This article originally appeared on VICE Denmark
January is generally a month for short-lived lifestyle changes, and short-lived lifestyle changes would be nothing without fad diets. I, like everyone, find all that conflicting advice on what to eat and what not to eat deeply confusing, so I tend to just mute all the noise about super grains and GMOs and what have you. That was until I came across a vintage Danish diet book, intriguingly titled The Sexy Pineapple Diet. The book was written in 1970 by Danish psychologist, sexologist and author Sten Hegeler and his wife Inge Hegeler – and originally published as Verdens Bedste Slankekur ("World's Best Diet").
The diet is pretty straightforward – you simply choose two days a week to eat nothing but fresh pineapple. On the remaining five days you eat whatever you like, as long as you maintain your new, lowered weight. The diet promises a slimmer body, more energy and an increased "sexual capacity". To highlight that last feature, the word "erogetic" is printed on the cover. I'm not absolutely sure what that means, but do I want to find out? Absolutely I do.
Since I love pineapple and sexual capacity and have never tried a diet before, I figured The Sexy Pineapple Diet would be the perfect healthy start to the new year for me. I bought the diet book and some pineapples, ready to test if the past 47 years of diet plans and books could have been replaced with a bit of fruit.
Day 1: Pineapple day. Weight: 82.8 kg
According to the handbook I should wait until I'm really hungry to have my first serving of the day. This isn't great advice for me personally – I tend to snap at the people I love once I start to get peckish. But I don't mind running the risk of alienating my loved ones if that means I can find out what it means to be erogetic. So here it goes:
10:14 AM: I haven't had anything to eat yet, but it's still early. I do feel like my mind is clearer than it usually is. Like, the question "where do pineapples come from" bubbles up and I decide not to google it but to just ponder it for a while.
1:25 PM: Then again, I might just be eroding my brain by not eating anything. Am I not just thinking less instead of more clearly? If there are fewer thoughts, the ones that are there might become clearer. Is that good or bad? I feel like I can't think properly any more.
2:23 PM: My body is numb and heavy. People talk to me and I keep thinking I'm saying something back, but I'm not.
3:41 PM: I often can't remember what I had for lunch or dinner the day before, or the week before. From now on, I promise to appreciate my meals more; to be thankful for them.
4:13 PM: I have my first meal of the day: three slices of fresh pineapple.
4:37 PM: I'm not feeling sexy or capable of any sexual activity – I'm not feeling capable of any activity in general, to be frank.
6:03 PM: Okay, so I did some more reading and the handbook says I can actually eat other foods too, as long as it doesn't exceed 500 kcal. So why call it The Sexy Pineapple Diet, then? I should've read ahead sooner.
7:12 PM: My boyfriend doesn't know about my new diet and bought me a frozen pizza. The box says it contains 225 kcal per 100 grams. The pizza is 350 grams, so 225 x 3,5 = 787 kcal. It's a little over 500, but I'm a 6'6" guy so I think I can get away with a few extra calories. Mind your business.
7:31 PM: The maths might have sounded sensible at the time, but they haven't stopped me from feeling weak and dirty. I wish I hadn't cheated. I wish I had more pizza. My heart bleeds for people who do these calculations for every single meal, and still end up feeling this way about themselves. That must be horrible.
10:11 PM: I slip up again – I have some oatmeal with raisins. I've never before in my life felt guilty about having some grains and a few bits of dried fruit.
Day 2: Pineapple day. Weight: 82.1 kg
According to the handbook, the worst is now behind me. It says I will wake up "refreshed, happy and cheerfully looking forward to the day". I'm not surprised that doesn't happen – I've cheated, so what can I expect? "Keep pinching your waistline and thinking of your repulsive, fat appearance. But above all, keep going!" Can do.
The book isn't entirely clear on why, in order to get my new erogeticised dream body, I have to stuff my face with pineapple. Why, of all edible things, pineapple? Finally, halfway through the book, I stumble on a paragraph called "Why Pineapple?" The explanation reads: "Besides being an elegant and exotic fruit, three large pineapples are a lot to consume in two days," followed by the fact that "it doesn't make you thirsty", which, according to the book, is why you won't be tempted to drink any alcohol during your pineapple days. You can't argue with science.
The Sexy Pineapple Diet's author, Sten Hegeler, is 93 years old today, but still works as a psychologist from his practice in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. It's been 47 years since the book was released, but when I call him he remembers it well. Sadly, he doesn't have much to say about why pineapple is the key to a healthier, sexier life. "I actually don't know," he says. "Pineapple with whipped cream was the preferred dessert back then, so I thought, 'My god, I can have as much pineapple as I want for two days,' and that sounded splendid."
When I admit I didn't find it that splendid and cheated a little the first day, he isn't happy to hear it. "Well, then it doesn't count," he says. "You have to stick to the plan. If you eat only pineapple, you will lose four pounds," he says firmly. "It's very effective."
Day 3: Regular meals. Weight: 81.8 kg. Weight loss: 1 kilogram
So it turns out that despite the fact I devoured a pizza the first day and had a small lunch and dinner the second day, I still managed to shed 1 kilogram. When checking myself out in the mirror in the morning I do seem to look a little better than usual, and I wonder if what I'm feeling now is the erogenicity.
I call nutritional expert Per Brændgaard, who unfortunately doesn't see the point of pineapple: "It's neither slimming nor fattening," he tells me. "That distinctive acidic sweet taste gives pineapple it's reputation for being slimming, detoxing and – I guess – sexy. There's really no evidence behind it. You might as well tell people to only eat apples or bananas for two days."
Funny Brændgaard should say that, because that's exactly what I finally read in the handbook. If you're allergic to pineapple or just get sick of it, the book suggest alternatives like figs, apples, pears, cantaloupe, cucumber salad, bananas, oranges, shrimp, beef hamburgers with mushrooms and cottage cheese. Everything under 500 calories, because, well – just because.
Brændgaard explains that the concept of a diet based on a single food item is nothing new; it's called a mono diet. "There have been so many different kinds of mono diets over the years – even one centred around cucumber and white wine," he says. According to Brændgaard, eating one thing all day fools your stomach into thinking that it's full, which would make you eat less. "Being full just from the taste and feel of a certain type of food is called sensory-specific satiety," he explains.
So the pineapple isn't exactly the uniquely slimming wonder fruit it's made out to be – but the sexy part is still legitimate, right? I'll be erogised, right? Sadly, Sten Hegeler admits that part of the diet was also not based in reality. "Actually, the sexy part was something the American publisher made up. I had nothing to do with that," he says. "It's actually the same diet they're calling the 5:2 today. I haven't been recognised for that, which I think I should have been."
That only leaves my last illusion to be shattered – the idea that at least it was an achievement that I had lost two pounds. Apparently when it comes to pineapple diets, nothing is sacred. "You should keep in mind that the first pound you lose mostly consists of carbs and water," Per Brændgaard told me. "One gram of carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver binds three grams of water. When those are burnt, they release the water and your scale will tell you that you've lost weight." So I can expect the weight back? "Oh absolutely, it will come right back. In a day or three."
So that's that. If you'll excuse me, I'll go and eat whatever I want for the rest of the year now.
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