Have You Heard About This New Tongue-Patch Diet? Plus 9 Other Bizarre Weight Loss Fads Through History

Wrap yourself in rubber, bring a clean change of underpants and get ready to VIBRATE!
Publish date:
June 13, 2013
weight loss, fat, diets

HEY KIDS! Have you occasionally thought to yourself, “Gosh, I bet I could eat less and lose weight if only I had some kind of pain-inducing obstruction implanted on my tongue! WHERE IS THE WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTION FOR ME?”

GOOD NEWS: One Dr. Nikolas Chugay, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, has just what you’re looking for with his Miracle Patch. Basically, for the low price of $2000 US dollars, the doctor will take a piece of an abrasive medical plastic called Marlex -- a trademarked substance which began life in hula hoops of the 1950s but is now used in hernia repair procedures -- and stitch it to the patient’s tongue. Where I guess it rubs against your tongue and hurts a lot.

The result is that chewing food is so very difficult and painful that the patient is encouraged, by pain, I guess, to keep to a liquid diet. (There’s some kinda gross pictures of it in the Huffington Post, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Oh, and the patch can only remain in place for a month at a time, lest it FUSE TO THE SURFACE OF THE TONGUE FOREVER. According to Dr. Chugay’s website, over 60 people have undergone this procedure in his office so far (“patients are typically able to return to work the next day”!), and I’m sure with the increasing media coverage that number will keep growing.

Also, the procedure has gained steam in other countries -- like in Venezula, where you can get patched for as little as $180, and where tongue-patches are allegedly flying off the proverbial shelves.

I don’t know that I have to explain why I find this so distressing. I mean, I don’t want to get judgey, but if you’re resorting to what is essentially surgically-implanted chronic self-injury to lose weight, that signals a problem to me. This patch works because it causes you pain if you try to eat solid food, and something about that makes me really troubled.

When I first heard about this procedure, which has been available since 2009 and is yet to be approved by the FDA, it reminded me of the equally weird practice of electively getting one’s jaw wired shut to force oneself to keep to a liquid diet for weight loss -- an idea I had assumed had fallen out of favor in the past couple of decades, but which some people are still apparently doing. There’s also YouTube videos of this procedure. Which I’m not including because they made me want to throw up. It's one thing to need jaw-wiring following an injury, but to do it exclusively to prevent yourself from chewing food freaks me out a little.

While this tongue-patch idea may seem bizarre and unreal, the truth is people have been doing all manner of wacky shit in the hopes of losing weight. Like, going back a hundred years.

What kind of wacky shit? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.


It’s sort of a quietly acknowledged truth that even today, many women who smoke appreciate cigarettes’ propensity for appetite suppression and satisfying the oral fixation one might otherwise indulge with actual food. But once upon a time, cigarette companies advertised their products as beneficial for weight loss, like, outright.

The most popular examples were from Lucky Strike’s mid-1920s campaign that encouraged women to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” and which eventually tapped Amelia Earhart as a spokesperson. These ads often suggested that even if you weren’t fat NOW, you probably would GET fat in time, UNLESS you start smoking immediately.

And lest you think this all fell by the wayside when the health risks of smoking came to light, nevertheless, by the late 1960s, Virginia Slims would take up the smoking-makes-you-skinny ideology and make Philip Morris a whole lot of money. Because hey, sometimes being thin is WAY more valuable than not having lung cancer.


Rubber as aid to a slender figure first began showing up in rubber corsets of the early 1900s, and continued on as rubber girdles right into the 1960s. Alleging to “melt” fat away without the need for dietary changes or exercise of any sort, these garments did probably make a lady feel a bit slimmer owing to the compression factor, but their promises of pounds and inches forever lost by rubber-enabled magic went unrealized.

Early rubber corsets were often perforated with holes that served as ventiliation -- necessary mercies given the probable discomfort of being wrapped up in rubber all day even in mild weather -- but which were also advertised as somehow forming tiny suction vortexes that, I guess, squirted the fat right out of you.

It’s also amusing how many of these garments were careful to note that they only reduced fattery where they were applied, as probably a lot of women were cool with de-fleshing their waist by rubber magic but weren’t so keen on seeing their boobs or hips melt away as well, depending on the era and the figure in style at the time.

Obviously, these didn’t work, except insofar as they would probably make you sweat out some water weight. Evidently these garments caused a LOT of illness, especially in hot weather. It seems people mistook all the sweat for melting fat? Which, ew.


This is one of those things that seems like it should be an urban legend, but there is some evidence that tapeworms -- likely in cyst form, which would upon ingestion ostensibly infect the new host with a wormy weight loss friend -- were sold in pills as diet aids in the early 20th century. The assumption is often that people who chose this route would literally swallow living worms, but this is way unlikely; even people living in the late 1800s would have been grossed out by that.

Instead, the idea was to infect oneself with the larval worm, which would then amiably dig its hooks into one’s intestine and start a-growin’, slurping up the food you’ve eaten in the process. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t have worked, because even a pretty big tapeworm wouldn’t be able to keep up with a standard human diet, and would just lead to a lot of bowel issues and nutritional deficiencies.

There’s actually more to the horrors of tapeworms, such as worms hitting the highway that is your circulatory system and taking up residence in your still-alive eyeballs and/or brain, such that it seems unlikely that this would have been popular to all but the most desperate dieters. But still, some people probably tried it. Shudder.


Okay, so soap and other bathtime lotions and creams that promise to kill fat still exist. Some companies have whole expensive product lines dedicated to the idea. Although today we call it “cellulite” and pretend it’s some kind of special substance we can erase by rubbing enough pricey goop on our skin. Wikipedia says cellulite is found in 80%-90% of post-adolescent females. When something is that common? It’s not special. It’s just fat.

ANYWAY, soapy solutions for fattery are not a new invention -- again, they can be traced to the turn of the 20th century, where I guess the growing proliferation of advertising meant people could be convinced ANYTHING was true if they saw it in print. Like the others, defatting soap was said to make you magically skinny just by a good daily scrubbing.

But only wash the parts you want to smallen! I kinda wonder if women were using this and maybe got some soap on one boob by accident and freaked out thinking that boob was going to shrink a bunch and make her all lopsided.

You know this probably happened.


These old-timey relics gained their greatest popularity in the 1950s and 60s as an “easy” way to lose weight without actually doing anything. Indeed, the biggest part of their appeal was that you could just stand there while they machine did the hard work of vibrating all the fat off your body.

I honestly don’t understand how ANYONE thought these could work, unless maybe they had a seriously confused sense of how exercise actually happens. Nevertheless, they were very popular, found in homes, gyms, and even on trains.

Again, they still exist! Although now they’re battery powered and can fit in a drawer when not in use. They still don’t work.


The hCG diet has enjoyed a new surge in popularity over the past few years, but this diet was in fact invented in the 1950s by a British endocrinologist, Albert T.W. Simeons. hCG is a hormone produced by the body during the first trimester of pregnancy (you might also know it as the fateful hormone that your standard pee-stick pregnancy test is looking for).

Simeons’ bright idea was to inject non-pregnant dieters with hCG in the belief that it would tell their brains to start burning up all their fat to protect a nonexistent developing fetus.

OH, and also on this diet you eat something on the order of 500 calories a day. But you’re supposed to believe that’s just like, incidental, and any weight loss is actually due to the brain-rewiring power of the pregnancy hormones you’re getting. (For reference, the Food and Drug Administration considers the “average” diet to consist of 2,000 calories per day, give or take a few, depending on factors like age, build and activity level. The FDA is also not real happy about the use of hCG, which is approved as a fertility treatment, for weight loss.)

Remember what I said before about urine? Yeah, that’s where this comes from. The hCG is extracted from pregnant ladies’ pee. Which alllll the hCG diet websites are careful to note is like, really thoroughly cleaned before they give it to you. So it’s not like you’re injecting yourself (or having a doctor inject you) with the piss of knocked-up women. You’re just injecting yourself with PART OF the piss of knocked-up women. Or, if you’re using synthetic hCG, the piss of pregnant rats. Not sure which is better.

Either way, it doesn’t work, as many reputable studies have repeatedly proven. IF you lose weight, it’s because you’re eating 500 freaking calories a day. I mean OBVIOUSLY. The hCG has nothing to do with it. (The other big question I’ve always had about this diet is how they get the pee. Like, is there a whole cottage industry of fetus-growing women selling their urine to laboratories? And what is a liter of hCG pee worth?)

ORLISTAT (aka Alli)

Orlistat, also known over-the-counter as Alli, first started gaining attention as a weight loss drug in the late 90s, and is what sciencey types call a lipase inhibitor. In the simplest terms, you swallow it as a pill, and it goes to work slurping up some percentage (depending on dosage -- it's about 25% with OTC Alli) of the fat you eat. If the fat’s sucked up by the inhibitor, you can’t digest it! That’s the selling point! But there is a down side! A really troubling down side.

See, Orlistat/Alli is the product that introduced the world at large to the concept of “anal leakage,” two words often mentioned in the epic list of side effects ticked off in its early TV commercials, if I recall correctly, which aired with little regard for times when people might be eating and not wanting to think about what “anal leakage” might mean.

Naturally, once all that fat gets vacuumed up, it’s not as if a pack of glittering slender-fairies come and whisk it out of your body like magic. It has to come out the normal way. It comes out where many of the waste products you produce come out. It comes out of your butt.

Alli has been available over the counter since 2007, and although its lowered dosage is less likely to be connected to the liver damage associated (albeit in an uncertain way) with its prescription-only sibling, its potential side effects of both are pretty much the same, including but not limited to: oily or fatty stools, gas with oily discharge (AKA a greasy shart, I guess), an urgent need to go to the bathroom or a general inability to control bowel movements, and “excessive flatus.”

But don’t stress, all that just means it’s WORKING! These underpants-soiling side effects can be lessened by sticking to a low-fat diet, but if a low-fat diet is what you’re after, JUST EAT A LOW-FAT DIET, and maybe skip the pills and their "bowel changes." There are lots of people with health issues that cause intrusive bowel issues they DON’T want; it seems bizarre to me to induce them in an otherwise healthy digestive tract in the hopes of losing weight.


The idea here is that you get a staple stuck in a particular place in your ear, corresponding to acupuncture points, but unlike acupuncture it just stays there for a couple months, suppressing your appetite or whatever. One site promises a weight loss of 2 to 5 pounds a week for women, and 4 to 11 pounds a week for men.

Guys, I’m out of wit. Plumb out. Staple your ears. I don’t care anymore.

This isn’t even everything. I could keep going, if the anal leakage hadn’t just completely destroyed my spirit. There are so many absurd things we do to ourselves in the hope of achieving easy no-effort weight loss, often when the high-effort stuff has already been tried and didn’t work.

As long as we hate and fear fatness, people will keep coming around to exploit that loathing, even against our own common sense. It seemingly never ends. I sometimes wonder if fifty years from now we’ll look back on lap bands and gastric bypass surgery and laugh at how ridiculous it was that anybody ever thought THAT was a good idea. It’s possible.

But then people are having abrasive plastic sewn to their tongues even today. So who knows what ridiculousness the future holds. Maybe we’ll even start accepting that bodies come in a range of sizes, that achieving some universalized standard of health is not a moral imperative, and that diversity is a natural part of human existence.

Haha, nah, that’s just CRAZY.