16 Scariest Diets in History

6 minute read

By Christopher Brown

Whether they’re too limiting to realistically keep up, too much work to maintain or just too darn bland to enjoy, there’s a reason most nutritionists consider “diet” a dirty word. Start a search today to learn more about the world of dieting.

In truth, a healthy diet is about moderation, smart choices and exercise… not starving yourself, little white pills or saran wrap. Today on Healthversed, we explore the obscure, the strange and the worst diets of all time.

The Sleeping Beauty Diet

If you ever catch yourself staring longingly at old pictures of Elvis Presley thinking, “I wonder how he stayed so thin,” then this one is for you.

The secret behind the Sleeping Beauty diet is sedation. The more time spent sleeping, the less time spent eating. Craving cake? Just pop a sedative and transport your mind to a dream land built of milkshakes and sour candies.

Hey… it worked for Elvis, right?

The Cabbage Soup Diet

The Cabbage Soup Diet is as straightforward as it sounds and as bad as fad diets get. The idea is that you limit your daily caloric intake to cabbage soup and cabbage soup only.

Don’t get me wrong, soup can be extremely healthy, versatile and delicious. And cabbage soup can be great too, if prepared well. But cabbage lacks the protein, fat and nutrients that your body requires to function properly. Plus, limiting yourself to just one food source for the rest of your life is absurd.

The Tapeworm Diet

This one gave me the shivers. The Tapeworm Diet dates all the way back to the 1800’s. Women looking to lose a few extra inches would swallow a capsule filled with the eggs or head of a beef tapeworm. The parasite would grow and then consume all of the individual’s calories throughout the day.

The plus side is that you can eat all of the sweets and carbohydrates that you want. And the downside? Well… you know… YOU HAVE A PARASITE GROWING INSIDE OF YOU.

The Cigarette Diet

It’s safe to say that the health and wellness industry has come a very, very long way.

Long before the Surgeon General issued his fatal warning, cigarettes were lauded for their ability to suppress appetite. So much so, that cigarette pusher “Lucky Strike” launched a female targeted ad campaign urging women to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”

Yeah… don’t do that.

The Master Cleanse Diet

Beyonce sure is an inspiration. She’s a style icon, a musical genius and positive role model for millions of women all over the world. That said, Beyonce is decidedly not a nutritionist. Case in point: The Master Cleanse Diet.

The Master Cleanse Diet, also called the Lemonade Diet, substitutes food for a lemonade-type drink, salt water and herbal laxative tea. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

The Nazi Diet

You read that correctly. This one comes from the not-so-brilliant mind of Russian film maker Alex Siry and the premise is as simple as it is insensitive.

The plan draws inspiration from the Siege of Leningrad, the legendary German blockade of Saint Petersburg in World War II. The diet consists of 400 grams of bread and 100 grams of vodka per day, mirroring the siege rations put in place during the 872 day siege.

The Hallelujah Diet

Have you ever been so frustrated with the number on your bathroom scale that you raise your hands to the sky in search of divine inspiration? Well, you’re not the first.

Back in the ‘90s, Reverend George Malkmus structured his plant-based diet around that of Genesis’ Adam and Eve. A diet consisting of 85% raw, unprocessed plant-based food could be healthy… but the meal prep? Talk about the patience of Job.

The Chewing Diet

Absurdity reigned supreme in the days of Horrace Fletcher.

Back in the late 1800s, Fletcher opined that in order to lose weight and keep it off, you must chew, chew and chew some more. He invented an eating strategy that involved chewing every bite 32 times (once per tooth) and then spitting it out. He believed that the body would still consume the necessary nutrients without having to loosen your belt.

The Cookie Diet

The Cookie Diet was baked up back in 1975 by a weight loss physician named Sanford Siegel. Dr. Siegel developed a proprietary mix of amino acids that he claimed contained the secret recipe to six pack abs. In order to make the mixture more palatable, he baked them in to cookies and told his patients to eat 4 to 6 of them per day, in conjunction with a light dinner.

The diet worked, but it probably had more to do with calorie deficiency (800 per day) than the secret, patented recipe.

The Baby Food Diet

Mushed up peas, carrots and good old fashioned apple sauce… where do I sign up? The Baby Food Diet took the internet by storm, suggesting that full-grown adults should replace 1 or 2 meals a day with little jars of Gerber’s.

Though baby food is healthy, it’s also portion sized with a baby in mind. Babies don’t need as much food as us adults… because the majority of them weigh less than your right leg.

The Grapefruit Diet

This is a strange one because well… it kind of works. But for different reasons.

The premise is as follows: pair a low carb, high protein diet with a cup of grapefruit juice at every meal and watch the pounds melt away. The diet claims that that grapefruit juice contains a special fat-busting enzyme that’ll get you beach ready in no time.

Nobody’s been able to prove the existence of this magic enzyme, but high protein, low carb diets are the foundation of many modern nutrition plans.

The Luigi Cornaro Diet

Renaissance literature is celebrated for the timeless works of Italian wordsmiths Dante, Machiavelli and Boccaccio. Few raise the work of Luigi Cornaro, but his diet-focused work “The Art of Living Long,” is considered one of the first of its kind. In it, Cornaro promotes a diet of just 400 grams of food a day. Oh yeah, and 500 grams of wine to wash it all down.

The thing I don’t understand is… how do you drink 500 grams of wine and not end up with a burger in your hand at the end of the night?

The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

Usually, all it takes is an offside comment or a gross story to ruin my appetite but, according to style icon Heidi Klum and Black Eyed Pea Fergie, my efforts are misguided. To curb their appetite and cut calories, the two superstars down three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar before every meal. Some even recommend apple cider vinegar tablets, though there are a lot of side effects.

Oh, one more thing, there’s absolutely no scientific evidence to back the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet. So, if the goal is to look Fergalicious, hit the gym.

The Cotton Ball Diet

If you’ve ever looked at a cotton swab and though, “Yum,” then this diet might be for you. The Cotton Ball diet requires its proponents to soak cotton balls in juice and consume them to curb the appetite.

The problem here is that cotton balls aren’t food and they can’t be digested by your body. Think nausea, cramps, constipation and even death.


Part diet, part religion, Breatharianism is the belief that it is possible for a human being to live without consuming any food at all. All the body needs, according to these zealots, is sunlight.

The idea first came to… uh… light… back in the early ‘80s. Founder Wiley Brooks “channeled” the idea and it took root. Recently, Valeria “the Human Barbie” Lukyanova pledged allegiance to Breatharianism, too. *SIGH*

The Last Chance Diet

I couldn’t think of a better way to end our time together than to conclude with Dr. Roger Linn’s Last Chance Diet. Back in the ‘70s, Linn crafted an elixir (a mix of slaughterhouse by-products and artificial sweeteners) called Prolinn that he claimed to be the perfect substitute for food. Last Chance Dieters would drink the elixir and only the elixir, and watch the pounds melt away.

Yeah… not so much. The FDA put an end to the madness when people started dying.

Christopher Brown