The 6 Most Insane Crash Diets of All Time

#3. Horace Fletcher and "Fletcherizing"

Horace Fletcher's diet philosophy in the early 1900s centered around "Fletcherizing," which is a new word he invented to describe a concept so novel that the English language had no word to describe it, except "chewing," For the immature giggler, it was called "masticating." He was in fact nicknamed, apparently in all seriousness, "The Great Masticator."

The Theory:
Fletcher reasoned that food needed to be chewed about 32 to 80 times before being swallowed in order to properly mix with saliva. By the time you are ready to swallow your food, he suggested, the food should be in liquid form. If the food was already in liquid form, he insisted people chew it anyway, digging their molars into that stringy apple juice or milk.

Fletcher felt it was very important to know exactly what was going into your body, and that one of the best ways of evaluating this was to examine what was coming out of your body. He advocated teaching kids to inspect their own "product" after defecating to be sure they were eating a healthy diet.

The Reality:
Reasonable experts, today, still suggest you take your time to chew your food, as it's a good idea not to send huge chunks down to the stomach. And, eating slower isn't a bad idea if you're looking to lose weight.

However, the problem with Fletcher's diet was that there are some components of food, like fiber, that don't break down into liquid despite all attempts at frenzied mastication. Fletcher's solution was not to eat fiber. This may explain why people were known for being uptight in the Victorian era.

Extensive scientific studies at the time also concluded that examining your own poop is gross.

The Results:
Fletcher lost a lot of weight, and at age 58 allegedly beat a number of college athletes in physical fitness tests in a staged event that he set up. On the other hand, he died of a heart attack.

Fletcher also had a good friend by the name of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg who was on board with his diet and even made up that stupid "Fletcherizing" term. However, the one thing Kellogg did not buy into was the no-fiber rule, so much so that he was inspired to invent a high-fiber breakfast cereal known as "corn flakes."

Fletcher's only other legacy is chewing, which people would no doubt not be doing today if it hadn't been for his amazing discovery.

#2. The Tapeworm Diet

As humans gained knowledge about tapeworms, parasitic worms that attach themselves to the digestive system of a mammalian host and consume its nutriment, most people observed that this was horrible and disgusting. However, demonstrating that female body image problems are by no means unique to our time, some desperate women skimmed past the words "worm," "parasite," "lay eggs inside your digestive system," "severe health danger" and pictures of this:

... and fixated on the phrase "causes severe weight loss."

The Theory:
The idea is that if tapeworms are digesting your food, you're not. You can eat as much as you want and this will go into the worm's tummy, not yours. The tapeworm will get fat and become an outcast in tapeworm society, but that would be its problem, not yours.

The Reality:
What do you think the worm is doing with all that food? It's not a dimensional portal. That worm is using the food to grow bigger and stronger, and maybe lay some eggs. Although most people with a tapeworm in their guts do not show any symptoms, the tapeworm is probably consuming some vitamins and nutrients you need, and has been known to share with its hosts the gifts of diarrhea, nausea and bloating. But that's not all! If the larvae manage to spread to other tissues in your body, such as the nervous system, they can affect your brain, or cause seizures, meningitis or dementia.

Also, if you are having a good time and forget about the worm for a while, don't worry! It will remind you by shedding segments of itself to show up in your poop.

A tapeworm is kind of like an acquaintance you agree to room with because you don't know them that well. They seem nice, and they will be a good workout buddy for you as you try to lose weight, but after a month, they are using your toothbrush, drinking your milk out of the carton, and following you around on dates saying how nice it would be to wear your skin.

One would think that it's not necessary to point out that there are drawbacks to having a disgusting meter-long parasite embedded in your intestines, but apparently some people need it said.

The Results:
After decades of observing ill-health effects and complications, not to mention the difficulties in removing the tapeworm when all is said and done, people now realize the foolishness of this method and--oh, no, wait, they're still doing it.

#1. The Sleeping Beauty Diet

As most of us are aware, Elvis Presley, late in his life, was a whale. To make himself feel better about it, he would eat six eggs, a pound of bacon, a half-pound of sausage and 12 buttermilk biscuits for breakfast. His staple dinner sandwich was a foot-long baguette containing an entire jar of peanut butter and jelly and a pound of bacon. He would eat two of those, then follow it up later with a midnight snack of five hamburgers. Instead of, for example, cutting down to three hamburgers or half a pound of bacon, which would have been unreasonable, he had himself sedated for two weeks.

The Theory:
Logically, it makes sense that if you're too sedated to move, you can't get yourself food, and if you don't eat, you won't gain weight. Coma patients don't get fat, for instance. Elvis was supervised by celebrity doctor Elias Ghanem during this time and fed a special "liquid diet," and as we all know, drinks aren't food, so you won't gain weight.

The Reality:
Unfortunately, Elvis's body may have outsmarted him. Being a pretty efficient machine, the human body will shut down to a minimal level of energy consumption when asleep or extremely inactive. Even being awake and reading quietly will burn a fair amount more energy, as brain activity consumes a decent amount of calories (see below).

Calorie burn rates for various stationary activities:

  • 80 - reading (Dostoevsky)
  • 70 - reading (Dean Koontz)
  • 70 - watching TV
  • 60 - baseline, comatose, asleep
  • 55 - posting comments on the Internet

Also, common sense should tell you that it doesn't matter whether something is liquid or solid--calories are calories. A hamburger doesn't become a diet hamburger after you put it in a blender.

The Results:
Elvis left the treatment 10 pounds heavier than when he'd started, and it probably wasn't muscle weight. By 1977, he had become so large that aliens were able to spot him from space, and, as we all remember, abducted him. Depending on which tabloid magazine you read, the aliens either used their advanced technology to restore his youth and figure, or to keep him alive for an eternal torment of anal probing.

Either way, the lesson is that your body is an evolutionarily adapted traitor that can't be trusted to lose weight for you while you nap for two weeks. If only liposuction had been around ...

If you liked this article, check out The 10 Most Insane Medical Practices in History .

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