#FoodieFriday: Bizzare Historical Fad Diets

By: Sydnee C. Winston

This week’s #FoodieFriday takes us down a historical memory lane of five of the most bizarre and questionable diets during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many women, in an effort to meet harsh societal standards of beauty for women, adopted these diets.

The Tapeworm Diet

One extremely disgusting beauty regimen that gained some popularity during the 1800s was the “tapeworm diet.”  It involved ingesting pills that contained sanitized tapeworm larvae, which would live in their stomachs. The worms would then consume the excess calories into their own bodies and grow larger, until they had to be removed in what was usually a very unpleasant process.

Cigarette Diet

The American cigarette brand, Lucky Strike, began creating ads in 1925 that encouraged dieters to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” At the time, research had just begun to show that there may be dangers associated with smoking cigarettes. The ad was created to put a healthy spin on it.

The Sleep Beauty Diet


The idea for this popular fad diet was that you can’t eat if you’re sleeping. The diet was popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Many people took sleeping pills to induce long periods of sleep for several hours during the day.

The Chewing Diet

Horace Fletcher

Developed by Horace Fletcher, an American health food enthusiast at the turn of the 20th century, the diet posited that food should be chewed thirty-two times (or 100 times per minute) before swallowing. Fletcher claimed that his mastication method would increase the amount of strength a person had while decreasing the amount of food he consumed.

His diet was also very specific about how many chews each type of food should have. For example, one shallot was to receive 700 chews.

The Arsenic Diet

During the 19th century diet drugs, pills and positions started to increase in popularity. Many of these pills and drugs had traces of arsenic in them. They were advertised as being able to speed up the metabolism. Although the amounts of arsenic in the pills were small, they were still very dangerous.

Remember to tweet #FoodieFriday and stay tuned for next week’s post.

4 Responses to “#FoodieFriday: Bizzare Historical Fad Diets”

  1. Sheryl says:

    It’s interesting how one of these fads is again popular. I have a friend who has a food blog, and she recently did a post that promoted chewing each bite of food many times before swallowing. She didn’t refer to Fletcher (and probably knows nothing about the old fad of “fletcherizing” your food), but it’s the same idea.

  2. NWHM says:

    Thanks, Sheryl for reading the blog post and for your comment. It is very interesting how many things from history circle back around and become popular in later years.

  3. Iknoweverything says:

    Hello Sheryl,
    I believe its not the same exact diet. It is proven that chewing your food slowly can make you feel more full. Same with smelling your food before each bite. There is no amount of chewing that you have to do but your body will think its getting more out of it.

  4. Blair says:

    I am shocked about these five special diets for the women who want to lose weight.These five diets are still being used till today.

Leave a Reply