10 Shocking Weight-Loss Methods That People Actually Used To Use

Trying to lose weight can sometimes feel like going 12 rounds with Mike Tyson- you give it your all but ultimately… you’re never going to win.

As we get older, we find bits of fat in places we didn’t know you could get fat. Flaps appear everywhere, not to mention those dreaded bingo-wings that seem to just suddenly turn up when you hit the big four-zero.

Doctors always say “eat well, exercise frequently and you’ll stay in good shape”, but that’s always easier said than done. I mean I’m not cutting freakin’ donuts out of my diet, they’re far too enjoyable!


Some people out there are a lot more dedicated than me though and if you’re one of those actively trying to lose weight then hats off to you, keep going!

For people that can’t afford a gastric band, weight-loss plans like ‘Atkins’ or a ‘no carb’ diet are common routes to take.

Even if you’re just trying to eat better generally, we can all be found guilty of complaining that stopping ourselves from having a second desert is absolute torture. But, when you read this list you’ll start to realise that it’s a walk in the park compared to the lengths our ancestors would go to- We’re talking about methods that would put your life at serious risk!


It’s hard to believe that until fairly recently, some truly horrifying weight-loss methods were being used all the time by the everyday working class. Even the cruelest of people will find some of these haunting.

Take a look for yourself and see if you think you would have ever tried any of these methods.

1. Arsenic

Yep, you read that right, bloomin’ Arsenic! Which, to those who don’t know, is a form of poison. Companies would use the substance in weight-loss capsules which their adverts would claim ‘speed up’ your metabolism. The amount in each pill was said to be minute, but those who were too impatient to see the results would take more than the recommended dose and before you know it… poof (that means dead).

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2. Soap

“Wash away fat and years of age”- some slogan that! If only it were that easy. La-Mar Reducing Soap supposedly acted “like magic to reduce double chin, abdomens, ungainly ankles, unbecoming wrists… or any superfluous fats”. Something tells me that the creator wasn’t exactly what you would call an ‘expert’ in the field of weight-loss. As you can probably imagine, these did nothing but drain your purse.

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3. Tapeworms

Not for the squeamish! Apparently if you swallowed an encapsulated beef tapeworm cyst, the fat would just start falling right off you… Say goodbye to love-handles and hello to that washboard stomach! The worm was supposed to grow inside you whilst absorbing food that would’ve made you fat. In reality the consequences were far more dangerous; the tapeworm would cause you to be so malnourished that you’d start to lose weight but suffer other severe health issues. The solution- simply swallow an anti-parasite to kill the worm. Easy right?

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4. Enemas

You may never have heard of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, but you’ll definitely recognise his brands like Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops. The founder of some really famous cereals brought forward his own methods for dealing with looking a little more horizontal than you’d like.

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Dr. Kellogg operated a sanitarium in which he treated patients with hydro and electroshock therapies, plus yogurt enemas designed to clean out and replace the “intestinal flora”. Sounds so appealing!

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5. Reducing Salons

Fancy trying this the next time you go for a blow-dry? Women had their bodies basically tortured by machines with a terrifying combination of hoses, rolls and air blasters which let’s face it, straight away doesn’t sound relaxing.

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The machines were designed to dissolve fats by shocking and shaking them into submission. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you- they didn’t work.

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So, women were basically paying to be tortured on a Saturday afternoon. Beats sitting at home listening to my husband moan all day I suppose.

6. Sunlight and air diet

It’s all you need right? Who needs food anyway? This is literally what it sounds like- lots of fresh air and sunshine and none of anything else. The starvation diet (as it should be called) was derived from religious beliefs and was considered a ‘spiritual’ way to go. Yeah, all the way to an early grave. The weight-loss plan also emphasized the importance of looking into the sun, which is great if you want to go blind as well!


7. Chew and spit

If you’re not quite hardcore enough for the ‘starve yourself to death’ diet, then this one might be for you. At the turn of the 20th Century, a guy named Horace Fletcher decided that a lot of chewing and spitting was the best way to lose weight. Apparently just chewing food and then spitting it back out meant that you absorbed all the ‘goodness’ and none of the fatty components.


You had to chew a lot though- 700 times for just one shallot. Sounds like a lot of work! Plus, without actually consuming any food, you’d quickly become thin but incredibly malnourished at the same time. It was also supposed to give you odourless poo and to prove this Horace would carry around a sample of his own faeces. I think I’d steer well clear personally!

8. Rubber knickers & corsets

In the mid 1800’s, Charles Goodyear decided that if women and men wore rubber underpants, it would encourage the skin to sweat which would in-turn lead to weight-loss- Because being dehydrated wasn’t a thing back then apparently… What actually happened was skin softened due to prolonged exposure to moisture that made it vulnerable to infections. Great, lose weight and contract Cholera at the same time!

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9. Sauna Pants

Extremely popular in the 70’s and you can see why- stylish right? They basically had the same function as an actual sauna and made you sweat wherever you wore them. They’d knock off a pound or two but you’d be dehydrated, so naturally you’d go and chug a couple of glasses of water and the weight would magically appear again!

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10. Cigarettes

Over the past century there have been plenty of claims made about the supposed health benefits of smoking, and of course they have all been completely disproved. This one though isn’t exactly a complete lie. Cigarettes do suppress your appetite, so you eat less and subsequently lose weight. That’s all well and good if you take getting lung cancer out of the equation…

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There you have it! Some pretty monstrous methods to shed a few pounds and some others that are just downright stupid.

Do you think you’d have been coaxed into trying any of these if you were born a few decades earlier? Let me know in the comments Acidheads!