What do charcoal and baby food have in common? They are just two of the latest diet fads to catch national attention and lure thousands of overweight Americans into silly and possibly unsafe weight loss habits.
Americans spend more than $50 billion a year on diets. That is why you see so many TV ads hawking the latest, greatest weight loss plan, potion or pill.
According to WebMD.com, "The reality is that fad diets don't work to help you lose weight and keep it off. So what does work? Eating fewer calories than you burn off. That's it, plain and simple."
Save your money but invest your time in checking out these 25 fad diets of the past 25 years.
WARNING: Please do not try any of these weight loss fads. When it comes to healthy dieting and safe weight loss, most nutritionists will tell you that fad equals bad. The best weight loss involves a healthy, sustainable diet and regular exercise.
Oh baby, this diet really jars us. It grabbed headlines recently when sexy 'n slim actresses Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon were linked to it.
The problem: There doesn't seem to be any set guidelines and followers run the risk of binging because they never feel full or satisfied by the super-pureed mush that comes in teeny tiny jars.
A second problem: Stars linked to this Baby Food Diet have been crying foul and saying they never followed it. Hmmm, sounds like sneaky corporate types at Gerber and Beechnut may be spreading misinformation to sell more baby food!
Please don't head out to the grill and start snacking on a blackened chunk of charcoal. Proponents claim your body rids itself of toxins when you ingest the activated charcoal tablets found in most pharmacies.
The problem: There doesn't appear to be any actual research that shows charcoal will clean you out and slim you down. Sorry to douse the fire on this hot fad, but we'll keep our charcoal safely tucked inside our backyard grill and not in our stomach.
The general idea behind this warped sedative-fueled fad diet is, "Take two of these and call me in seven days." You are supposed to drug yourself to sleep for up to seven days at a time.
You may lose some weight because you didn't eat for a week, but we've got snooze for you: This diet, which was reportedly used by Elvis during those times his trademark jumpsuits became a tad too tight, just won't work. You'll awaken hungrier than a hibernatin' bear and lumber your way to the nearest buffet for a binge to end all binges. Just say no to drugs... and yes to a healthier diet and weight loss plan.
This popular plan really stinks... literally and figuratively. Your home will smell like boiled cabbage for days while you slurp yourself slim by eating bowl after bowl of this "negative calorie" soup that's heavy on cabbage and fiber. Every time you open your fridge you'll be greeted by a blast of stink.
Oh, and unless you take a mega Beano suppository ahead of time, there'll be no friends coming round without a gas mask. Can you lose weight eating cabbage soup? Yes. Can you keep it off after you start eating normal food again? No.
Back in the Crazy Eighties, a supermodel revealed that she and some of the other stick figures who sashay the high-fashion catwalk would ward off hunger pains and stay thin by swallowing small wads of toilet paper or facial tissue.
We'd rather you save the toilet paper and do the Cabbage Soup Diet than try to lose weight by ingesting nutrient-challenged stuff like this. Not only is a Toilet Paper Diet impossible to stick with, but it can make you sick - or worse - if you do it too long.
Sounds like something dreamed up during the Stoned Age, but users are urged to mimic a caveman's diet... although I don't know where you get fresh mastodon meat these days.
According to one source, okay foods include lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts. You don't eat grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar or processed oils. Why? Because the foods a caveman eats are the kind of foods that are typically hunted and gathered. We say you're better off hunting for a new diet - one that incorporates all foods. Grunt if you agree.
This only sounds like an unfunny Saturday Night Live skit. It is an actual diet that has been around for a century or so. The disgusting "science" involves purposely ingesting a tapeworm (proponents say beef tapeworms work best) that will then use its sets of teeth to set up shop in your intestines and suck up the food that comes its way.
The backers thought of everything. They even tell you how to take a medicine that will kill the tapeworm once you've lost the desired amount of weight. Ever see what a tapeworm looks like when your body passes it? Google it and get ready to be grossed out.
Other than "the ick factor," here's the problem: Tapeworms, which can grow to 50 feet long and live for 20 years, aren't choosy so they will ingest the fat along with the good nutrients your body needs to rebuild and recharge.
The Master Cleanse
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade... and if you're overweight, all the better - you can turn the lemons into The Master Cleanse which is a "body detox" also known as The Lemonade Diet.
Here's how the website themastercleanse.org says this cleanse touted by big-name celebs like Beyonce works: "Squeeze fresh lemon juice, then add rich maple syrup and cayenne pepper into pure water. Drink a minimum of 6 to 12 glasses throughout the day whenever one is hungry. Take a laxative, morning and evening; or instead of the morning laxative, you can do the salt water flush."
Trust us, you're going to spend a lot of time in the bathroom and all that lemon juice is going to wreak havoc on your tooth enamel. Oh, and there's the nearly 100% chance you are going to regain any weight lost very quickly.
Designed to trigger significant weight loss in less than two weeks - while you basically eat whatever you want - this diet sounds too good to be true because it is too good to be true. Call it pulp fiction, but there's no actual science out there that shows how including a half a grapefruit with each meal will magically rev up your body's fat-burning process and slim you down fast.
You may get plenty of vitamin C much but you won't see much weight loss if you follow the one set of grapefruit diet guidelines that insist you EAT BACON with each meal too!
Thankfully this fad has gone the way of the Dodo bird, but boy was this candy diet a high-flying weight loss plan back on the '70s. Launched in an era when AIDS was yet unknown, the like-sounding Ayds diet let users enjoy a "satisfying" piece of chocolate, chocolate mint, butterscotch, caramel or peanut butter "candy"with a cup of hot drink before each meal.
The active appetite-suppressing ingredient in Ayds is phenylpropanolamine. The chemical has since been known to cause strokes in younger women and is now only available via prescription.
When it comes to weight loss, the Air Diet is a breath of stale air. Launched by France's so-called Institute for Psychoactive Research, this plan focuses on a lot of hot air rather than hot food. Just focus on your breathing and you'll soon master the diet, they say. The more air you breathe, the more weight you lose, they claim.
Ummm, right. No food, just air. We hate to burst any balloons but this sounds like a fast to us. It's also a cousin of the crazy breatharianism movement that had its followers believing "that it is possible, through meditation, to reach a level of consciousness where one can obtain all sustenance from the air or sunlight."
To err is human... to air is not humanly possible!
I can just hear the guy behind this diet saying to a money backer, "What if we take two of the all-time favorite foods and combine them, then tell people they'll lose weight by eating them every day?" Not since chocolate met peanut butter has there been such a match made in heaven, right? Sorry, but we have to tarnish the halo hovering over the Pasta and Chocolate Diet.
First off, you only get to eat one ounce of chocolate each night. It's kind of your reward for avoiding the fatty, high-cal foods that you ate to achieve your current body. Also, you only drink water, but you do get some popcorn in the evening.
The good news: You do get to twirl and slurp some pasta for lunch and dinner. If you ask us, one ounce of chocolate is just a not-so-big tease. It's a gimmick... one you'll grow tired of fast.
British poet Lord Byron gets credit for popularizing the vinegar diet way back in 1820. He told people that he drizzled vinegar over his meals and that alone led him to shed 60 pounds. Thanks in part to some of the wackier tabloids, there are still many people today who believe a few spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar each day help keep the diet doctor away... and make you happier, healthier, taller... and maybe even richer!
We like vinegar on our chips and french fries. But vinegar can't be a good match for all meals. But maybe that's the secret - you squirt up to three teaspoons of vinegar on your favorite foods and you stop eating them because you're now sour on them! Folks, if vinegar had magic weight loss powers it would cost a heck of a lot more than it does.
A crazy diet fad that's gaining renewed traction involves swallowing capsules that act like sponges and expand in your stomach after soaking up some of your acid. The idea here is that these expanding sponges give your brain a false sense of fullness so you won't want to eat more.
Heck, you may not ever want to eat again after the gel-like blob balloons to the size of a tennis ball! Sounds like a do-it-yourself gastric bypass procedure! The obvious danger here is that you won't get enough nutrients without supplementation - and that you will lose too much weight while your belly is all balled up!
The high-protein diet that helped Oprah shrink to a stick figure size for probably the first - and most likely the last - time in her life made headlines back in 1986. But have you seen Oprah lately? If a woman with great wealth and personal cooks and fitness professionals cannot maintain the weight loss of a liquid diet, then who can? Not me.
While a liquid diet will help you slim down quickly, it is practically impossible to stick with. Within a few days of unveiling her newly slim size-10 body, Oprah gained back enough weight to push her into a larger size pair of jeans. Many of the companies that had pushed liquid diets have now begun adding a few solid choices to the daily menu.
Just like vampires, classic diets just never die - they only continue to suck year after year. Case in point: The Bananas and Skim Milk Diet. This golden oldie got its start in 1934 when the United Fruit Company promoted and endorsed the diet findings of a certain Dr. George Harrop. The good doctor looked at fat-free skim milk and potassium-rich bananas and declared it a weight loss plan with plenty of appeal.
What it turned out to be was a shrewd marketing plan by a fruit company looking to sell more bananas! While eating lots of bananas and drinking lots of skim milk won't harm you, it will make you yearn for other foods.
If we hadn't mentioned vampires in the previous diet description, we would have used that bit for this diet which cropped up a decade or so ago. The premise: Every blood type has its own must-eat and never-eat foods for better health. Yes, by following this plan we are all typecast by our blood. It actually sounds plausible but the science behind it all is kind of sketchy. After all, how can chicken or turkey be bad for one person but great for another?
If you believe in a master plan for the human race, you have to find it hard to believe nuances in our diets can make such a big difference simply because we are Type A and not Type O. The brains at the Mayo Clinic chimed in with this dismissal: "eating or avoiding certain foods according to your blood type isn't thought to have any favorable influence on weight or health."
The official website for the Rice Diet claims, "Despite our name, the diet is not centered on rice." But they do note that "we serve a number of rices..." You start with an initial period where variety is limited - dieters get a bland menu of rice and fruit. And any time you limit the types of foods you eat, you set yourself up for yearnings. Think low-carb and your sudden desire to gorge on bread or pasta.
The fact that you end up eating a healthy well-rounded diet tells us this is just another in a long line of dieting gimmicks. Rice itself is practically nutrient-free. So it's like you are eating fillers to curb your appetite, but not really taking in stuff that will help your body operate efficiently. DietsinReview.com agrees: "It's quite restrictive in that it provides little protein, healthy fat and fruit. The Rice Diet also has a low calorie consumption."
Can we be frank? We can be wieners if you prefer. However, this is yet another in a long series of catchy titled diets that mislead you into thinking one certain food (or a pairing of foods) will lead to eating enjoyment and weight loss. This diet may sound like bun in a million but the truth is you don't really get to scarf down trays of hot dogs on your way to a slim build like that scrawny Japanese eating machine who wins the Coney Island hot dog contest year after year.
DietsinReview.com says, "The Hot Dog Diet is a strict eating plan that allows you to eat just a few hot dogs over the course of the three days in addition to ice cream, peanut butter and eggs... foods believed to increase metabolism so that you burn calories more quickly and consequently lose weight."
Really now... if you think eating hot dogs and ice cream is going to lead to anything but larger pants then you best bone up on proper nutrition.
While The Twitter Diet sounds like the write stuff for serious dieters, it leaves us thinking its more like a "click" of people who feel a need to lay out every last detail of their personal life for the world to see... and critique. While the Twitter Diet does not mean you eat twitters, it does mean you spend your days tweeting about every last morsel that you put in your mouth.
Since slip happens a lot to us dieters, it sounds like a great way to make yourself look foolish to a potential audience of millions. "For breakfast, I had a whole grain bagel with lite cream cheese... For lunch, I had an extra large pizza with sausage, extra cheese, ground beef and pepperoni..." Food journaling does work but public humiliation leave us cold and angry enough to abandon our weight loss intentions.
The concept is simple: Only eat food in its natural state. Sorry steak lovers but there's NO RED MEAT. With a typical macrobiotic diet, you do eat whole grains (especially brown rice), vegetables (and seaweed), beans, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits and miso soup. If you like your brain you may want to think twice about diving into this plan.
Because it offers so little meat, there's not enough protein for little things like brain chemistry, muscle repair and bone building. Also, because you are cutting out almost all your fat, you are not getting the good fats that help your body stabilize blood sugar and decrease inflammation. Despite these issues, vitamin and mineral supplementation is often frowned upon.
"Consult a registered dietitian to help you balance the yin-yang and nutritional completeness of your plan," urges American Dietetic Association Dawn Jackson Blatner. "Otherwise you could end up with nutritional deficiencies."
Chicken soup... it's not just for fighting colds anymore. Proponents of the Chicken Soup Diet say you'll lose weight eating one of five suggested daily breakfasts and all the chicken soup you want! There isn't much of a "catch" here although you cannot stray outside their short list of acceptable breakfasts and you need to eat chicken soup made from their recipe not grandma's.
Will you lose weight? Most likely. The reason chicken soup is as good for weight loss as it is for your soul: You're eating fewer calories. Broth-based soups will fill you up without fattening you up. Consider this the cabbage soup diet without the smell! Just don't consider this a miracle cure for your fat. When you go back to solid foods, you'll be bowled over by how fast your lost weight returns.
Want to lose weight while you enjoy steaks and other manly foods - and wash it all down with booze? Then raise your glass and toast The Drinking Man's Diet! This weight loss plan first made waves in 1964, but it enjoyed a recent resurgence when its creator, Robert Cameron, reissued his original diet plan a few years ago.
Cameron, now in his 90s, claims men can eat steak, wash it down with a martini and lose weight. Even though the Harvard School of Public Health declared the DMT a health disaster, some folks aren't so quick to judge (probably those folks who love red meat and liquor).
In all seriousness, the DMD is merely a predecessor to the Atkins Diet - it works by restricting your carb intake. And, as we've said several times before, any plan that restricts certain foods is almost always doomed to fail. Cheers!
"The Hollywood miracle diet has been proven to both cleanse and detoxify the body while assisting in weight loss efforts."
And so begins the hype on the official website for this juice detox plan. Folks, any time you see the word MIRACLE used on conjunction with a diet, run... run far and run fast! Drinking juice to cleanse your system is an old trick for those trying to drop weight fast. However, any weight you lose fast often seems to reappear even faster!
Like any movie worth its weight, The Hollywood Diet has an original (the 48-hour plan) and a sequel (the 24-hour version). The script reads, "On the Hollywood Diet, users can lose up to 5 pounds in 24 hours, and 10 pounds in 48 hours." Don't buy the hype. And don't buy this diet... unless short-term weight loss is all you're after.
I'm attracted to food, but the Magnetic Diet repels me. Okay so this diet plan has nothing to do with two pieces of metal that magically clang together, although I guess you could use a pair of magnets to pinch shut your lips. But I digress...
The Magnetic Diet is based on the belief that all foods either attract health or disease to the body. The foods to avoid are the usual suspects: Those that contain refined sugar, cholesterol or white flour. Instead, you should be attracted to fruits, whole grains, vegetables, lean meat, and antioxidant-rich goodies. To do it right you are also expected to make time for meditation so you can basically rewire your brain and make it - and you - more open to healthier habits.
As fads go, this isn't that outrageous - it's just one more example of selling the sizzle rather than the steak.
Author: John McGran