Updated July 27, 2008
People will do almost anything to lose weight. While the most logical, sustainable means of doing so hasn’t really changed—eat less and exercise—every day it seems there are a host of new and outlandish methods to lose those love handles. Most of these ill-fated regimes will help you lose pounds, at least in the short term, but sometimes it’s at the expense of an organ or your sanity. Here are a few of my favorites:
11. Dr. Siegal’s® Cookie Diet™
Make no mistake, you’re not going to be eating Pepperidge Farm Milanos, or Oreos, or Mrs. Fields’ White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies on this diet. No, you’re going to be eating the concoctions of Dr. Siegal, a physician who specializes in hypothyroidism and obesity, and who also likes to sell weight loss books and snacks. However, his proprietary hunger-controlling cookies are a diet-deceiving indulgence; they look like bricks of fiber-coated oats sweetened with prunes. Although they may make you less hungry, the doctor also advises combining them with a restricted calorie diet, which, as we all know, is the main way you’re going to lose weight. I also like how he has trademarked the term “Let’s face it: hunger wrecks diets™.” Uh, so do cookies.
10. The Subway Diet
Ever since I worked in a building where the women’s restroom abutted a Subway sandwich shop, I have had an almost Pavlovian reaction to thought of eating one of their subs. It reminds me of the toilet, and makes me want to gag. So although I know many people like Subway, eating them twice a day for a year, like Jared Fogel, the guy on the Subway commercials who lost 245 pounds, seems inconceivable. And it seems like I could save a whole lot of money by just making my own sandwiches, and maybe going for a jog now and again.
9. The Cereal Diet
This is similar to the Subway diet in that you’re supposed to supplant two meals a day with the same thing—in this case cereal. From Special K to Raisin Bran, many cereal boxes now claim you can “lose six in two”— that is lose six pounds in two weeks. Of course, the premise is the same: when people have to measure the amount they are eating, they end up eating fewer calories, so they lose weight. And it’s not like these cereals are health food or anything. The third ingredient in Special K is sugar; it’s the second ingredient in All-Bran. And the last thing you want to be eating too much of is All-Bran—it’s not weight you’d lose, but the contents of your bowels.
8. Cabbage Soup Diet
Mmmm … cabbage. Good on St. Patrick’s day, not so good every day. Unless you’re trying to lose up to ten pounds in a single week, then maybe cabbage doesn’t sound so bad anymore. But being light headed, weak, and suffering from decreased concentration, as some diet participants have reported, does. Not to mention the inordinate amount of flatulence you are bound to have on a cabbage laden diet. Slim, but stinky.
7. Slim Fast
First a Subway sandwich, then cereal, now a Slim Fast shake or food item. The basic premise is the same: replace two meals with any of the above, you lose weight, and the maker of said item makes a lot of money. That is, until you grow so bored and tired of eating the exact same thing for two meals a day you quit, and realize that—wow—there are a lot of other foods out there that cost a lot less. Say, fruits and vegetables.
6. Blood Type Diet
According to this diet, different blood types should eat different foods. If you’re group O, you’re a hunter, and should eat meat. If you’re A, you’re a cultivator, and are best as a vegetarian. B? A nomad, eat dairy. The rare AB blood type should eat—you guessed it—a combination of the foods recommended for groups A and B. If this sounds more like the plot of a bad high school play than a diet, that’s because there’s really no evidence that your blood type has any influence on your weight or overall health. Look past the A’s, B’s and O’s, and you’ll see this a fad diet that doesn’t make much sense.
5. Russian Air Force Diet
This diet does not require you to stand in the bread line, but it does require you to survive on near starvation levels of food. Originally developed in the former Soviet Union to keep soldiers fit, you are allowed to put herbs, salt, pepper, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and ketchup on all your meals. But about those meals … breakfast is coffee only. Lunch: two eggs, a tomato. And dinner allows you to feast on a sliver of meat and a salad. Yes, you will lose weight. Yes, you will feel like you’ve enlisted. And yes, you will feel like you are back in the USSR.
4. The Three-Day Diet/Hot Dog Diet
These diets are similar, because both recommend eating franks for dinner. You also get to eat one cup of vanilla ice cream and one tablespoon of peanut butter in the course of this diet, as well as other strictly measured amounts of food. The result of losing ten pounds over the course of three days is due to severe calorie restriction, even if your calories are coming from precisely measured hotdogs. And after the three days? Regain.
3. The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Yummy—nothing like throwing back a few teaspoons of vinegar to get your gut prepared for a meal. Talk about an appetite suppressant. This diet relies on the premise that apple cider vinegar, taken fifteen minutes before a meal, will decrease hunger and curb the urge to nibble. There’s no real evidence that apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight, but reducing portions and exercising, like most of the proponents of this fad also tell you to do, will.
2. The Writing Diet
I can’t seem to figure out why we writers aren’t all size twos. Because according to Julia Cameron’s new book The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Sized, we should be. The premise for this too-good-to-be-true diet is that people overeat not out of hunger, but because of emotion. By writing daily, we tap into our emotions, and put them on the page instead of in our mouths. While I can concede that having your hands on a keyboard will prevent them from grabbing a bag of Doritos, I can’t figure out how sitting on your butt is supposed to make it smaller.
And the number one most ridiculous diet …
1. The Atkins Diet
Don’t get me wrong: the Atkins diet can help you lose weight. I’ve tried it, and I lost weight. But man, I felt like crap. And after a week, all I could think about was eating an orange. An orange! Of all the harmless food items out there. Of course, cutting out refined sugars and nutrition-less carbs is a good thing, but not all carbs are bad for you, and the good ones fuel muscles, fill you up, and are pretty damn tasty. Not to mention that the Atkins diet isn’t a healthful lifestyle change; it’s a limiting diet that requires you to eat a lot of not so healthy foods. And chances are you won’t be able to avoid eating carbohydrates for your entire life, nor would many people want to.
While these diets are ridiculous, unsustainable, and often times dangerous, if your main goal is to lose weight, you just might find them useful. After all, extreme caloric restriction, per the Three Day or Russian Air Force diet, seems to be a tried and true method of dropping pounds. And they’ll stay off—at least until you come to your senses.