin any of my pants.
Do-It-Yourself Stomach Pump
Floortje/E+/Getty ImagesFirst, you get a tube inserted into your stomach. Then, each time you eat a meal, just excuse yourself to the restroom and literally pump the food out of your stomach into a bucket. I am not kidding -- this is a real thing and is already approved in Europe. Based on three US trials with a grand total of 24 participants (not exactly a statistically significant sample size), Aspire Bariatric is seeking FDA approval for the device, called the Aspire Assist. The device will “assist” you to never be asked to office lunches, carry around a bucket of partially digested food, and mimic the symptoms of bulimia. I can’t believe they don’t have a mailing list where I can sign up!
The Cookie Diet
Drazen Vukelic/E+/Getty ImagesIf we put fat people on a diet, but it has “cookie” in the name, they’ll be happy to do it. Because fat people can’t resist cookies amirite?! On this diet, you eat six “super-secret blend, hunger suppressing cookies” and a sensible dinner -- how people can put “eat six cookies” and “one meal a day” and “sensible” in the same sentence is beyond me. This diet has so few calories that participants are advised not to exercise which is extra sad when you consider that there is no evidence that the cookie diet makes people more healthy, and tons of evidence that exercise does. Also, the cookies taste like they are made of hay, just sayin’.
Nils Hendrik Mueller/Cultura/Getty ImagesEat 500 calories a day and receive injections of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone derived from the urine of pregnant women. In some versions people following this diet are allowed only one vegetable per meal and the use of oil, body lotions and hygiene products, as well as exercise, are forbidden. It has not been approved by the FDA but some people have come around to the idea. Dr. Oz, for one, says “this is not some crazy wacky idea. It deserves to be studied.” Because there’s nothing too ridiculous to try on fat people.
Cabbage Soup Diet
CactuSoup/E+/Getty ImagesStart by making a huge batch of bland cabbage soup. Hope you like it, you’re going to be eating a LOT of it for the next seven days. Each day the diet is slightly different -- Day one is soup and fruit, but no bananas, but Day 4 is bananas and skim milk, no other fruit. Other days include beef and tomatoes, and brown rice and unsweetened fruit juice. According to the website, people report light-headedness, weakness and decreased concentration. In fact, one of the questions posed on the site’s FAQ: “I have been getting headaches and feeling extremely dizzy and weak while also experiencing sleepless nights, is this normal?” Yes, it’s normal but don’t worry, the website assures us that “many people think the diet is worth the effort anyway, since they lose so much weight!” Cause, you know, priorities.
The Feeding Tube Wedding Diet
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesIn this diet a woman gets a tube inserted into her nose through which she receives 800 carb-free calories a day. It’s become a thing-to-do for brides-to-be. Side effects include dizziness, constipation, dehydration and kidney stones. So, the bride can say her vows in her beautiful dress (while leaning on her maid of honor for support) to her beautiful new husband (who is wondering why in hell the woman he dated and asked to marry him at her weight -- sans nose tube -- would do this to herself).