Need to lose some weight fast? You may be tempted to go on a fad diet to drop pounds quickly, and if you do, you won’t have any trouble finding one. From the cabbage soup diet to a detox cleanse, countless diets promise a substantial weight loss lickety split.
Of course, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is—and fad diets are no exception. Since losing weight is an unpleasant struggle for most people, dieters typically look for the quickest, least painful way to slim down. That’s why fad diets have endured for decades. And yes, pretty much any program will work if you burn more calories than you take in, but chances are you’ll be a cranky mess and immediately gain the weight back once you go off the diet.
Two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, but fad diets aren’t the ticket to ending the obesity epidemic. Talk to your doctor and go on a sensible plan of eating balanced meals, and be sure to exercise. No, it’s not a magic pill, but we guarantee you’ll be happier and healthier. Click through the gallery to see an array of silly fad diets, some of which you may have already tried. It’s OK. We won’t tell.
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Cabbage Soup Diet
Not that we don’t like cabbage soup, but making it the centerpiece of a diet sounds really...unappealing. This week-long plan is a regimented program of specific foods plus, of course, cabbage soup, which is made with usual suspects such as tomatoes, green onions, carrots, mushrooms, and low-sodium V8 juice. While it promises to help you drop weight quickly, the diet is to be followed for only a week at a time, with a two-week break in between bouts of soup.
But before you start heading for the produce section, the Mayo Clinic says that although dieters may be successful in the short-term, “this diet doesn't help you make the lifestyle changes necessary for maintaining a healthy weight over the long term.” Plus, a lack of proper nutrition could cause weakness or fatigue.
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If you care at all about big, scary warnings from the Food and Drug Administration, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of the HCG diet (that stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, and don’t you dare ask us to pronounce it). The FDA has issued a stern warning about the diet under the headline, “HCG Diet Products Are Illegal,” and that pretty much says it all.
OK, we’ll tell you more. HCG is a pregnancy-related hormone, and diets that accompany HCG injections are typically very low in calories—like 500 a day, the amount usually eaten in one meal. You might lose weight, but you might also pass out from lack of food. While the diet has its roots in the 1950s, it has since been discredited, with doctors finding that the hormone does nothing to help people lose weight. The FDA approves HCG for treating female infertility and other conditions, but it may not be used off-label for weight loss. In other words, stay away.
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The Detox Diet
The “detox” part of this already has us cringing—most people don’t need to detox unless they’ve ingested poison or been on a drug or alcohol bender. But walk into any drugstore or vitamin shop and you’ll see several companies wanting to take your money for their cleansing cures.
The main principal of detox diets is to rid your body of pesky toxins that are allegedly making you fat. This is done via some combination of fasting/supplements/cleanses/herbs that once again promise a fast track to slimness. But don’t be fooled by outrageous claims, and beware of diets that put you in starvation mode or insist you consume questionable substances.
As the Mayo Clinic says, “Detox diets that severely limit protein or that require fasting, for example, can result in fatigue. Long-term fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Colon cleansing, which is often recommended as part of a detox plan, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration also can be a concern.”
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The Three-Day Diet
A diet that only lasts three days—what could be so bad about that? Plenty, apparently. Although several versions of the three-day diet exist, they all seem to be based around an extremely restrictive, regimented diet designed to help you drop pounds quickly—some versions promise 10 pounds. The good news is you get vanilla ice cream for dessert. But you’re eating a half of a grapefruit and a piece of toast with a small shmear of peanut butter on it for breakfast.
While the average healthy person may be able to maintain this plan for 72 hours, it is very low in calories and not nutritionally balanced. Ten pounds in three days is an unrealistic goal, and if there’s some dire need to lose that amount of weight that quickly, you may need to rethink your priorities and time management.
U.S. News and World Reportraises the questions: “How long can you cycle through the on-off mantra of the diet? And when you’re off, will you just revert to old ways and gain back the pounds?” Probably.
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The Baby Food Diet
The Baby Food Diet sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? Return to those carefree days when you didn’t have to worry about spread sheets and Internet dating and all you cared about was that spoon of liquefied turkey comin’ at ya’.
A review of the diet on WebMD reveals that it was conceived by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, who supposedly put famous client Jennifer Aniston on it. If that’s true, then Ms. Aniston would have been alternating meals of pureed vegetables, fruits, and meats with grown-up fare.
Although WebMD points out that baby food has a pretty good amount of nutrients, adults and babies have different nutritional needs, and much of the stuff doesn’t contain needed fiber and calcium. Also, good luck eating the stuff in public without drawing attention.
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The Taco Bell/Starbucks/Whatever Restaurant Diet
Some of you may remember the tale of one Christine Dougherty, who claimed to have lost a whopping 54 pounds by eating the lower-calorie offerings on the Taco Bell menu, spawning the chain’s official “Drive-Thru Diet.” She’s been recently upstaged by Christine Hall, who says she lost 85 pounds by eating Starbucks fare such as oatmeal, sandwiches, and those “Bistro Box” snacks which, we’ll admit, aren’t bad in a pinch. Oh, and coffee, of course. Then, of course, there’s the granddaddy of them all, Jared Fogle, who famously lost a bunch of weight by eating at Subway.
The point of all of these restaurant-specific diets is that yes, you can lose weight by only eating their food. As we pointed out earlier, pretty much any diet will work if calories taken in are less than the calories you burn. So if you can stand month after month of Fresco Crunchy tacos and Fresco Burrito Supremes, more power to you. Just don’t come crying to us when you’re dying for a tuna sandwich and you can’t get the smell of grilled meat out of your hair.