Published on January 18, 2016
Just when you think you’ve heard about all the crazy, idiotic, ridiculous (and oftentimes dangerous) weight loss gimmicks, I’ll write about another one. As with The Cigarette Diet, which I wrote about in Take a Puff, Lose a Pound, here’s another from the you-can’t-make-this-sh*t-up department.
Ever hear of The Tapeworm Diet? This particular diet came about at the turn of the century. Here’s a print ad from circa 1901.
The Tapeworm Diet is one in which you ingest eggs of the beef tapeworm parasite (the Taenia saginata) — which can grow to 30 feet! — to decrease appetite and interfere with the digestion and absorption of food. The worm’s got little hooks on the head, and it attaches to the intestinal wall of its host and absorbs nutrients as it continues to grow and produce eggs, which can then be shed in the feces. When you’ve reached your goal weight, you take an antibiotic that kills the tapeworm but then you must expel it. The side effects of having a tapeworm can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and anal irritation (from worms or worm segments exiting the anus).
Doesn’t that sound swell?!
Here are two views of a tapeworm:
How’d ya like to have that pretty parasite taking up residence in your intestines?
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, The Tapeworm Diet made a slight comeback in 2009. By that time of course marketing and advertising had come a long way from the turn of the century. Advertisements touted “easy to swallow” and “sanitized tape worms” as a weapon against fat. Ads were also quick to point out the “wonderful” [sarc] thing about this diet was that it was “safe for kids” . . . so the whole family could do it together! Aaah, nothing like family time, eh?
In August 2013, NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, did a story on this. Here’s the link to The Dangers of the Tapeworm Diet.
As crazy and asinine as The Tapeworm Diet sounds, take note of a quote from diet historian and author of the 2010 book, The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight, Susan Yager:
“The only other diet that even halfway compares to the over-the-top nature of The Tapeworm Diet might be the HCG Diet, in which dieters inject themselves with a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women.”
I mention this because the HCG Diet, initially popular 30-40 years ago, has had a resurgence over the last 7-10 years. For those not aware, the HCG Diet is an extreme diet that involves injections of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. In my opinion, this is dangerous on every level, and doctors make a buck or two by offering it to desperate people.
If you’re a chronic gimmick dieter who just doesn’t want to learn how to eat correctly, who doesn’t want to do the work of losing weight in a healthy manner, and who won’t mind the reported side effects of abdominal pain, weakness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and bloating . . . The Tapeworm Diet awaits you. It’s illegal in the United States but, hey . . . don’t let that stop you.