Horace Fletcher was an American food faddist who advocated that food should be chewed thoroughly until it liquefied and only then swallowed. His method of food mastication was known as ‘Fletcherism’. Although never advocated by medical experts, Fletcherism did generate hype during the lifetime of its propagator and garnered attention at the turn of the 19th century. In 1913, Horace Fletcher had exulted about losing sixty pounds of fat and feeling better than he had felt in twenty years. His head felt clear, his body felt elastic, he enjoyed walking, had not had a bout of cold for five months, and not felt tired at all.
Fletcherism had many admirers including John D. Rockefeller and Mark Twain. However, there were other strange and sometimes bizarre diets from the past which were in vogue during the past century. A list of them is given below:
- Chewing one’s food
Fletcher’s idea was simple: to chew one’s food into pulp before ultimately swallowing. This would slow down one’s eating and also encourage one to eat less and lose weight. There was also a moral component to Fletcherism. Fletcher stated that the first rule of his ideas was that a person should feel gratitude and express appreciation for all the bounty which nature has bestowed on humankind. Fletcher felt that millions of people would have found health and happiness through paying attention to their dietary habits.
- Cutting down on sugar and starch
William Banting’s diet was something he learned from the physician William Harvey. It doesn’t sound strange at all. Its main rule is that one should avoid starches and sugars. However, in the 1860s, what this actually meant was bizarre. Banting’s recommended breakfast included beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon, or cold meat of any type except pork, a large cup of tea without milk or sugar, a little biscuit, or dry toast.
- Eating only eggs, steak, and wine
Helen Gurley Brown, the magazine editor of Cosmopolitan recommended the following diet in 1962 for those wishing to lose six pounds in two days: Breakfast was an egg, no butter, and one glass of white wine. Lunch included a repeat of double the portions of breakfast while dinner consisted of steak and the rest of the bottle of wine. Brown who was obese used to complain that people were very arrogant when she tried to join a debate on diet.
- Drinking milk and eating vegetables for easier flatulence
George Cheyne is often credited with starting the trend of diet doctors when he promoted his own ‘milk and seed’ diet in the early 18th century. He advocated a vegetarian diet, especially elaborating its benefits on sleep. This combined with fasting and exercise enabled him to overcome problems of abdominal gas, bloating, and flatulence which had robbed him of his sleep.
- Eating only Lamb chops, Pineapple and Black Coffee
For those wishing to eat meat and fruits in a diet, a film actress from the 1920s, Nita Naldi advocated a diet of lamb meat, pineapple, and black coffee with no sugar. She is reported to have dropped 20 pounds after the media had criticized her weight. Though it helped her, Naldi recalled that at one point in time she felt so hungry that she nearly fainted during an interview. She felt that to be beautiful, one had to suffer the torments of hell.
- Eating only cabbage soup
Though eating soup was a traditional method of weight loss, it was not advised medically. The diet of eating only cabbage soup became a popular one in the 1950s and lasted till the 1990s. It became popular due to a letter that was circulated via fax to schools, hospitals, offices, and every corner of society. It ended up being featured in notable media outlets like Cosmo, GQ, and The Washington Post. However, The New York Times reported that no one even knew where this diet had come from.
- Consumption of only liquid proteins
In 1976, Dr. Robert Linn published ‘The Last Chance Diet’, which set off a trend, several lawsuits, and a hearing of the US Congress regarding some deaths which had been reported due to the diet. The diet prescribed eating nothing except liquid proteins, which could be provided by products like Prolinn, GroLean, and Super Pro-Gest. However, consumption of only liquid proteins was not a good idea at all for losing weight and this could be gauged by people with a little common sense.