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Let’s face it: many people will do or eat just about anything to lose weight. As much as we all want to look trim and youthful, we can’t deny that historically people have partaken in some pretty bizarre diet regimens in hopes of losing some pounds.
How bizarre? To give you an idea, we’ve rounded up nine different diets—actual diets that people have actually tried, mind you—that over time have proven to be both ineffective and in many cases downright harmful to a person’s health. Brace yourself and read on if you dare.
1. The Chicken Soup Diet
Soup diets have been around forever and mostly involve paring down your diet to one meal a day or just 1,000 calories a day of very specific foods. Once you’ve hit your meal or calorie quota, you can then eat as much chicken soup or cabbage soup or whatever kind of soup as you want. Simple enough, right? The problem is that once you cut everything out of your diet, you’re on a one-way street to malnutrition. Bottom line? This diet could never be healthy for you.
2. The Tapeworm Diet
Of all the diets on this list, this one is definitely the grossest. Back in the early 1900s, people would take diet pills filled with beef tapeworm eggs. The tapeworms would then mature inside the subject’s intestines and eat away nutrients until the person lost the desired amount of weight. Then they took another pill to kill off the parasite. Obviously this was a terrifyingly bad dieting idea. Tapeworms are called parasites for a reason, and purposefully introducing them into your system can cause all kinds of long-term health conditions that could eventually kill you. Plus, the second the worms are gone, your body gains back all the weight it lost.
3. The Air Diet
What if there was a diet out there that required absolutely no changes to your food intake whatsoever. You can eat literally anything you want if you just breathe. And yes, that’s exactly what this diet claims. All you need to do is focus on deep, rhythmic breathing for your waistline to see a difference. It doesn’t matter when or where you do these breathing exercises, just that you do them regularly throughout your day. Well at least this option isn’t harmful to your health, but rest assured it doesn’t do anything else either.
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4. The Sleeping Beauty Diet
If you can sleep off a hangover, why not a few extra pounds? This diet had people drugging themselves unconscious and sleeping for days to wake up miraculously thinner. The diet was made popular thanks to a mention in the 1960s novel Valley of the Dolls and rumors that Elvis Presley tried the diet too. But at the end of the day it’s really just a starvation tactic. Aside from slowing metabolism and dehydrating the body, this diet also causes muscle atrophy and requires people to take unregulated drugs that could very well kill them. Not a good idea.
5. The Grapefruit Diet
As far back as the 1930s, grapefruits have been touted as a miracle weight-loss solution. They’ve been the starring ingredient in many different diets as both the primary food to eat or as the primary drink to have with every single meal. Although there is evidence that grapefruit’s diuretic properties can help you get rid of water weight, this doesn’t automatically make it the answer to burning belly fat as fans of grapefruit diets claim. Unfortunately this is another example of a diet sounding too good to be true.
6. The Pasta and Chocolate Diet
What? A diet that lets you eat pasta and chocolate? Yes, it does actually exist, and it’s also definitely too good to be true. This diet restricts just about everything that you eat while still allowing you to enjoy pasta for lunch and dinner and even some popcorn. Your reward? Just one measly ounce of chocolate at the end of the day. Not surprisingly it also cuts out key nutrients for the body and has not led to any proven long-term weight loss. Join the bad diets club.
7. The Hollywood Diet
This diet is one of the classic extreme calorie-restriction diets out there. For 24 hours or more you’re supposed to eat nothing but a small selection of shakes and cookies sold by the creators of the diet in order to shed pounds. Granted, losing weight is generally known to happen when you put your body into starvation mode, along with delightful side effects like diarrhea, fatigue, constipation, and nausea. Any kind of extreme low-calorie diet is dangerous to your health.
8. The Baby Food Diet
Another celebrity fitness fad, this one involves eating nothing but jars of baby food for breakfast and lunch, along with a low-calorie dinner. It stands to reason that you’ll lose weight if you’re eating only tiny rations of puréed food, but like most of the diets in this article, it most definitely does not lead to long-term weight loss. You’d be better off eating lots of fruits and vegetables and lowering your sodium content. Plus it’s called baby food for a reason, folks. All adult humans need larger portions to survive than their tiny counterparts.
9. The Master Cleanse
Also known as the Lemonade Diet, this one has been around for a long time and has been touted by stars before. Essentially it’s just a juice fast that relies on a weight-loss elixir of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. Like most fasting-based diets, it will definitely shed pounds for you, but most of those pounds are nothing but water weight that you’ll gain right back the second you start eating again. Fasts like this one will also lead to muscle mass loss and decreased metabolism, both of which could make it harder for you to lose weight in the future.