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Weight Loss Horror

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Weight loss gone horribly wrong.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
GliderPro on Jun 9th 2016 at 4:59:18 AM
Last Edited By:
HeroGal2347 on Jan 30th 2018 at 11:04:38 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Maybe a character doesn't like his current shape and decides he's going to drop those pesky pounds if it kills him. Maybe he meets an unusual stranger on the street with slimming abilities. The point is, he loses weight.

And everything goes straight downhill.

This trope is for works in which weight loss goes horribly wrong. Maybe the characters lose too much weight and are in danger of disappearing altogether. Maybe they unwittingly sign themselves up for a weight-loss service with overly restrictive penalties. Maybe the diet is magical and requires the sacrificing of children. Really nasty examples may overlap with Body Horror, and self-inflicted magical ones might cross over with Be Careful What You Wish For.

Compare Fashion Hurts, for other ways in which the effort to maintain appearance can be painful and/or harmful, and Dead Weight and Fattening the Victim for other cases in which weight is associated with horror.


This trope appears in the following works:

    open/close all folders 

     Comic Books 
  • In X-Men, whoever is chosen as Famine in Apocalypse's Horsemen can cause people to become emaciated by touching them.

     Literature 
  • "Fat Farm", by Orson Scott Card. A very rich, very fat man uses a service to copy himself into a healthy body. Unfortunately, he didn't check to see what happens to the original. Turns out it becomes the property of the cloning company... and they're not very humane with their human resources.
  • The Monkey Treatment, by George R.R. Martin. A fat guy who's tried every diet inadvertently signs up for the monkey treatment, in which an invisible magic monkey sits on his back and snatches away all his food before he can eat it. At first, this works great. But then he realizes that for every pound he loses, the monkey gains one, and as it grows bigger its power and malevolence increase as well.
  • In "The Iron Chancellor" by Robert Silverberg, a family purchases a Robot Maid to oversee their diet. It does its job a bit too well, so they try to adjust its programming and short something out.
  • Thinner, by Stephen King: A fat lawyer is cursed by a gypsy to lose weight. As in, all of it.
  • H. G. Wells ' 'The Truth About Pyecraft'': A very fat man takes a potion to lose weight. And he does — but he doesn't actually become thinner. He just weighs less until he's floating up into the air like a large balloon.

     Live Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Partners in Crime", Adipose Industries produces a special pill that makes your fat walk away: literally, it turns body fat into a little creature called "adipose" that looks like an anthropomorphic marshmallow, which then leaves the host's body. Consuming too many adipose pills may destroy a human's body completely.
  • One of The 4400 comes back to be accosted by the gangster he owed money to before he was abducted. The gangster takes a bite of the sandwich the man was eating and subsequently loses a lot of weight. It turns out the man's ability is to create an enzyme in his saliva which accelerates a person's metabolism. The gangster then gets his wife to eat something the man was eating and she too loses a lot of weight. However, it later turns out that the enzyme causes their metabolism to speed up to the point where they're burning calories faster than they can take them in. The gangster and his wife both end up starving to death despite eating a big meal.
  • In the Smallville episode "Craving", bullied, overweight teen Amy takes Kryptonite shakes in order to lose weight. The pounds melt off and she starts to get positive attention from her classmates. She is overjoyed until she realizes the weight loss will not stop. She eats everything in sight trying to keep weight on. When regular food no longer works, she moves to freshly killed raw meat and then to sucking all the fat and marrow out of other humans, the only thing that seems to sate the hunger. Unfortunately, it also kills them.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • In the French comic 'Melusine, the titular witch hypnotizes an obese man into losing weight. She drops by his home a while later to see how he's doing... and finds that his wife is hiding his toolbox, he's cut off his legs and is trying to bite off his fingers while mumbling a Madness Mantra about losing weight.

     Video Games 
  • A Played for Laughs example is Bob from Tekken series, an acrofatic character that likes his overweight status. However, in his Tekken 6 ending', after all the effort to win the King of Iron Fist Tournament, he suddenly lost 150 pounds, becoming slim, which was a shock for him. Bob thinks his weight loss was a curse to him, losing also his strength and speed gained with the training that made him fat. First being a cameo, later this becomes a separate character in Tag Tournament 2 as "Slim Bob".

     Western Animation 
  • Used in an episode of Freaky Stories. A woman buys a new mysterious diet pill in preparation for a beauty contest, on the condition that she must not drink water for the duration of the diet. The diet pill was actually filled with several tiny sponges, and when she breaks and drinks gallons of water, they cause her to bloat uncontrollably.

     Real Life 
  • While there is some debate as to what exactly the motive for anorexia and other eating disorders is, many usually do involve an attempt to lose weight and can be very detrimental to one's health.

Feedback: 33 replies

Jun 9th 2016 at 8:47:24 AM

In the French comic Melusine, the titular witch hypnotizes an obese man into losing weight. She drops by his home a while later to see how he's doing... and finds that his wife is hiding his toolbox, he's cut off his legs and is trying to bite off his fingers while mumbling "Must... lose... weight! Must... lose... weight!".

Jun 9th 2016 at 10:58:19 AM

  • Sara from Requiem For A Dream gets addicted to sketchy "diet pills" which are most likely methamphetamine tablets . After some severe Sanity Slippage she ends up hospitalized and is rendered catatonic after a series of horrific electroshock treatments.

Jun 9th 2016 at 11:47:58 AM

  • In the Doctor Who episode "Partners in Crime", Adipose Industries produces a special pill that makes your fat "just walk away". Literally: it turns body fat into a little creature called "adipose" that looks like an anthropomorphic marshmallow, which then leaves the host's body. Consuming too many adipose pills may destroy a human's body completely.

Jun 9th 2016 at 1:38:21 PM

Good Omens: Famine runs a fast-food company whose food contains zero nutrients- customers can eat their burgers all day and still starve to death.

Jun 9th 2016 at 6:20:00 PM

HG Wells ' 'The Truth About Pyecraft': A very fat man takes a potion to lose weight. And he does—but he doesn't actually become thinner. He just weighs less until he's floating up into the air like a large balloon.

Jun 9th 2016 at 7:59:40 PM

Used in an episode of Freaky Stories. A woman buys a new mysterious diet pill in preparation for a beauty contest, on the condition that she must not drink water for the duration of the diet. The diet pill was actually filled with several tiny sponges, and when she breaks and drinks gallons of water, they cause her to bloat uncontrollably.

Jun 9th 2016 at 11:15:27 PM

Uh, some of the examples are people just wanting to lose weight (and then got some misfortune) rather than them actually losing weight.

And... I dunno what's the real reason why losing weight is associated with bad things.

Jun 10th 2016 at 1:53:51 AM

One of the stories in Pet Shop Of Horrors did this. A woman went on diet pills, lost weight, and then an evil monster hatched out of her body and killed her in the process.

Jun 10th 2016 at 7:56:16 AM

Live Action Television

  • One of The Forty Four Hundred comes back to be accosted by the gangster he owed money to before he was abducted. The gangster takes a bite of the sandwich the man was eating and subsequently loses a lot of weight. It turns out the man's ability is to create an enzyme in his saliva which accelerates a person's metabolism. The gangster then gets his wife to eat something the man was eating and she too loses a lot of weight. However, it later turns out that the enzyme causes their metabolism to speed up to the point where they're burning calories faster than they can take them in. The gangster and his wife both end up starving to death despite eating a big meal.

Jun 10th 2016 at 1:29:12 PM

Please answer my question

Jul 5th 2017 at 10:45:48 PM

Compare Of Corset Hurts, another, more painful way of weight loss.

Jul 6th 2017 at 3:07:11 PM

2x ^ It seems like a lot of these examples the person does lose weight or it's implied they will/do. It could be made explicitly about people making an effort to lose weight (e.g., taking diet pills, starting a program). That way the person doesn't necessarily have to be noted as losing weight in-story before this trope can be applied.

I'm not sure why this trope has so many examples. I know in real life people can take weight loss to horrifying lengths. What do you mean by "what's the real reason" this trope exists?

Jul 7th 2017 at 9:15:29 AM

Video Games:

  • A Played For Laughs example is Bob from Tekken series, an acrofatic character that likes his overweight, but in his Tekken 6 ending', after all the effort to win the King of Iron Fist Tournament, he suddenly became slim, being a shock for him. If well he didn't become too skinny nor close to death or something, Bob thinks his weight loss was a curse to him, losing also his strenght and speed gained with the training that made him fat. First being a cameo, later this becomes a separate character in Tag Tournament 2 as "Slim Bob".

Jul 7th 2017 at 10:51:18 AM

In cases where it's self-inflicted, might overlap with Be Careful What You Wish For?

Also, a bit of a Truth In Television: some people take weight loss to obscene degrees, going down to sizes that just aren't healthy for the body. Additionally, extreme loss over a short period of time can result in some metabolic changes that may or may not be welcome, such as lower body temperatures, mood swings, and the like; nothing as extreme as in this trope, but definite drawbacks.

Jul 7th 2017 at 10:54:15 AM

^ It can be pretty extreme; people have tossed out different ideas about the root motivation of anorexia (whether it's really about losing weight or not) but it involves losing weight and it can kill.

Jul 20th 2017 at 12:01:14 AM

Fixed red links and switched from main to creator links.

Jul 20th 2017 at 6:00:55 AM

  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
    • Put short story titles in quotes instead of italics as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.
    • Italicized work names as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 2:24:15 AM

^ Since they haven't posted to or edited it since June 2016, I would say yes. :)

However, they are still on TV Tropes (just edited on 12-31-17), so you could PM them to see if they still want it.

Jan 9th 2018 at 4:25:51 PM

In the Smallville episode "Craving", bullied, overweight teen Amy takes Kryptonite shakes in order to lose weight. The pounds melt off and she starts to get positive attention from her classmates. She is overjoyed until she realizes the weight loss will not stop. She eats everything in sight trying to keep weight on. When regular food no longer works, she moves to freshly killed raw meat and then to sucking all the fat and marrow out of other humans, the only thing that seems to sate the hunger. Unfortunately, it also kills them.

Jan 21st 2018 at 6:17:52 PM

May be a sign of Status Quo Is God if the character gets fat again

Jan 22nd 2018 at 12:17:27 AM

In Bob's Tekken 6 ending, he is not happy that he was able to lose 150 pounds, because he is known for being a big fat guy, and all of that had gone. The ending itself shows him as a very skinny man.

Jan 22nd 2018 at 12:28:19 PM

Should this be allowed to have real life examples?

Jan 24th 2018 at 3:18:48 PM

If real life examples are allowed, should stories where extreme weight loss, eating disorder style, is played horrifically count as examples, or is it only fantastical causes/results?

Jan 27th 2018 at 2:23:27 PM

^ Does anyone have an opinion on this?

Jan 28th 2018 at 4:51:02 AM

  • In X Men, causing this trope to happen is the power of whoever gets to be Famine in Apocalypse's Horsemen.

Jan 28th 2018 at 5:29:00 PM

^ Thanks for the new example, but could you be a little more specific about the effects? I think that would count as a Zero Context Example.

Jan 29th 2018 at 1:54:11 AM

"Famine can induce extreme hunger pains in humans and animals. Famine can also cause an emaciated state through physical contact."

Jan 29th 2018 at 4:35:49 PM

Thanks for the additional info.

Now that I think about it, we technically have two types of examples here — examples where the person experiencing the weight loss inflicts the horror on themselves and examples where it is inflicted on them.

Jan 30th 2018 at 7:38:09 AM

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