It seems not a day goes by when we’re not being told the most effective way to lose weight and live healthily. Whether it’s Paleo Pete telling us to eat like a caveman or a “medical expert” preaching the virtues of some ancient tribal remedy, when it comes to finding a diet that’s right for us, there’s no shortage of choice.
The World’s Best Diet takes a look at dietary and eating habits around the globe to discover what works and what doesn’t when it comes to health, longevity and weight loss. In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the less effective (read: seriously unusual) ways people around the world have attempted to live longer and trim the fat…
The Fat Black (Bulletproof) Diet (Nepal)
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey reckons his 36 kilogram weight loss was down to one thing: a daily dose of “bulletproof coffee”, a calorie-rich cup of espresso blended with butter and oil. According to his website it not only helps you trim down, it boosts energy and promotes brain power. Apparently his eureka moment came from feeling “euphoric” after a cup of yak butter tea during a trek in the Himalayas. While Nepalese people have included yak butter as a diet staple for years, I’m wondering if perhaps Dave’s high was less the cuppa and more the altitude…
Ear Stapling (China/USA)
Apparently this non-diet “diet” involves your friendly GP placing a staple - yes, a staple - inside your ear to target a pressure point which curbs your appetite. While there is absolutely no science to back this up, there are plenty of cases of it causing ear infections and jaw pain so severe people lose the ability to chew, so I guess that means it’s totally legit. The practice of ear stapling is said to come from Chinese acupuncture principles but it’s most commonly practised in the USA.
The Air Diet (France)
A few years ago a French Women's magazine actually published an article advocating the “Air Diet” which basically involves eating, well, air. Cook what you like, serve it on your finest china with your shiniest silverware, lift it to your mouth and then… just smell it. Apparently this “tricks” the mind into thinking it’s actually eaten. Mmkay.
The Fork Diet (France)
Another one from the French - the “fork diet” only allows you to consume foods that can be eaten and prepared with a fork, which, really just means you’ve got to get creative. My first question: how big can the fork be? Is a BBQ fork allowed? What about a trident? I feel like this diet is only as restrictive as your imagination…
The Sandwich Diet (Spain)
This is a diet with only two rules:
- You must substitute one daily meal with a sandwich
- Whatever you eat must fit between two pieces of bread. No side dishes or snacking.
It’s not clear exactly why it started in Spain and most of the evidence of weight loss is just anecdotal, but proponents claim to lose up to five kilograms in a month on this diet. Like the fork diet, this one is really only limited by your imagination…
Lots of dieticians advocated eating slowly to curb your appetite, so I guess Horace Fletcher was onto something back in the late 1800s when he promoted a diet that involved chewing each mouthful of food at least 32 times (once fore each tooth) before swallowing. The intention was to “liquidise” it so that it would slip down the throat easily and you would feel fuller faster. If it didn’t become liquid, you had to spit it out into a bucket. Fletcher also recommended only eating when you are hungry and not eating when you are depressed - which was remarkably ahead of his time.
The Magnetic Ring Diet (Mexico)
Ah, the crazy informercial. Better yet, the crazy weight-loss infomercial. It’s hard to describe to you exactly how this “magnetic” ring works because I don’t speak Spanish, but it’s got something to do with swapping it to a different finger each day depending on what area you want to target… which sounds absolutely foolproof to me!
The Vision Diet (Japan)
According to research, the colour blue is said to suppress the appetite - it’s why most logos are in bright shades of red and yellow (hello, McDonald's!). While some dieticians recommend eating off blue plates, a Japanese company took this one step further by creating “diet sunglasses” which are blue-tinted to make your food look unappealing.
Tapeworms (Mexico) and Roundworms (China)
Apparently in the 1920s you could wander into an American pharmacy and pick up a diet pill… containing a live tapeworm. The idea was the worm would hook onto your stomach lining and eat your food, and you’d lose weight. While the importation of tapeworms to the USA is illegal, there are designated centres in Mexico and parts of South America where you can have a tapeworm implanted in order to lose weight.
In China, female students have been reportedly doing a version of this diet, ingesting roundworms in order to appear thin for job interviews. The roundworm has much the same effect as the tapeworm, hatching in the stomach and consuming your lunch, but its side effects include respiratory failure, liver disease and pneumonia.
Based veeerrry loosely on Indian Aruyvedic principles, this one is basically an extreme take on the air diet… only you eat nothing at all. You literally just survive on your breath - and a bit of sunshine. Many practitioners believe they don’t need food because they’re instead sustained purely by a “vital life force”, which is ironic when you consider three people have died undertaking this “diet”. Indian guru Prahlad Jani recommends breatharianism and claims he hasn’t had any food or drink for 70 years.
The Morning Banana Diet (Japan)
Ever been in Japan and tried to buy a banana before noon? It’s impossible and it’s largely because of this diet trend which involves eating a banana and a glass of water for breakfast, and then whatever you like during the day so long as you stop eating four hours before bedtime. It started with one woman's attempt to help her overweight husband lose weight. He lost almost 20 kilograms on this “diet” and her subsequent blogging about it made them both famous. Japan was even forced to increase banana imports in order to meet the demand!
The Man Juice Diet (USA)
This one is my favourite. Kim Kelly, a pornographic actress and escort from LA, created a high protein diet that she claims helped her lose almost 10 kilograms. It was a diet she could do on the job, so to speak. Put simply, it involved swallowing semen, and nothing but semen, for 30 days. Apparently she had some banana smoothies and a bit of broccoli, too, cos you gotta get your greens somehow… Since she’s probably the only person who has ever tried it, it’s hard to verify how well this diet works, but to me, it seems a bit...
Watch The World's Best Diet on Thursday, 7 July at 7:30pm (AEST) on SBS.
After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.