The Cabbage Soup Diet, Breatharianism, and Baby Food Diet are just a few of mankind's most ridiculous—and unhealthy—attempts to lose weight fast
Russia recently made headlines for coming up with the worst diet in history—literally—after a diet guru encouraged people to try eating as if they were under attack by the Nazis in order to lose weight. C'mon! People must know better than that, right? But it seems like our appetite for quick weight loss schemes is insatiable. Most of us know, deep down, that there is no shortcut to losing weight, but that doesn't stop people from trying to find a quick fix. But these "magical" diets are at best a waste of your time and willpower, and at worst, can actually put your health at risk, we've rounded up the eight worst diets in history. Trust us—these are good only for a laugh, not actual weight loss advice. (How do you know when it's a fad diet or the real thing? For starters, it'll have these 4 Things All Good Diets Have in Common.)
The diet: When German troops besieged the city of Leningrad for 900 days during World War II, over 670,000 Russians died of starvation. But while most people remember it for the horrific devastation and loss, Alex Siry says they're not seeing the bright side: All those people lost lots of weight! (You know, before they died.) To "honor" the victims and start off 2015 with looser pants, the diet guru is telling Russians to eat 400 grams of bread and 100 grams of vodka per day, the same rations the Russian soldiers were given. Bonus points if you make your own "blockade bread" out of wood shavings, ashes and offal. Bleeeegh.
Why it's the worst: Historians and health experts (and Russians) were offended by Siry's recommendation as it's lacking as much nutrition as it is sensitivity. Not to mention, starvation is not chic, it's deadly.
The diet: Vegetable soups can be a great staple of any healthy eating plan, but when they're all you eat, you risk nutritional deficiencies (not to mention serious boredom). Yet, for years, people have tried to drop pounds fast by eating only broth made from cabbage. While some versions of the diet allow for some extra foods, most use it as a strict liquid detox.
Why it's the worst: Cabbage is high in fiber but lacking in many vital nutrients, protein and fat. Sure, you lose weight very quickly, but once you start eating more types of foods, you gain the weight right back. Experts say it's not a good long-term solution for good health.
(These 10 Satisfying Soups for Weight Loss on the otherhand...)
The diet: Swallowing capsules containing the head of or eggs from a Taenia saginata, a beef tapeworm, is one of the first recorded diet fads. Women hoping to fit into tiny corsets were promised rapid weight loss in ads dating back to the 1800'. But it's not just swooning Victorians who were tempted by the hook-mouthed worm—an Iowa woman ended up in the hospital just last year after trying to lose weight with capsules she bought off the internet. Instead of a slim body, she ended up with a 30-foot parasite (shudder) and excruciating pain.
Why it's the worst: Because the tapeworm lives in your intestine and eats your food before it can be absorbed into your body, you lose vital nutrients along with the calories. In addition to severe malnutrition, people with tapeworms can have terrible stomach pain and even risk dying. And it comes with a seriously gross side effect: The worm, or pieces of it, can randomly come out of your anus. Just no.
The diet: In 1925, cigarette maker Lucky Strike launched their ad campaign encouraging women to use smokes for weight loss. Their ad campaign: “For a Slender Figure—Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” The appetite-suppressing powers of nicotine soon became widely known, and one of the biggest reasons that women took up smoking. Even today it's not uncommon to see Hollywood starlets pictured with a cigarette in one hand a cup of coffee in the other, filling up on nicotine and caffeine instead of food.
Why it's the worst: You lose weight but you can also lose your lungs, your jaw, your teeth, and even your life. Over half a century of research shows that any weight loss isn't worth the health consequences that come with smoking tobacco. (Try these 10 Small Changes for a Healthier Life instead.)
The diet: Chewing your food thoroughly has always been good advice, but, in the 1800s ,Horace Fletcher took your mom's wisdom to the next level by claiming that, in order to properly digest your food and lose weight, one had to chew all food (including liquids) at least 100 times before swallowing. He also advised people to not eat when upset and to only eat certain types of foods. "Fletcherizing" soon swept the nation as people emulated "The Great Masticator" by chewing so much that meals could take hours. He even claimed that, done properly, his diet done would make your poop "inoffensive" (meaning: not stinky).
Why it's the worst: The science that Fletcher based his theories on has since been mostly debunked. While it's still a good idea to chew your food well, there's no benefit gained by going to that extreme. Also, everyone's poop stinks, no matter how good their diet is. (Find out The Number 1 Reason to Check Your Number 2.)
The diet: Cookies and weight loss usually don't go hand-in-hand. But, in the 1970's, Florida physician Sanford Siegal came up with a proprietary blend of amino acids that he thought would help people lose weight—to get his patients to take them, he baked them into cookies and told them to eat six of them per day, in addition to a 300-calorie dinner. The diet became a huge success and spawned other variations of diets where you eat only specially formulated cookies.
Why it's the worst: In Siegal's diet, people ate only 800 calories a day—so, while they did lose weight, it was probably due to the severe calorie restriction and not the special cookies. Experts recommend not dropping below 1200 calories per day for safe and healthy weight loss. Although we dare say there is room in any healthy diet for a tasty cookie now and then (like these 10 Healthy Cookie Recipes for Fall), it shouldn't be all you eat.
The diet: Babies are adorable! Who wouldn't want to look like a tiny, smooth-skinned cherub? So perhaps it makes sense that Tracy Anderson, noted workout guru to Gwyneth Paltrow, would come up with the idea of copying the way babies eat. Anderson recommended replacing two meals a day with jarred baby food (yes, the stuff in the baby aisle that you feed to infants with no teeth), saying it would make you lose weight and "detox."
Why it's the worst: While an 18-pound baby may be able to live on 600 calories a day (the amount recommended in the diet), that's dangerously low for adults. Plus, one of the best things about being a grown-up is having enough teeth to chew delicious food. So why settle for vegetable mush when you could enjoy one of these 12 Sensational Vegetable Recipes?
The diet: We're all for spending more time outdoors (try these 10 New Outdoor Workout Ideas!). But people who follow Breatharianism believe that one only needs air and sunlight to survive—meaning, they believe that food and water are unnecessary. Instead of eating, they focus on being one with nature. Some people use the diet as a lifestyle, while others follow it as type of the Hindu religion.
Why it's the worst: Surviving solely on air sounds so absurd that it might be funny—except people have actually been hospitalized and even died from the resulting starvation and dehydration. Hindu scholars and research scientists have dismissed the claims as fraudulent.