You are what you eat?: The most bizarre diets

By Ljudmila Petrovic
Wallis Simpson, a former Duchess of Windsor, once famously said, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” It’s no secret that, in a society where this attitude is constantly plastered across tabloids and magazines, many people go to great lengths to reach a waif-thin figure. Because of this pressure, the tried-and-true idea of eating healthy and exercising moderately to stay healthy has taken a back seat to extreme, often bizarre methods of appetite-suppression.Moreover, appetite suppression has been part of various religious and spiritual passages. Below are some of the most ridiculous diet fads.


The general idea behind fruitarianism is to not eat anything that has been killed, which includes vegetables that fruitarians believe have been brutally torn from the ground. Because of this belief, fruitarians can only eat fruit that has already fallen from its branch, as well as nuts and seeds. Of course, no animal products of any sort are permitted, and there are variations in the extremity of the diet; for example, some people whose diet consists of 75% fruit still consider themselves fruitarians. Another reason for the diet choice is that, according to Genesis 1:29, “God said: behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat,” the original human diet thus interpreted as consisting of only fruit. This diet, depending on the level of extremity, either has little or no protein. Furthermore, it can cause deficiencies in many essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and most B vitamins.

Famous followers: Gandhi is said to have had a fruitarian diet, but discontinued it at his doctor’s urging. Steve Jobs, too, is thought to have been a follower, which is allegedly where the name of Apple Inc. came from.


The concept that humans do not need physical food intake for their sustenance, but can rather survive off of the energy from its aura and aroma and, in some cases, the energy from the sun. This is, in its truest form, supposed to be only an effect of a spiritual expansion of consciousness. However, it has since become a major cash market, with the Breatharian Institute of America offering $10,000 workshops led by Wiley Brooks to get people started on the lifestyle (the website specifies “this is not a misprint” under the price). Those that take part in this diet do not eat anything, so it goes without saying that there are more than a few nutritional deficits. In fact, there have been several deaths as a result of this diet. It is extremely dangerous.

Famous followers:. Most of those that have admitted to breatharianism have done so for spiritual and religious reasons. Many spiritual and religious leaders have practiced breatharianism.


This diet was developed in the 1970s and advocates sedation-induced sleep for days on end. The premise is that if you’re sleeping, you’re not eating. True enough, but it is also true that your metabolism slows down immensely when you’re asleep, and not eating for so long is bound to induce binge eating upon awakening; not to mention that any diet that involves spending days under sedation cannot possibly have a good long-term success rate.

Famous followers: In his bloated days, Elvis Presley was desperate and would occasionally use this method as a weight-loss attempt. Unfortunately, he would wake up after several days and go on a binge. We all saw how that turned


Does this even need an explanation? Popular in the 1920s, the idea is that by purposely ingesting a tapeworm, it will eat all the calories that the dieter consumes, leading to extreme weight loss. Needless to say, the parasitic worm also consumes essential nutrients and it is possible that it will act unexpectedly, spreading to unplanned areas of the body. Not surprisingly, selling tapeworms for this purpose is illegal in North America.

Famous followers: According to urban legend, Maria Callas, an opera singer from the 1950s, used this method and lost immense amounts of weight. Callas, however, denied this rumour.


People on the cookie diet can eat all the cookies they want throughout the day, but only one meal: dinner (a small portion of lean meat and vegetables). Sounds like a sweet diet, but the cookies are originator Dr. Siegel’s creations, made with fibrous bran or whole wheat. This diet does not provide a variety of nutrients, and is unlikely to last long due to its repetitive nature.

Famous followers: Guy Ritchie (Madonna’s ex) apparently lost some weight on this diet, but experienced side effects, such as a significant decrease in libido. Madonna wasn’t happy.


This concept is pretty self-explanatory. The idea is that by only drinking alcohol wand eating no food, weight loss will occur. However, alcohol is caloric, and taken alone there are significant nutrient deficiencies. This is certainly not a functional diet. A variation of this diet has been on the increase in recent news: what experts call “drunkorexia”, where people — mostly women — limit food in order to compensate for the calories consumed from alcohol.

Famous followers: In an attempt to lose weight, William the Conqueror consumed nothing but alcohol. He did notice a decrease in weight, but his death was also caused by a horse fall, which may or may not be related.


The idea here is to replace one or two regular meals with pureed baby food. This diet has recently gained popularity with many celebrities, but not only does it seem unsatisfying, it also doesn’t provide all the nutrients or fiber needed in an adult diet. This food is designed for pre-teething infants, not for full-grown adults that need to perform a number of daily tasks.

Famous followers: This diet is a recent one, so its proponents include current celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Lily Allen, and (surprise!) Jennifer Aniston. It’s a fad diet.


This has historically been the inevitable diet of the lower classes, but celebrities have been using it to try and shed pounds since the 1950s. It consists of cabbage soup for seven days, with allowances for fruits, vegetables, skim dairy products, tea, and coffee. It’s a bleak week with extremely boring meals, not to mention a lack of nutrients. Side effects include fatigue, irritability, and junk food cravings.

Famous followers: Jaime Pressley and Sarah Michelle Gellar are both fans of this diet and claim it helped them lose weight after having children and in preparation for roles.


Named after its founder, Horace Fletcher, this early 20th century diet takes all the enjoyment out of a meal: dieters must keep their head leaned forward while chewing their food 32 times. When this is complete, they lean their heads back and all that doesn’t naturally slide down their throats is supposed to be spit out. This diet certainly does not provide enough sustenance for survival and is bland and time-consuming.

Famous followers: Author Henry James, John D. Rockefeller, and John Harvey Kellogg (as in the cereal) were all famous names that followed Fletcher’s diet advice.


These diets are bizarre ways to reach an unrealistic goal for body weight. “If you are only eating one food it is impossible to have your nutrient needs met, which can interfere with your everyday tasks such as studying, working, even sleeping,” says Rosie Dhaliwal, an SFU Health Promotion Specialist and blogger for The Dish. “Diets do not work.”