Never Try This Bizarre Victorian Fad Diet

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There was a lot of bizarre stuff going on during the Victorian Era (1837 to 1901). According to the blog Iron Shepherds Living History, people took professional-grade photos of recently deceased people, wore tight corsets, and even used arsenic as a skin lotion. Somewhere in the midst of all that, a health-obsessed guy named Horace Fletcher created a pretty freaky fad diet in the early 1900s that many people to this day refer to as the "chew chew cult." Perhaps Fletcher used too much arsenic lotion?

Per PopSci, Fletcher, who fancied himself a self-taught nutritionist, developed the diet after having some unspecified health problems when he entered middle age. However, the way Fletcher went about educating others on mindful eating and chewing food a specific number of times to lose weight was questionable, to say the least. He even wrote the controversial book, "Fletcherism: What It Is: or, How I Became Young at Sixty." No, seriously, that's the title. In the book, Fletcher explained his guiding principle on healthy eating and encouraged others to adopt a low-protein diet and chew food 32 times before swallowing (via Amazon).  

All about Fletcherism's "chew chew cult"

The core component of Fletcherism is the complete and total mastication of food. That's a fancy way of saying to chew your food really well. Merriam-Webster also defines the term and doctrine of Fletcherism as eating small amounts, and it's thought of as one of the original fad diets

As HelpGuide recommends, there's nothing wrong with adopting the practice of mindful eating, where you take your time and avoid wolfing food down quickly. In fact, HelpGuide suggests it can be beneficial to your overall health and diet. But, the problem with Fletcher's diet is that people, ideally, wouldn't actually swallow the food once chewed. Instead, they chew it as much as possible, then swallow only the liquid remains. Any solid food left would be spit out. Yum.

Other than ruining the dining experience in its entirety, this is also a pretty dangerous way to live. Failure to consume enough calories and nutrients can cause serious problems, according to Medical News Today. Among those issues are eating disorders, depression, anxiety, fertility, bone health, sleep problems, decreased muscle mass, and many others. Instead of resorting to something potentially dangerous and extreme, like Fletcherism, opt for a well-balanced diet instead, coupled with plenty of exercise.  

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).