Hundred years of bizarre weight loss trends – from sedating yourself for 20 hours a day to cocaine and tapeworm diets – The Sun

THERE'S nothing better than a bit of healthy eating and exercise to shift those troublesome pounds – but some of us still can't resist resorting to the latest, drastic weight loss fad.

Most recently, Towie star Gemma Collins admitted her incredible three stone weight loss was down to using controversial 'skinny jabs'.

And while the reality star looks fabulous, the 39-year-old has also been met with criticism for promoting the appetite-suppressing jabs, which cost up to £350 for a four week programme and contain the ingredient liraglutide, which carries many health risks. 

She's not alone in trying different dieting techniques. A recent poll claimed the average person will try a whopping 126 fad diets in their life time – an average of two a year.

Typically these are then abandoned after just six days, with the most common and less controversial diets nowadays including the Atkins Diet, the 5:2, and the cabbage soup diet.

However, if you think these sound like extreme ways to lose weight, you're lucky you weren't trying to shift the pounds a few decades earlier.

Here, Sun Online uncovers some of the most bizarre – and potentially deadly – weight loss trends that have been tried over the last 100 years – absolutely none of which we recommend trying…

Tapeworms and the cocaine diet

Believe it or not, cocaine was once prescribed as a 'miracle drug' that could cure a plethora of problems, and was also associated with weight loss.

In the early 1900s, the now-class A drug was sold over the counter and widely promoted as a medicine used for a variety of ailments including sexual impotence and toothache, and it was even included in soft drink Coca-cola until it was banned in 1903.

While times have changed, it's also a drug still commonly associated with the modelling industry and catwalk, as models vie to stay slim.

Model Sophie Anderton – who at one point weighed six and a half stone as a result of her former addiction – told the Independent: "The enormous pressures to stay thin in the industry almost lend themselves to take a substance well known for suppressing appetite."

Around the same time cocaine first rose in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century, tapeworms were also considered a grim way to aid weight loss too.

Desperate dieters would swallow beef tapeworm cysts in the form of a pill, and the tapeworm would digest food eaten and ideally cause weight loss – as well as often cause diarrhoea and vomiting.

However, this was of course not without other risks too.

The worms could grow up to 30 feet long, and could cause headaches, eye problems and meningitis, among others.

Smoked to be skinny

During the 1920s, people trying to lose weight and become fitter were – ironically, given what we know now – actively encouraged to smoke more. 

The idea was cigarettes would stave off hunger pangs, and and suppress their appetite.

Around this time, people were beginning to cotton on to the fact smoking could have negative health impacts, so tobacco companies used this 'positive' as a way to sell their product in a good light.

For example, Lucky Strike opted for the 'catchy' slogan: "Light a Lucky, and you'll never miss sweets that make you fat."

Another advertising campaign recommended: "When tempted to over-indulge, reach for a Lucky instead."

Pesticide used as 'slimming pills'

Dinitrophenol was one of the first antiobesity drugs, used in the 1930s, but was banned in the US in 1938 due to its 'adverse' effects. 

It has a variety of industrial uses, including as a photographic chemical, a fertilizer, pesticide and in the manufacturing of dyes and explosives.

This chemical can also increase a person's metabolic rate, which meant it became linked to weight loss – but it also has dangerous side effects and is still used by some today, with sometimes deadly results.

21-year-old Eloise Parry was one of 10 people to have died in the UK since 2015 after taking the toxic slimming aid dinitrophenol, also known as DNP.

Sarah Houston died in 2012 as a result of taking DNP, fatally overheating after buying the 'slimming pills' online.

At least 12 other women who took it lost their eyesight. Other people lost their sense of taste, and it was known to cause skin rashes, dizziness, headaches and an irregular heartbeat. 


Amphetamines, also known as speed, is now a Class B drug, and is often taken as a powder or crystals, known to make the user feel alert and excited.

In the 1940s and 50s however, doctors would prescribe amphetamine pills for weight loss. 

The adverts told women specifically that if they wanted to lose weight, if they took a couple of grams of amphetamine, they would be able to 'slim while you do the housework'.

The 'Sleeping Beauty' diet

Its name may make it sound like a fairy tale way to lose weight – however, the Sleeping Beauty diet is anything but. 

An extremely dangerous weight-loss method, reportedly popular with Elvis Presley in the 1960s or 70s when he needed to fit into tight stage costumes, it basically follows the idea that if you're asleep you won't be hungry. 

The 'diet' sometimes also encourages the use of sedatives to sleep for up to 20 hours, thus limiting the time you can spend eating.

These sedative drugs such as Zanax can be highly addictive, and also have a high risk of overdose.

It's a fad that has been around for decades, and unfortunately is still popular with those suffering eating disorders.

So while it's not 'slim pickings' when it comes to the number of diets out there to choose from, as these demonstrate, it's important to do your research and choose a sensible and balanced diet and fitness plan.

If you want to lose weight healthily, it is strongly recommended you seek expert advice. If you are worried about yourself or someone you know and their diet, visit Beat for advice on eating disorders.



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