Episode 65: Nom Nom

Time for nom noms! Shea tells us ab out bad diets, Aaron helps you find healthy food in the dark, and King Shark carries Suicide Squad.

Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that will help you lose weight… by making you lose your appetite.

I’m your host this week, Shea, and with me is:

I’m Aaron, and this week I learned that sex dolls are also alive in the Toy Story universe…

This Week’s Beer

Hitachino Nest Beer – Redrice Ale RR

  • Aaron: 10
  • Shea: 10

Wicked Weightloss

Through a combination of poor self-care and anxiety, I have been able to lose quite a bit of weight over the pandemic. So much that I have had to add holes to my belt and have trouble keeping my pants up, I’m not bragging because I know that as soon as I start taking care of myself that weight will come back. But my baggy pants got me thinking, what are some other stupid ways to lose weight?

Whether it involves eating “miracle” foods or eating very little food there are various reasons why some of these diets are just the absolute worst. Alas, science proves time and time again that watching what you eat and moving more are the real miracle workers. Still, that doesn’t prevent many—and we do mean MANY—fad diets from cropping up, sweeping the nation, and then disappearing into oblivion when they’re rooted out as the false prophets they are. These diets attained the title of the absolute worst.

If you happen to live in close proximity to a swamp, your obesity might not be your fault. At least according to 17th-century writer Thomas Short who, (inexplicably) observed in his amazingly titled treatise, The Causes, and Effects of Corpulence, that fat people mostly live near swamps, and that moving away from said swamps would cause a decrease in body weight. Crazy? Probably. But it does explain Florida.

I’m sure you have all heard of the master cleanse where you drink lemon, honey, and cayenne and pretty much dehydrate yourself skinny, or the cabbage soup diet where you just eat cabbage soup until you’re really sad and skinny but have you ever heard of the tapeworm diet?

The tapeworm diet works by swallowing a pill that has a tapeworm egg inside. When the egg eventually hatches, the tapeworm will grow inside your body and eat whatever you’re eating. The idea is that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight because a tapeworm is eating all your “extra” calories.

There are a few different kinds of tapeworms, but it’s the beef tapeworm or, Taenia saginata, that is usually used in these sorts of quick weight-loss schemes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advertisements touted “easy to swallow,” “sanitized tapeworms” as a weapon against fat – “the ENEMY that is shortening your life,” as one vintage ad recently showcased by the National Women’s History Museum’s website reads.

Capsules sold in the past by snake oil hucksters, and online today, likely contain the microscopic head of a Taenia saginata. When people would order from snake oil medicine kinds of people a weight loss pill, it would be the head of a Taenia saginata … and it would develop into a 30-foot-long tapeworm in your body, the worm would get into your gut – it’s got little hooks on the head – and it would grab onto your intestine and start growing. And, technically, this parasitic infection, called taeniasis, does cause weight loss. Tapeworms will cause you to lose weight because you have this huge worm in your intestines eating your food.

Diet historian Susan Yager, “just cannot believe” people would use tapeworms to shed pounds. Yager, who studied the history of diets in America for her 2010 book, “The Hundred-Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight,” says if people used tapeworms as a weight-loss method, either now or 100 years ago, it’s likely a very small number. The CDC, for example, says that the number of new tapeworm cases is probably fewer than 1,000 – and many of those cases may be from undercooked beef or pork.

“Probably, some people have done it. I have no question in my mind that people have done everything in the world to try to lose weight,” Yager says. “But I don’t think it was ever widespread.”

Want to lose weight, but have trouble curbing those hunger pangs? Then put some dirt in your water. Problem solved!”

So claim the advocates of the clay diet. The idea is that bentonite clay — a super-absorbent volcanic ash — will remove toxins and heavy metals from your body. Upon ingestion, the clay swells up to twelve times its size and pushes out slow-moving waste in the gut, boosting your metabolism. Stars like Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz have done it, and you can find clay pills on the market, too. The main selling point is weight loss. Want to lose ten pounds in twelve days? Sign me up, right?

Slow down. Dr Anton Emmanuel, a gastroenterologist at University College Hospital, London, says: ‘The clay acts as a resin and binds everything — both good and bad — making it harder for the body to digest vital nutrients such as iron and calcium.’ Eating clay can also perforate your bowels and cause heart and failure.

People love the word “detox.” Did you know the body detoxes itself? Your liver and kidneys do it all day long. If you want to curb hunger, have a snack rich in protein and fiber–like fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Time and portion your snacks so that you don’t overeat, but no need to go hungry. Just don’t eat dirt.

Ever been yelled at by your mom to chew your food? Well Horace Fletcher, founder of the Flecherizing Diet, took it to a whole new level. The idea is to chew all foods (and liquids, which we’re still trying to figure out) 100 times before swallowing.

“Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate,” claimed Dr. Horace Fletcher, founder of one of the first-ever fad diets. This Victorian-era doctor one-upped your mom by not only telling you to chew your food but to chew each bite 100 times. Even liquids had to be chewed, or “masticated,” to properly mix with the saliva.

Some of Fletcher’s ideas were ahead of their time–like being sure of exactly what’s in your food before eating it. Others, like never eating while angry, worried, or sad, just seem strange. And as if weight loss wasn’t enough, Fletcher even went so far as to claiming mastication would cause your, erm, bowel movements to smell better. These oddities weren’t enough to drive people away, however, as notables like Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, and John D. Rockefeller gave the diet a try.

Sleep is great. It replenishes you, helps your memory, boosts your mood, and strengthens your immune system, in addition to causing weight loss. Ignore all those people who humble-brag about never sleeping. Soak in that slumber!

Some dieters have gone off the deep end. Their plan: You only worry about hunger when you’re awake, right? So sleep! All the time!

This plan is dangerous. It recommends taking prescription meds to fall asleep for at least ten hours a day–and sometimes up to 20. Hopefully, we don’t need to tell you not to live on sedatives. Overdose is a big risk. Elvis Presley supposedly tried the diet once and put himself into a coma because of it.

We’re huge proponents of sleep, but the recommended amount is 7-8 hours a day. Aim to stay in that range and don’t veer too much outside. Your body will thank you for it.

A French-created diet that has a simple guideline: eat nothing at all! Yes, you heard me right!

This bizarre diet actually includes zero food in order to shed those pounds. It is believed to have been followed by many celebrities down Hollywood. If you think this is weird enough, wait till you read what is needed to eat or drink while on an air diet.

Air diet is said to be inspired and based on the concept of Breatharianism, which is the belief that one could live only on energy from sunlight and air, and do not need nourishment from food. Interestingly, Wiley Brooks founded the Breatharian Institute of America, which promoted the theory that air alone can keep our bodies physically active and manifested in complete light. Also, known as a virtual eating diet, an air diet typically means eating nothing, but a water and salt soup concoction. Surprisingly, A French magazine named this diet a ‘good’ way to lose weight.

The diet has been made popular by a Dolce & Gabbana campaign, which featured Madonna and other celebrities holding food up to their mouths, but not eating it. Referred to as “L’Air Fooding” and touted in the French magazine Grazia as the “it diet,” The Air Diet has simply one rule: Eat nothing, save for the water and salt soup concoction.

Simply hold up a forkful of linguine or spoonful of ice cream to your mouth, maybe take in a few of the food’s tantalizing aromas and pretend to eat it. Whether the idea is to trick your dinner guest or your mind that you are eating is the name of the game, all for the purpose of dropping a few pounds. The Air Diet involves faking or pretending to eat while going through all of the motions of eating, including placing food on your plate, cutting it, putting it on an utensil and holding up to your lips. Just don’t let it touch your mouth.

You are allowed to sip a soup, (if you can call it that), “soup à l’eau” to be exact, which is made from water and salt. The soup promises to keep you hydrated and nourished while also saving you money.

Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the “cotton ball diet” with other diets. It first became a fad in the modeling industry and soon spread to the figure skating industry. The cotton ball diet doesn’t actually involve eating healthful foods; instead, dieters are told to literally eat cotton balls dipped in juice. The theory is that the juice, usually orange juice or lemonade, will give the cotton balls flavor and the cotton balls will then keep the dieter full as they expand in the stomach. Aside from the craziness of eating a non-food item, the cotton ball diet is seriously dangerous.

Dipping cotton balls in juice or smoothies helps tricks the palate into thinking you are eating food when you are not consuming anything nutritious whatsoever. Your body can’t digest cotton balls, so they’ll remain in your stomach or intestines. They may mix with mucus and other food particles, creating a mass known as a bezoar. When something can’t be digested, it can obstruct the digestive tract. An intestinal obstruction prevents food and liquids from passing through. Left untreated, it can lead to the death of healthy tissues and infection. Intestinal obstruction is a medical emergency. Bezoars must be surgically removed.

President and CEO of The National Eating Disorder Association, Lynn Gref, says that models are suspected of partaking in the cotton ball diet for many years to maintain their emaciated frames. What is more disturbing is that the cotton ball diet is starting to go viral, with young girls demonstrating the diet practice on YouTube. Currently, there are an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men suffering from eating disorders and reports that 40-60% of girls begin to worry about their body size or shape by the age of 6. It’s no wonder that crazy diets such as the cotton ball diet become fads with such alarming statistics.

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Attack of the Atomic Tomato

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Speaking of ways to lose weight. Healthy eating, with radiation…

After World War II the United States had a lot of radiation that, despite its best efforts, it didn’t get ot use to murder someone. So the question quickly became “if not bombs, then what?” and the plucky folks at Atoms for Peace had a solution.

Following in the footsteps of 1920s, coked-up, scientists who shot x-rays at plants to induce inheritable mutations, the fine folks at the US Department of Energy figured… why not?

Their solution, despite Dr. Banner’s protestations, was a project to set up “Gamma Gardens” across the globe. They began with the United States, Russia, and because the group was made up of a surprisingly successful cohort of Arctic fridge salesmen, Japan. The plan was to use cobalt isotopes as a source of radiation for… Tomatoes. In Japan. After WWII.


Scientists used radiation to induce “useful” mutations in plants. Most gardens were circular, with the isotope at the center with plants spiraling out. In this way, the plants all go a slightly different strength dose of face-melting ultra-death in the hope that at least one of them would Goldilocks it up and become a Super-Tomato.

Plants that requested lunches by Semore were excluded from the trials.

Scientists quickly discovered that plants close to the source died quickly. Those in the medium bed developed tumors, lumps, and diseases. And those in the soft beds were just… wait.

But yes, those furthest from the death rocks died the least. And in dying the least they mutated and lived the most. Which some very 1950s kinda dudes thought was great.

So many of these mutations weren’t worthwhile, but we do now have a strain of mint that is resistant to particular strains of wilt, the Todd Mitchum Peppermint plant. So that’s nice. They made a weed, weedier.

Famously… ok, ish… in 1958 Dr. Walton C. Gregory of North Carolina State exposed his nuts to a massive amount of radiation. The nuts, it is said, grew 3 times bigger that day so he showed them his good friend Muriel Howorth.

Howorth was an early and vocal adopter of atomic gardening. The peanuts she received were the size of almonds. In her excitement, she served them to the Royal Commonwealth Society in London who didn’t at all notice their strange size.

She planted the remaining nuts which grew at an astonishing rate. They quickly became a media circus and, she did the TV/radio/magazine loop garnered enough interest to found the Atomic Gardening Society.

Featured among the society was one of its “scientific advisers”, a self-proclaimed nuclear scientist, L. Ron Hubbard.

So, you know, the best advice.

Soon radiation-affected seeds became all the craze. Sold as “Atomic Energized” seeds housewives scooped them up!

I guess the process of getting plantable radioactive material is more complicated now… in 1957 a dude named Clarence Speas write the government to request an amount of radioactive cobalt, which they just mailed him! He then founded Oak Ridge Atom Industries, Inc., a fancy name for his creepy-guy backyard bunker. Inside the bunker, he exposed some 3.5 million seeds to radiation over the course of a few years. Selling them all over the world with instructions for gardeners to document useful mutations if any occurred. Which all sounds nuts but it was insanely popular at the time. Hell, even an episode of Gilligan’s Island uses Speas seeds as a plot device.

Still, it wasn’t all that bad really. The seeds themselves didn’t carry that much radiation with them. It was almost undetectable. And the plants themselves weren’t made into radioactive X-Men salads. Likewise, their fruit was and is safe to eat.

Today we have Ruby-grapefruit, the Rio Star Grapefruit (which today makes up over 75% of Texas’ grapefruit production), and a number of varieties of rice, wheat, pears, cotton, peas, sunflowers, bananas, and so on that wouldn’t have happened without a random, radiologically haphazard, mutative chance.

And the experiment continues. In 1962 there were about nine cultivars using atomic gardening, in 2008, there were nearly 2700. The UN, somehow, is a huge proponent of it. They’ve built gardens in Bangladesh, Ghana, and Sudan… perfect places to test radiation-derived food. Dr. Pierre Lagoda at the International Atomic Energy Agency claim that the atomic gardens already produced a lot of exciting results like, say, “a virus-resistant cocoa tree in Ghana … and a high-yielding rice for the Mekong Delta.”

So when someone asks you how you feel about GMO foods, remember, those were made on purpose and tested for safety. Whereas the “traditional” way of improving crops involves either thousands of years or randomly applied, back-breaking labor, or, you know, a butt load of randomly applied wishful thinking… and radiation. Personally, I’ll take the GMO stuff thanks.

That said, there are still some folks doing this today. The Institute of Radiation Breeding in Japan has recently taken a break from making Godzillas to work on breeding [redactied] food items for fungal resistance and extra-bright fruit colors.

So… I guess look for Gourdzilla early next year stepping on supermarkets near you. If you’re interested in some details, a ton of pictures and videos, and some fun newspaper clippings about Atomic Gardening visit atmicgardening.com – it’s a slick site.

  • https://www.ripleys.com/weird-news/atomic-gardening/?utm_source=pocket_mylist
  • https://www.atomicgardening.com


I’m Shea. Before we go, this week I learned that Betty White used to be Betty Grey until she fought the Balrog and was reborn. I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.

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Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.

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