Some Uncommon Weight Loss Diets Around the World

by Marixie Ann Obsioma
Published on July 14, 2021 and last updated for accuracy on August 8, 2021

It’s not so uncommon for us to find ourselves with several ways to lose weight and live healthily. When it comes to finding a diet – no matter how uncommon it is – we’ll never run out of options. Dietary and eating habits from around the globe can do wonders for one’s overall health, longevity, and weight loss (1).

These days, it’s difficult to open a magazine without reading about the next miracle weight loss program (2). Throughout history, people from around the world have desperately pursued weight loss with an expectation for fast results. A lot of us had become more creative with our nutrition, and this resulted in some of the strangest fad diets in history (3).

Fad diets are extremely popular for weight loss. Their popularity stems from the typical promise of fast weight loss rate and other health benefits. However, they are often conceptualized without any scientific evidence supporting their use. Also, they are often nutritionally unbalanced and ineffective over the long term (4).

Still, there are some fad diets that have been effective in producing weight loss, and these are usually from high-quality, controlled studies. These fad diets can actually work, and may even be healthy, well-balanced, and sustainable (4).

Interested to know what the commotion is about? Here are some of the strangest diets from around the world – some of which can be effective, and some can be dangerous.

#1 Tapeworm Diet (Mexico)

A dietician and author of “Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally,” Susan Burke March, says that tapeworm diet is “a draconian way of losing weight (5).”

A tapeworm is generally a parasite – you can get them unintentionally from undercooked, contaminated meat, particularly pork. If left untreated, a tapeworm infestation can be lethal (5).

At the turn of the 20th century, tapeworms were sold in pills for two diet purposes: eat more and lose weight (3). In the 1900s, hucksters sold pills that supposedly contained tapeworms that can eat the foods in your stomach (5). In the 1920s, it appears that you can wander into an American pharmacy and purchase a diet pill containing a live tapeworm. The idea for this was for a live tapeworm to hook onto your stomach lining and eventually consume your food to help you lose weight (1).

However, this should not be the case. According to March, “It’s absolutely inadvisable to infect yourself with something that could be dangerous to you (5).” After knowing that baby tapeworms that grew to 25 feet long can cause seizures, meningitis, or dementia, the U.S. government outlawed their sale. Moreover, it was also found that its other side effects include cysts on the brain, eyes, and spinal cord (3).

Today, importing or selling tapeworms is illegal in the United States (5). However, there are still designated centers in Mexico and parts of South America where you can have a tapeworm implanted in order for you to shed some extra pounds (1).

#2 The Vision Diet (Japan)

According to research, the color blue is supposed to suppress appetite – which is why most logos (such as McDonald’s) are in bright shades of red and yellow color. While some dieticians recommend eating off blue plates, a Japanese company even took it to the next level by creating “diet sunglasses.” These glasses were said to be blue-tinted to make your food look unappealing (1).

The idea is that, if you want to eat less, wear blue glasses. Just think of your life as a long 3D movie (3). If it doesn’t look appealing, you will leave it on your plate. Basically, this crazy diet fad suggests that if you wear blue-tinted glasses, everything you plan to eat looks disgusting (5).

However, the most likely outcome of this fad is that you can still eat whatever you want and could even hurt your eyes from wearing tinted specs for too long. If you do want a better vision diet, it would be one with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. “That way you’re getting lots of antioxidants,” March says (5).

#3 The Morning Banana Diet (Japan)

This diet fad is another one from Japan, which was started in 2008 by a pharmacist who was looking for help for her overweight husband, who subsequently lost 37 pounds (20 kilograms) (1) and wrote about it on one of Japan’s most popular social networking sites (6). Her subsequent blogging about it made them both famous (1).

The diet is simple: you can take a banana and a glass of room temperature water for breakfast, then eat whatever you prefer for lunch, dinner, and bedtime before midnight (6).

Interestingly, a popular singer who spoke about the diet on television triggered a shortage of bananas across the country. During that year, it was common to find most supermarkets out of bananas before noon and the country was even forced to increase banana imports (6).

#4 Air Diet (France)

Despite the notion that all French women are naturally slim, they are just obsessed with dieting are the rest of the world (1)(6).

In a February 2010 issue of French women’s magazine Grazia, an article was published advocating the air diet. It involves the work of eating – preparing food, placing it on a fork or spoon, lifting your lips – without actually taking pleasure from eating it (6).

Basically, it involves eating, well, air. You can cook what you like, serve it on the finest china with your special silverware, lift it to your mouth and just smell it. Apparently, it was supposed to trick your mind into thinking that it’s actually eaten (1).

Although most people would call this anorexia, the magazine was sincere about it. It even included a recipe for soup, which contains nothing but water and salt. Thus, it helps you lose weight and save money (6).

#5 Sandwich Diet (Spain)

It is known that Spanish women – though they are thought to be among some of the most beautiful worldwide – have a fad diet of their own (6).

While some women have tried the sandwich diet swear by it, some have claimed that it helped them lose up to thirteen pounds just by substituting a sandwich for one of your regular meals (6).

Basically, the dieter can use two pieces of multi-grain bread and whatever they like in between, but there should be no side dishes (6).

Placing a whole meal in between two pieces of bread may either be a good way to cut down on food intake or just inspire you for towering concoctions (6). Although it’s not clear why it started in Spain, most evidence of weight loss is usually anecdotal, but proponents claim that one can lose up to five kilograms in a month on this diet (1).

#6 Fork Diet (France)

Another diet from the French – this diet only allows you to eat foods that are consumed and prepared with a fork. Since this diet is limited to the imagination, you have to be creative about it (1).

You can eat what you want at breakfast and dinner so long as you won’t feel deprived, but when it comes to dinner specifically, it is strictly forks only (6).

Some dieters allow for preparation with a knife, dedicated “fork-ists” insist on only using a fork in preparation. Some restrictions include: nuts, spreads, soups, nuts, sandwiches, steak, and even fresh fruits. The main fact that it even excludes fruits makes it a rather unhealthy diet plan (6).

#7 Ear Stapling Diet (China)

As the name suggests, ear stapling involves having surgical staples placed in the inner cartilage of the ear. These staples are believed to stimulate pressure points that control your appetite – which works similarly to acupuncture (5). It is believed that this diet fad came from the Chinese acupuncture principles, but it’s most popularly practiced in the U.S.A (1).

After a few weeks, they become ineffective as a weight loss tool, as your body becomes used to them. On that note, March says, ““I don’t know of any science that says this will work” She adds, “It might have a placebo effect. Better to tie a rubber band around your wrist and snap it to remind yourself not to overeat (5).”

While it is a fact that there is absolutely no science to back this up, there are plenty of cases that involve ear infections and jaw pain that is so severe that people lost their ability to chew, so might as well steer clear of this diet fad (1).

#8 Cigarette Diet (America)

In the 1920s, the American cigarette brand Lucky Strike started advertising a diet that basically involved smoking instead of eating (7). However, this turned out to be one of the most dangerous diets fads that existed, as per March (5).

Nicotine in cigarettes is known as an appetite suppressant; if you do light up rather than eat, you could see some weight loss. Cigarettes have no calories, yet nicotine is its stimulant (5). But even if a dieter did lose weight, they have significantly increased their risk for lung cancer (7).

Smoking is one of the main causes of several deadly medical conditions like heart disease and lung cancer. Thus, never start a habit that is as harmful as smoking in order to lose weight, as per March (5).

Although doctors once prescribed it for people who are hungry in the 1920s, times have now changed and cigarettes only lead you to worse than better (3).

#9 Baby Food (and Cookie) Diet (America)

If you love Hollywood celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, then you might have known this diet fad. The said actresses mentioned that it’s great for portion control. Along with cookie diets, these kiddie diets are sweeping Hollywood diets from all angles (6).

This diet fad works by substituting baby food for two, or even three, adult meals a day (5). In order to lose weight, you have to eat like a toddler. Thus, you could have guessed by now that this diet fad only involves eating only jars of pureed carrots and mashed bananas (6).

Most baby food is preservative-free yet heavy on fruits and vegetables (6). “You will lose weight because you’re restricting calories,” March says. “But you’ll lose a lot of what adults enjoy about food — fiber, taste, and crunch (5).”

Although baby food may be pure and high in vitamins, it’s not actually appropriate when it comes to adult nutrition, says March. The downside of this is that, once you start eating like an adult again, the pounds will eventually return (5).

On one hand, the cookie diet features several low-calorie meal replacement cookies baked with nutrients and appetite suppressants. As of today, there are several brands of diet cookies on sale in Hollywood (6).

#10 Cotton Ball Diet (Modeling Industry)

The cotton ball diet became a fad in the modelling industry, followed by the figure skating industry. This fad diet involves eating cotton balls soaked in juice or smoothies to help you feel full while simultaneously restricting calories to maintain a minimal body weight (8).

Dipping cotton balls in juice or smoothies is said to help trick the palate into thinking that you are eating food, when in fact you are not consuming anything nutritious. Some individuals stick to just eating cotton all day, while others consume these fillers before a meal so they can eat less. It was discovered that individuals are able to swallow as many as five juice-dipped balls in one meal before feeling entirely full (8).

This diet fad specifically involves eating cotton balls before meals. The idea behind it is that they fill your stomach so you’re not hungry and don’t eat too much. However, March dismisses the die by saying that it is “nonsensical”. “But it’s like eating paper.” She says. “Have some sugar-free gelatin or drink a big glass of water before eating instead.” – Both ways are better to remind yourself that you can feel fuller with less food (5).

How to Do It Right?

There is no shortage of fad diets when it comes to losing weight fast. Note that each of these only provide short-term results, and many of which are dangerous and even fatal to your health. Moreover, they are difficult to sustain, since they deprive you of the essential nutrients that only a balanced diet can offer (2).

A balanced eating plan can get you the result of a heady body weight without needing to cut out any foods. The key to its always one: moderation (2).

Once you combine these ways with moderate physical activities or exercise, it will definitely work to change your life and your body. Some of the most important things to include in a diet plan are as follows (2):

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes, and fruits (2).
  • Include a variety of cereals – as well as breads, rice, pasta and noodles – preferably wholegrain (2).
  • Incorporate lean meat, fish, poultry or alternatives to your diet (2).
  • Include milk, yoghurts, cheeses or alternatives (2).
  • Drink plenty of water every day (2).
  • Limit your consumption of saturated fat and moderate total fat (2).
  • Choose reduced fat varieties of foods whenever and wherever possible (2).
  • Choose foods that are low in salt (2).
  • Limit your alcohol intake, if you choose to drink (2).
  • Consume only moderate amounts of sugars, as well as food and drinks containing added sugars. In particular, limit sugar-sweetened beverages (2).

Fad Diet: Should You Try it?

Over the centuries, people have tried some crazy diets in pursuit of weight loss – from chewing without swallowing to sleeping and not eating. According to March, all diets work to some extent because you are restricting your food intake. However, this is not the case for diet fads, as the weight loss is usually temporary and can be dangerous (5).

Nonetheless, fad dieting is one pressure that you don’t need in your life. It’s not difficult to change your lifestyle to help you maintain a healthy weight. What counts as important is that you apply the right steps and follow a healthy eating plan that can help you feel better without unnecessary means, and have enough energy and good health that you need (2).

References:

  1. https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2016/06/23/12-most-bizarre-diets-around-world
  2. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/weight-loss-and-fad-diets
  3. https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/11-weirdest-diets-in-history
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-fad-diets-that-work
  5. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition-pictures/crazy-diet-fads.aspx
  6. http://blog.tripbase.com/8-most-unusual-weight-loss-diets-from-around-the-world/
  7. https://qz.com/quartzy/1374958/a-short-history-of-terrible-diets/
  8. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-cotton-ball-diet-5115569
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