Anyone who’s ever cruised the diet section of a Barnes & Noble can tell you that today’s dieting fads are getting weirder and weirder. (See: The Snake Diet.) But even the trendiest of weight watchers would be amazed by some of the wacky weight-loss trends happening worldwide.
Case in point: Ever heard of Australia’s diet based entirely on kangaroo meat? Or the Chinese weight-loss trend of gazing directly into the sun? Or what about France’s ingenious “pretend you’re eating” craze that swept the nation? (No?!) That’s right: here we’ve compiled 20 of the zaniest weight loss tricks from around the world. So read on, and try at your own risk. And for some more great fat-blasting advice, don’t miss The 10 Best Ways to Lose 10 Pounds Fast.
Japan: Wear Blue-Tinted Shades
In Japan, dieters avoid overeating by wearing special blue-tinted sunglasses. Apparently, the shades are supposed to make food look unappealing (since most foods aren’t naturally blue), thereby helping you to eat less.
France: Eat It With a Fork
In France, one of the most popular diets is “Le Forking,” in which a person only eats food that they can pick up with a fork. The diet eliminates things like sandwiches, nuts, pizza, and burgers from your rotation, which makes sense as far as weight loss goes. (Le Forking is unusual, but the French do tend to know a thing or do about losing le weight.) And for more flubber-frying advice, know the 40 Weight Loss “Secrets” That Don’t Work.
Ancient Rome: Eat Cabbage… A Lot of It
Long before there was the Cabbage Soup Diet, a Roman statesman known as Cato the Elder was living off of the Cabbage and Urine Diet. Not only did Cato consume copious amounts of cabbage, but he even drank the urine of those whose diets were high in the green. Cato apparently thought that cabbage could do everything from cure ulcers to hangovers.
China: Stare at the Sun
We really wish we were kidding about this one, but alas, we’re not. In China, there are quite a few proponents of something called sun eating, where you are instructed to skip one meal every day and replace it with 44 minutes of direct sunlight. Apparently this sun exposure will curb your appetite and improve sleep, but little science backs any of that up. One of sun eating’s biggest proponents is Hira Ratan Manek, who claims that he hasn’t eaten since 1995.
Australia: Love Kangaroos… For Dinner
Kangatarianism is Australia’s answer to unethical livestock farming practices. Followers of the kangatarian lifestyle only eat meat sourced from kangaroos, believing the marsupial meat to be more environmentally friendly than alternatives like beef, pork, and chicken. Not to mention that racks of ‘roo are high-protein and low-calorie, making them a delectable diet-friendly choice.
Spain: Put It Between Bread
Most diets these days strongly advise against carbs, but Spain begs to differ. In fact, their Sandwich Diet promises that by substituting one meal per day for a carb-packed sandwich, you can lose up to 13 pounds in just one month. You can fill your sandwich with anything you want, but the bread has to be either wheat, multigrain, dark pumpernickel, or rye. No word on whether this fad diet actually works, but hey, it sounds delicious. And if you’re ready to achieve your best body, make sure you read the 100 Motivational Weight-Loss Tips for Summer.
Japan: Emulate Cinderella
Some international diets are certainly strange, but others just sound downright dangerous. Case in point: Japan’s Cinderella diet. The weight loss trend promises to give dieters the same proportions as Cinderella—yes, the fictional Disney princess with extremely unrealistic measurements. In order to achieve that Cinderella physique, dieters must measure their height in meters, square it, and multiply it by 18 to find their ideal weight in kilograms. To give you some perspective, that would leave a 5’4″ woman at 108 pounds. Please don’t do this—or any of these other 15 Most Dangerous Diet Fads You Should Avoid at All Costs.
England: Enjoy a Tablet of Arsenic
In the 1800s, dieters ingested pills advertised as “miracle cures” that would “speed up the metabolism.” What they may or may not have known was that these pills contained a small amount of arsenic, the chemical used to make bullets and rat poison. Needless to say, this was extremely dangerous.
India: Balance Your Meals With Yin And Yang
Buddhist monks are masters of restraint, and one of their eating plans—known as the Zen Diet—puts such discipline to the test. Followers of the Zen Diet follow a set of strict rules that prevent them from eating anything that was killed and require all meals to be a balance of yin (passive, cold, and dark) and yang (hot and active). All food must also contain all five flavors with all five colors, incorporating all five ways of cooking… whatever that means. If the Zen Diet doesn’t sound like it’s for you, check out these 100 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Healthier Woman.
China: Eat a Roundworm… On Purpose
Nobody wants to live with a roundworm inside of them, but in China, it’s a small price to pay for rapid weight loss. Apparently, eating roundworm eggs is the latest fitness fad for women looking to shed pounds before a job interview. And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened: In the 1920s, American pharmacies carried diet pills that would infect you with a live tapeworm.
Japan: Eat A Banana For Breakfast
The Morning Banana Diet was concocted by a Japanese pharmacist to help her husband lose weight (and he managed to lose 37 pounds on it). Essentially, the diet lets you eat whatever you want, so long as you only eat raw bananas for breakfast and finish dinner by 8 p.m. There are some other rules as well—no dessert after dinner, stop eating when you’re 80% full, avoid dairy—but the essence of the plan lies in the breakfast banana. This diet is so popular in Japan that the country had to increase banana imports just to match demand.
France: Pretend to Eat
The February 2010 issue of French magazine Grazia popularized the Air Diet, which is basically a fancier way of saying anorexia. Essentially, this “diet” encourages women to mimic the act of eating, without ever actually putting the food in their mouths. We strongly advise against this diet, and sincerely hope that nobody in France is actually doing this.
USA: Binge on Baby Food
There are several versions of the Baby Food Diet circling the Internet, but the premise is simple enough: replace meals and snacks with jars of baby food to lose weight or, in some cases, keep it off. The diet is rumored to have been started by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, and celebrities like Jennifer Aniston have praised the diet for its rapid weight loss effects. However, this doesn’t change the fact that you have to eat, well, baby food.
USA: Fill Up on Cotton Balls
Leave it to body-image-obsessed America to come up with one of the most dangerous weight loss tricks to date. Popular with models and Hollywood elites, this diet involves soaking cotton balls in liquids like orange juice and lemonade and swallowing them before meals to feel fuller and thus consume less. “Your clothing is also made of polyester, so swallowing a synthetic cotton ball is like dipping your T-shirt in orange juice and eating it,” managing editor of Diets in Review Brandi Koskie told ABC News. “Nothing good can come of this.”
England: Don’t Live Near a Swamp
In the 1720s, physician Thomas Short penned a pamphlet titled The Causes And Effects Of Corpulence. In it, he suggested that too much moisture was directly related to weight gain, and in order to avoid becoming obese, one must avoid living near a swamp and stay in drier areas. Seriously.
Scotland: Eat Soap
Let’s all take a second to appreciate how far science has come in the past few centuries. In the 1700s, Scottish doctor Malcolm Flemyng advocated for eating soap as the solution to obesity. According to Flemyng’s theory, since sweat, urine, and feces all contain oil, the cure to obesity is to increase the excretion of oil—by eating soap. It goes without saying, but please, please don’t do this.
England: Coat Everything in Vinegar
Nineteenth-century poet Lord Byron was known for his romantic poems as much as his plump figure. His home-concocted solution? Consume a lot vinegar. The large quantities would induce vomiting and diarrhea and, though unhealthy and unsafe, would shed pounds fast.
USA: Chew, But Don’t Swallow
Several studies have shown that chewing your food can actually burn more calories and make you fuller, but not to the extent that Horace Fletcher takes it. “The Great Masticator,” as he became known, believed that people should chew their food about 100 times per minute and only swallow the juices that came from chewing. Whatever solids were left after chewing were to be spit out. Famous figures like John D. Rockefeller and Mark Twain were said to have followed Fletcher’s diet plan.
USA: Eat a Lot of Steak
The concept of this diet is pretty simple: all you have to do is eat boiled beefsteak for every meal. The plan is the brainchild of none other than James Salisbury (yes, the very one), who believed that eating too many vegetables and starches caused harm to the digestive tract. If you’re a fan of this diet, then you’ll want to Steal Bobby Flay’s Top Steak-Cooking Secret.
Scotland”: Survive on Milk
While searching for a solution to his obesity problem, 18th century Scottish doctor George Cheyne came across another doctor who insisted he’d survived on nothing but milk for 17 years. Subsequently, Cheyne decided to try the diet for himself, and ate nothing but milk and vegetables henceforth. In an essay, he outlined his progress, describing himself as now “lank, fleet and nimble”.
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