Do you find yourself longing for a return to the health and vitality of your salad days without the need for literal salad days? The best way to lose weight healthfully is with a gradual lifestyle change to a balanced diet and regular exercise, but where’s the fun in that? These fad diets promise mostly speedy results with little or no exercise, and we will eat our hats if they actually work.
- Cabbage Soup Diet: Since the 1980s, this scheme to shed pounds quickly has been ubiquitous in the diet world. A cabbage soup made of vegetables and broth is consumed for seven days, along with strict daily allowances of produce, milk, and beef. The low-calorie eating will likely prompt swift weight loss, but don’t expect to keep the pounds off. Unless you’re obsessed with cabbage, the diet will be difficult to sustain.
- Blood Type Diet: Naturopathic physician Peter D’Adamo insists that the answers to wellness and fitness can be found in a person’s blood type. He has been insisting for over 20 years that appropriate diets can be recommended for people based on ABO blood groups. Of course, scientific evidence for this claim is nonexistent, It is the impression of individualization, perhaps, that affords blood type diet franchises their success. Our attitude toward this diet is B-negative.
- Moon Diet: If it is true that a full moon correlates with aggressive behavior, perhaps all of the late-night lunatics are following this diet. Also known as the “werewolf diet,” this fad relies on the supposed power of the moon to stimulate weight loss. Proponents of this far-out regimen allege that fasting with juice and water for 24 hours during a full moon will take advantage of some undefined tidal effect on the human body. The moon diet can also be attempted during a new moon — and probably at any time waxing or waning as well. This fad diet eclipses the rest in terms of New Age nuttiness.
- Grapefruit Diet:
This trend of unknown origins involves eating grapefruit along with proteins and fats such as eggs, bacon, and fish. Incarnations of the grapefruit diet are typically low in carbohydrates and starches. The surprising part? It might actually work. A 2014 study found that a similar diet in mice resulted in less weight gain and healthier blood glucose and insulin levels. As long as you aren’t taking a medication that interacts with grapefruit dangerously, the bitter citrus can be a great addition to your balanced diet.
James Cagney turns a grapefruit into a weapon in The Public Enemy (1931), Warner Bros.
- Detox Diet: Although detoxification is a process carried out by the liver and kidneys — or a medical team in instances of poisoning — cleanse or detox diets advise a period of fasting accompanied with daily saltwater, lemonade, and laxative tea to rid the body of toxins and promote weight loss. Perhaps the most famous of these is The Master Cleanse, in which adherents guzzle a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup for 10 days. Harvard Women’s Health Watch warns against detox diets, saying that a “daily laxative regimen can cause dehydration, deplete electrolytes, and impair normal bowel function.” Since no evidence exists to suggest these diets will actually detoxify your system, we’re going to skip the spicy lemonade.
- HCG Diet: Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) was found in weight loss supplements that were made illegal for over-the-counter use in the U.S. in 2011. The hormone is found in the placenta of pregnant women, and it was first used for weight loss in the 1950s. The most alarming aspect of the HCG diet plan is the daily intake of just 500 calories. This kind of extreme dieting is broadly rejected by doctors and scientists as hazardous behavior.
- Raw Food Diet: A raw diet might conjure images of a 1960s health food cult with a charismatic leader and strict rules about
yeast, but The Source Restaurant in Los Angeles was just the beginning of this culture in the U.S. A raw, vegan diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and seeds that have not been heated above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, since raw foodists insist that heating food diminishes its nutritional and digestive values greatly. This is true of some foods; but others, like tomatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms, release nutrients and antioxidants only when cooked. Meal preparation for a raw diet can be costly and time-consuming as well, rendering fresh, natural eating unrealistic. With daily processes like dehydration, seed-sprouting, and fermentation, reaching a healthy level of calories and fats can be a full-time job. This is a diet either for those who can afford to outsource the harvest or for folks who have spare time on the commune.
Also be sure to read Managing the Hunger Mood from the March/April issue.