Tag Archives: Vomitoriums

Still Crazy – Fad Diets Throughout History

I’ve never had much to do with fad diets. This is not to say I haven’t been intrigued by them. I just generally lack the willpower required to actually follow through, let alone go to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients. In high school I did try the cabbage soup diet. I got my mom to make a whole pot and vowed it was all I was going to ingest for the week. Overall, the soup was not inedible (my mom’s a really good cook), but it certainly did not leave one begging for seconds. Needless to say it was the only bowl of cabbage soup I ate.

Fad diets aren’t new. Despite our nostalgia for the good old days when a little chub signified health and wealth, diets go back farther then you probably think. As we look at fad diets this week on Digitally Delicious, I’ll start off your week with a little history lesson on dieting through the ages…

100 B.C. The ancient Romans – perhaps civilization’s first bulimics: History tells of the Romans purging between courses to make room for seconds. Even Julius Caesar was documented in taking part in this gluttonous tradition. Contrary to modern day bulimics, it doesn’t appear they were concerned so much about weight as they were about consuming as much food as humanly possible. It is often mistaken that Roman Vomitoriums were the site of these less than savoury actions, but the name is more of a coincidence. Vomitoriums were really just large doorways in public buildings that allowed mobs to be ‘vomited’ into the streets after events.

1087: The Alcohol Diet: If you are thinking this sounds too good to be true you are right. England’s William the Conqueror took to consuming nothing but alcohol in an effort to lose weight. The logic followed that it was food that made you fat, and what better way to curb your appetite for food than with bevvies? Apparently this diet did not work for William who was noted as being too fat to fit in his own coffin. I don’t think it’s worked for many people since either. None the less, 1950’s books such as ‘The Drinking Man’s Diet’ and ‘Drink, Eat, and be Thin’ encouraged people to drink alcohol to lose weight.

Early 1900’s: The Tapeworm Diet. This one is pretty straightforward. Ingest a tapeworm, eat all the food you want, let your new parasitic friend do what it does best, and most importantly – enjoy your fabulous new figure! Never mind the more unpleasant side effects of diarrhea, meningitis, and dementia. As crazy as it sounds, the Tapeworm Diet keeps resurfacing. In the 1950’s rumours swirled that opera star Maria Callas had lost 65 pounds by purposely eating a tapeworm. Turns out that while the tapeworm part is true, she probably ate it by accident. Like a parasite you can’t shed, some fads just keep coming back. The Tapeworm diet was even featured on this year’s opening episode of The Office

Kelly Kapoor: “I swallowed a tapeworm last night. It’s going to grow up to three feet inside of me, and then it eats all of my food so that I don’t get fat. And then after three months, I take some medicine, and then I pass it. Creed solid it to me. it’s from Mexico.”

1925: The Cigarette Diet. Still popular with models and Hollywood celebrities, cigarettes were originally advertised as a way to curb your appetite. In fact, doctors actually endorsed cigarettes for a variety of ‘benefits’ until the 1950’s. Today, the ‘Cigarette Diet‘ has taken on a new form and is a way to gradually stop smoking – not eating.

As crazy as these fad diets sound, we shouldn’t feel too superior when comparing ourselves to the pioneers of fad diets. While it’s true we know more today about how to maintain a healthy weight than in years past, many people are still desperate for that  ‘quick fix’. Eating disorders, weight loss pills, liposuction, eating nothing but grapefruit / hotdogs / cabbage soup / bacon – the list goes on and on. In my opinion, if it sounds to good to be true – it probably is. Moderation is the key to most things in life and a reasonably good diet paired with a little exercise really isn’t asking too much is it? I’ll leave you with a little food for thought – a quote on the matter from the official ‘Tapeworm Diet‘ website and you can be the judge…

“The best “solution” we have is the message of diet and exercise, while a noble message it is also an abject failure… Does anyone not know they should be eating a healthy diet and exercising? The tapeworm diet is an all natural technology that provides a welcomed relief from the manufactured, high-tech and potentially toxic therapies available”



Filed under Fad Diets