Looking Back Jan. 16

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Tuesday is "Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day," concentrating on diet products that defraud, disable and can even cause death. About one-third of Americans are clinically obese and at risk for diabetes and heart problems. It can be amazing just what some people will try. Here are just a few examples.

Appetoff Diet Patches (1989)

These patches claimed to suppress the appetite control center in the brain. A drop or two of herbal liquid was placed on an adhesive bandage, which was then affixed to the wrist at an "acupuncture" point. Calling diet patches "Snake-Oil on a Band-Aid," consumer activists likened them to "putting nothing on no place." Meditrend reportedly took in $13 million with this product in five months. In a label review, FDA pulled this product off the market and destroyed $25 million in Appetoff diet patch kits.

Acu-stop 2000 ear device

An acupuncture device to curb the appetite, Acu-Stop is a clear plastic, teardrop-shaped object that fits into the ear, similar to a hearing aid. Instructions say to insert it in the right ear with the "bumps" inside, and wear it 15-20 minutes, six times a day or more "as necessary" to control hunger. "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!" A tantalizing clincher adds, "If you lose too much weight, discontinue use immediately."(Only $39.99)

Elysee Body Toner Belt

A battery-operated passive exercise belt, it claimed to contract your muscles 300 times a minute, a "total workout" touted to reduce sagging and "cellulite." The belt's four pads supposedly deliver only gentle shocks that promote this muscle contraction. Variations of this product are still available.

Jana Skinny Water

Another craze to hit the shelves is this bottled water that claims to help people lose weight. Claims are that this "100 percent natural water" with its added "essential nutrients" helps reduce body weight, curbs appetite, blocks carbohydrates and increases fat burning, without stimulating the nervous system, and gives you a "pure water taste with a hint of fresh lemon."

Skineez jeans (2008)

A new item in the fight against cellulite, Skineez jeans are impregnated with a so-called "medication" of retinol and chitosan, a shellfish product once claimed to cut fat absorption in the stomach. Friction between the jeans and skin supposedly triggers release of the substance, which goes to work on fat when absorbed through the skin. Each pair sells for $139.

The Chewing Diet

This weight loss plan was popularized in the Edwardian Era by Horace Fletcher. He believed that chewing allowed food to be properly absorbed into the body and that insufficient chewing would lead to constipation and clog up the digestive tract. According to Fletcher, he lost 40 pounds in just four months using the diet he created. A person must chew each bite 32 or more times. After the chewing is done, the person then tilts his or her head back and allows the food to trickle down their throat. Anything that is still too big to swallow must be spit out.

Forking Diet

Dieters are only allowed to eat food that can be prepared and eaten with a fork. No slicing, dicing, spreading, grating, rolling or scooping, which is meant to prevent eating calorie-laden condiments, big hunks of red meat, carb-laden breads and other dieting distractions.

Cotton Ball Diet

The only items on this diet's menu are cotton balls. The balls can either be eaten dry or soaked in gelatin. Weight will be lost but the digestive system will suffer greatly.

Tapeworm Diet

Around the turn of the century, tapeworms were sold in a simple pill form containing eggs of the parasite. The eggs were allowed to grow in the body for 10 weeks. After the 10 weeks, a medication was taken to kill the tapeworms and pass them out in fecal matter. Weight loss averaged between 10 and 20 pounds. Some brave (or ignorant) folks would swallow a live tapeworm. Note: there have been documented deaths from this diet.

There's more...

* The first recorded diet was in 1087 when, unable to ride his favorite horse because he was too chubby, William the Conqueror crafted the beer-only diet. The diet program didn't work. Instead the guy fell off his struggling horse and died.

* On the Inuit (Eskimo) diet in the late 1920s, people were told that they should either eat the meat or the fat so they could lose weight. That diet didn't last too long.

* In the 1820s, a Presbyterian preacher concerned about obesity and masturbation pushed the Graham diet, which included coffee, veggies and the "Graham" cracker. The diet was a hit with school officials, who forced the diet on young men.

* A large portion of Benito Mussolini's diet consisted solely of milk. He hid this habit from Adolf Hitler because he thought the habit was "unfascist."

* Automobile magnate Henry Ford took to eating weed sandwiches on a regular basis after hearing that George Washington Carver - a dietitian as well as a scientist - did the same.

A bit of humor...

* The most fattening thing you can put in an ice cream sundae is a spoon.

* The toughest part of a diet isn't watching what you eat. It's watching what other people eat.

* It's not the minutes spent at the table that put on weight; it's the seconds.

* Dieting is the penalty for exceeding the feed limit.

* Diets are for people who are thick and tired of it.

* Dieting is something most of us do religiously. We eat what we want and pray we don't gain weight.