The Absolute Worst Diets of the Last 30 Years
We've all really hoped some cure would come along that would help up blast fat and keep it off for the rest of our days. Some of us maybe have even prayed for such a miracle. Alas, science proves time and time again that watching what you eat and moving more are the real miracle workers. Still, that doesn't prevent many—and we do mean MANY—fad diets from cropping up, sweeping the nation, and then disappearing into oblivion when they're rooted out as the false prophets they are. These diets attained the title of the absolute worst.
New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.
Known by many names, but most commonly the Master Cleanse, this diet involves surviving solely on a concoction of water, lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for over a week. For 10 days, dieters shun all solid foods (and subsequently society itself) to drink the strange spicy tea mix. Not only are you getting almost no nutrients or calories during this time period, some users experience nausea and weakness as the days progress.
Almost all weight loss from this will be either (temporary) water weight or muscle mass, which will cause your metabolism to slow down. So as soon as you start eating solid food again, expect to gain back what you lost and then some.
Cabbage Soup Diet
A true classic in the fad dieting realm, the cabbage soup diet seems to have been around forever. It's quite simple really, which is maybe why it has such last powers. You simply make a pot of fat-free cabbage soup and eat it. And only it. Until you're miserable and skinny. While it sounds easy, and will make this week's batch cooking much simpler, there's no positives that come from eating the same food over and over. A healthy diet, whether for weight loss or not, requires eating a plethora of foods to get enough vitamins and minerals.
Along with lacking in nutrients, the cabbage soup diet is short on protein and heart-healthy fats, both of which contribute to feeling full and satiated. Balance is key, so this diet, along with other one-food diets like the grapefruit or boiled-egg diet, should be avoided.
Restriction is the name of the game when it comes to the alkaline diet. Based on the concept that eating more alkaline foods, and shunning foods that make your body produce acid, will vastly improve health, this diet requires cutting out entire food groups. Meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and anything that could be deemed sugary or processed are banned from your plate.
While the emphasis on fresh produce and healthy foods like seeds and nuts is great, it isn't an easy diet to follow. There's no science backing up the alkaline diet's claims that it will perfectly balance your pH levels. That's something your body already does naturally (and efficiently), so there's no need to drastically change your diet for the sake of your pH.
The Military Diet
Often touted as a way to lose 10 pounds in one week, this extreme meal plan isn't just miserable, it's also dangerous. With no actual association with any branch of the military, the Military Diet is something that seems to have sprung to life on the Internet. Meals are small, unvaried, and include bizarre combinations. Example meals include "1 cup cottage cheese, 1 hard boiled egg, 5 saltine crackers" or "1 cup tuna, 1/2 banana, 1 cup vanilla ice cream."
The Military Diet suggests using the meal plan for three days, eating normal for four days, and repeating as necessary. This is a risky cycle that could easily become a habit of restricting and binging each week. Although not drastically low calorie, the high-fat foods that the diet requires, like cheddar cheese or hot dogs, won't fill you up like a similar caloric portion of fiber-rich vegetable or fruit would.
Just about extreme as diets can get, the tapeworm diet pushes the boundaries of how far people are willing to go to lose weight. The concept is that the dieter orders a tapeworm eggs capsule online (usually on illegal black market web sites). Once the pills arrive, they swallow the pill and proceed to magically lose weight. What they don't tell you about it is the various health issues that can arise from actively choosing to swallow a parasite.
While the tapeworm grows and absorbs the calories, it also absorbs all of the nutrients you consume. Severe malnutrition, debilitating stomach pain, and constant nausea and diarrhea are just some of the common side effects. Other risks include the eggs spreading to multiple parts of your body and causing life threatening issues. Best (er, maybe worst) part? The tapeworm is hard to kill, and usually requires a hospital visit to remove.
Blood Type Diet
The notion behind the blood type diet is that certain foods react differently with each blood type. In other words, proponents of the diet suggest some foods might be healthy for one blood type, while causing severe damage to another. Type A dieters must go vegetarian, type O has to stick with lean meats and fresh produce, and type B is required to avoid a random assortment of foods including chicken, tomatoes, sesame seeds, and peanuts.
The main negative of the diet is its complex rules and that it requires many blood types to cut out healthy, everyday ingredients. Developed by a naturopathic doctor, there's no scientific evidence (despite several studies) that the blood type diet is effective when it comes to health or weight loss.
The Flecherizing Diet
Ever been yelled at by your mom to chew your food? Well Horace Fletcher, founder of the Flecherizing Diet, took it to a whole new level. The idea is to chew all foods (and liquids, which we're still trying to figure out) 100 times before swallowing.
While this might help you lose weight because you can't finish your lunch without committing at least an hour to masticating, there's absolutely zero science showing that thoroughly chewing does anything for weight loss. To add an extra dose of insanity, Fletcher claimed that if you properly followed the diet that your bowel movements wouldn't stink.
Baby Food Diet
Created by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, who services clients like Gwyneth Paltrow, this diet requires you to buy jars and jars of baby food. The diet's concept is to replace two meals each day with totally smooth, makes-infants-and-parents-alike-gag-during-feeding-time, baby food.
With each jar coming in at about 20-100 calories, the calories on this diet are dangerously low for adults. Plus dieters will feel unsatisfied (and hopefully embarrassed) slurping up pureed peas and bananas next to co-workers who are enjoying their solid food lunches.
Raw Food Diet
While eating more vegetables and fruits is always a good thing, only eating those is not the best idea for your health. Raw food dieters, who usually choose this as a lifestyle and not just a weight-loss attempt, usually subsist solely on fresh produce, nuts, and seeds. Most are vegan, though an occasional few also incorporate raw fish into their meals.
The raw food diet has two two problems: First, it's very difficult to eat enough calories. Second, you can no longer eat healthy foods like legumes, grains, and some lean proteins. Hours can be spent prepping and consuming foods just to meet your daily nutritional needs. While we do recommend trying some foods raw, like bell peppers or leafy greens, to get the max amount of vitamins and minerals, it's best to do it in moderation instead of all or nothing.
The Cookie Diet
Possibly the most tempting sounding diet on this list, the Cookie Diet has the same problem as the cabbage soup diet: man cannot live by one food alone. But you're not eating just any cookies. Multiple brands, like Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet or The Hollywood Cookie Diet, suggest that you replace your breakfast, lunch, and snacks with their "specially formulated" cookies.
Although most brands supplement their cookie products by adding in vitamins and minerals so you're not solely living off of sugar and refined carbs, you're still missing out on consuming fresh foods to fuel your body. Cost is also a big issue, with most programs clocking in at over $200 for four weeks-worth of cookies. Any weight loss achieved by this will often be regained when users return to regular meals, unless they plan on eating cookies for the rest of their life. This is a prime example for "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."