Want to Get "Expensive Urine"? Look at the Hollywood History of Health Fads

Marilyn Monroe Weightlifting - P 2015
AP Images

Marilyn Monroe Weightlifting - P 2015

"It's completely ridiculous," says Harley Pasternak about vitamin IV drips and other celebrity quick health fixes, as he and another celebrity trainer, Ramona Braganza, weigh in on a few of the craziest trends celebs have tried to lose weight and stay fit.

"There’s so much money to be made in weight loss today, because people are more desperate than ever for that magic pill, or will put a tube up their ass, or whatever dumb thing in the world they’re doing," explains trainer and author of 5 Pounds Harley Pasternak (he counts Halle Berry and Adam Levine as clients). Every year, an estimated 45 million Americans diet and spend over $30 billion on weight loss products, according to the Boston Medical Center. But the amount of time and money spent on the quest for a thinner, better body is nothing new (remember the Thigh Master and fen-phen?) The A-list has tried everything from restrictive diets to wild remedies during the long history of health crazes in Hollywood; the only difference is, today's trends travel faster. “Social media has catapulted fads into the forefront of our minds, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad,” says trainer and wellness coach Ramona Braganza (Jessica Alba and Zac Efron are clients). “We need to be vigilant and research the scientific benefits rather than believe it blindly based on a celebrity endorsement. Remember more than likely the celeb is getting paid to endorse the item." As a reminder of past food-and-exercise foibles, THR has compiled a brief history of Hollywood health fads:

1924: An Early Hollywood Vegetarian

Greta Garbo began her long history of dieting after Louis B. Mayer told her that American men didn’t like fat women. By the '30s, the star had become a follower and friend of Gayelord Hauser, a "doctor of natural science.” He wrote many books that emphasized eating vegetables, nuts and yogurt and in his book Live Younger, Live Longer, he also suggested eating raw yeast and drinking buttermilk.

1950sThe Bombshell Regimen

Marilyn Monroe told Pageant Magazine she lifted weights for 10 minutes every day. Also detailed in the article was her high-protein diet. Breakfast? Raw eggs whipped in warm milk and a vitamin supplement. “I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.” And for dinner the blonde would stick with broiled meat and “four or five” raw carrots. “I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.”

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1988: Liquid Fasts

Oprah walked onto the set of her show, pulling a wagon full of fat to represent the 67 pounds she lost on a four-month Optifast liquid diet. Says Pasternak: "She did a lot of things to lose weight, but none of them were sound, healthy, sustainable ways, otherwise she wouldn’t have had to keep looking for more interesting and ridiculous ways to lose weight." Adds Braganza: "It is not likely you can continue this for a long period, and then the weight comes back and remains."

Oprah Winfrey pulls out a wagon filled with fat.

Mid-1990s: Yoga

Madonna began to practice Ashtanga yoga to get back in shape after the birth of her daughter, Lourdes, in 1996. By 1999, different forms of yoga were being practiced by the Hollywood elite and across middle America, and Marc Jacobs was selling $400 yoga bags.

Madonna practicing yoga on set

2000Macrobiotic Diet

Gwyneth Paltrow said the Japanese plan based on whole grains and veggies was responsible for her bikini body.

Early 2000s: Low Carb

Though Dr. Robert Atkins published his book in 1992, the trend exploded at the beginning of the millennium. Everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Renee Zellweger was banning carbs with diets like Atkins, The Zone and South Beach. Zellweger reportedly used the low-carb lifestyle to shed the Bridget Jones’ Diary weight. "The truth is, science does support that reducing carbohydrates, particularly sugar intake, in your diet works," says Pasternak. "The problem is that traditionally the Atkins diet and similar diets like it are so strict and so unenjoyable that people fall off them pretty quickly."  

2006: The Master Cleanse

Beyoncé copped to using the mixture of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper to lose 20 pounds for her role in the Oscar-nominated Dreamgirls. Even Ashton Kutcher tried the detox with then-wife Demi Moore. After starting the cleanse he tweeted, "9 hrs into the master cleanse. I want a steak, a beer, and a blow-pop. Hmmm this is gonna be rough." "There are lots of side effects from doing this: dizziness, loss of hair — even heart problems can occur," says Braganza. "Also, you don't get enough fiber, and without enough protein, muscle loss can occur." 


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Mid-2000s: Colonics

Usher told VH1 that Janet Jackson recommended the treatment, saying, "I'm not too fond of having the stuff sucked out of me and a tube up my butt, but I've done it a couple of times to clean out my body. I hate it, but it's healthy for me.” Stars began getting colonics frequently to drop last-minute pounds before red carpet appearances. Says Braganza: "Some people need a colonic to get back on track. When it becomes a habit to help with weight loss, that is when your body can experience problems."

2008: Leech Therapy

Demi Moore told David Letterman about a leech doctor who uses the slimy creatures to detoxify her blood: "I did it in some woman's house lying on her bed. We did a little sampler first, which is in the belly button.” Comments Pasternak: "Leeches don’t detoxify your blood, that’s not true. They are used to reduce the blood flow during surgery in certain areas, so that there’s not as much bleeding when you’re doing surgery. But no, she was not using them for the right reasons."

2008: Vitamin Injections

When Justin Timberlake introduced Madonna at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he described the day that the icon gave him his first B12 shot was one of the best of his life. By 2014, the trend escalated to full-on vitamin IV drips. Cara Delevingne posted an image on Instagram of herself and Michelle Rodriguez getting injected together. Notes Pasternak: "It's completely ridiculous — all they are going to get is expensive urine. It’s just the dumbest thing in the entire world."


A photo posted by Cara Delevingne (@caradelevingne) on

2010–Present: Juicing

At some point, everyone in L.A. was or is on some sort of juice cleanse. Salma Hayek and Anne Hathaway are fans of sipping different kinds of green juices. And "while you may initially lose weight," says Braganza, "people will gain it all back, and as you age it has a tendency to be harder to lose a second time. Your metabolism slows and you can also end up with digestion issues from cutting out foods that our body is meant to chew and eat."

2011: The Paleo Diet

Dr. Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet quickly became a best-seller. "Caveman" lifestyle devotees include Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Matthew McConaughey, who has said that he also commits to eating paleo most of the time. Says Braganza: "You will eat less processed foods and sugars, but here’s the problem, NO GRAINS!!" Sniffs Pasternak: "I think the whole concept is significantly flawed."

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2012: Gluten Free

Many celebrities have banished gluten from their diets. Miley Cyrus sparked eating-disorder rumors in 2012 before explaining she cut out gluten from her life tweeting things like, "Gluten is Crap anyway!" "Everyone should try no gluten for a week" and "The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing! U won't go back!" After years of praising gluten-free eating habits, in 2013, Gwyneth Paltrow released It's All Good —  a gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free cookbook. But "less than 1% of the population has a gluten allergy," says Pasternak. "People cut out bread and croissants and cookies and lose weight and say it is because of the gluten, but it’s because you’re cutting out breads and cookies and croissants." 

2013: Placenta-Eating

January Jones told British Glamour she took placenta pills after giving birth. "It’s not gross or witchcrafty," said the Mad Men star. "It’s a very civilized thing that can help women with depression or fatigue." What does Pasternak think? "That’s the craziest thing. Many of my clients have asked about this; but the truth is there is no scientific advantage of eating your placenta."

2014: Cupping

Jennifer Aniston walked the red carpet up with cup marks on her back at the Los Angeles premiere of Call Me Crazy. The Eastern practice is said to help with circulation and neck and shoulder pain, and to detox the body.

2014: Eating Clay

Shailene Woodley told Into the Gloss, “I’ve discovered that clay is great for you because your body doesn’t absorb it, and it apparently provides a negative charge, so it bonds to negative isotopes. And, this is crazy: it also helps clean heavy metals out of your body.”

2015: The Alkaline Diet

Kate Hudson swears by the meal plan aimed at keeping the body's pH between 7.35 and 7.45 by consuming more vegetables and less grains and proteins. Victoria Beckham has also tweeted about the plan saying, "Love this healthy eating cook book! X vb" of the Honestly Healthy Alkaline cookbook. "The food you eat will have a minimal impact on the acidity or the alkalinity of your body," says Pasternak. "Some people suffer from GERD or acid reflux, but all that means is your stomach is acidic."

2015: Oil Pulling

Both Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley have preach the benefits of swishing coconut oil or sesame oil around the mouth. "This Ayurvedic practice is one I recommend," says Braganza. "These types of century-old treatments really aren’t fads. They have science behind them and have been proven to work. This one in particular prevents gingivitis and plaque!"

The big trends right now:

Both Braganza and Pasrternak agree, movement tracking with devices like Nike's FuelBand or the Fitbit are the newest craze. "People are just so busy, so even if there is an interesting new fad or trend, they just don’t have time for it," notes Pasternak. Adds Branganza: "We are a results-driven society, and unfortunately, a lazy one too, so we need accountability." 

Serena Williams wearing a Nike Fuel Band

Even though wearable fitness tracking is in, both trainers have a new favorite tool they are recommending to clients. "There’s a new thing that a lot of celebrities do called the Helix. The popularity of the lateral training, and specifically this one, I think is huge," says Pasternak. "People like Kim Kardashian and Megan Fox have them and it’s becoming very popular."

Braganza's current recommendation? "One of the tools I hand out regularly to my clients is Omron Tens, which used to be only available in chiropractors offices. It is a more natural way to relieve pain rather than popping pills and great for new moms suffering from back pain as well – my clients Ashley Simpson and Zoe Saldana both have been gifted one from me."

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