The diet industry fleeces us of billions of dollars every year, with products full of bloated promises but no real proof that they work.
Here are six of the worst diets that I hope you won’t even consider trying after we give you the skinny on each of them.
After reading about each diet below, we hope you run—don’t walk—away from them.
Raw Foods Diet
Eating raw is based on trying to get the majority of your calories from unprocessed and uncooked foods. Rawists believe that eating foods above 116°–118° F will destroy enzymes that provide many health benefits. While most dietitians would agree that eating lots of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and grains is best, we also understand that processing actually boosts the bioavailability of several key nutrients, primarily the phytonutrients, and inactivates some of the unhealthy compounds.
The raw food diet is rich in all plant-based foods including fruits and vegetables; nuts and seeds; and sprouted seeds, grains, and beans. These ingredients are great but following this type of diet to a T requires a lot of complicated food preparation.
As a “flexitarian,” I know that eating lower on the food chain can help promote weight loss, but I also know that caloric content is not related to the heated treatment of food. Skip the raw food diet, and eat more healthful whole foods—cooked or raw—to help whittle your waist, not your wallet.
The hCG diet is a very low-calorie plan (500 to 800 calories per day) supplemented with injections of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Any diet that drops below 1,000 calories is really unsafe for most of us to begin with, and you’re apt to lose a lot of weight even if you’re getting injected with milk shakes. Of course, the golden rule of dieting is that the faster it comes off, the more likely you are to regain it, so this diet would be on my list no matter what…but the hCG shots raise so many red flags I don’t know where to begin. Bottom line: Scientists don’t know if hCG is safe to inject when you’re not producing it naturally, so please don’t be a weight-loss guinea pig.
Master Cleanse & Other Detox Diets
Beyonce reported slimmed down for one of her music videos with the Master Cleanse, dieters are trying this “cleanse” by drinking a concoction of squeezed lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper several times a day for 10 days. It also calls for an herbal laxative tea taken at night and a quart of salt water first thing in the morning, supposedly to clean out the GI tract and bowels. Needless to say, there are no studies to suggest that our GI tracts and organs need any help in removing waste or so-called toxins from the body.
The diet is only 650–1,300 calories, and it lacks key nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and zinc—so no dietitian recommends doing it for more than a day or two.
Cabbage Soup Diet (and all of its single-food-diet cousins)
Contrary to rumors, this diet is not recommended by, nor did it originate with, the American Heart Association (AHA); the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital, in Spokane, Wash.; or any other health organization. In fact, AHA and others have made it known that you should steer clear of this fad diet.
While there are several versions of the diet, all have a seven-day cycle based on all-you-can-eat “fat-burning” cabbage soup (a mix of cabbage, carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, and onions). Of course, if you eat only one food for a week, you’ll lose weight because you’re eliminating so much of what you normally eat. However, whenever a diet recommends that you eliminate entire food groups, it’s a cue that the diet is not sustainable.
This fad is based on a theory among acupuncturists that an area of the ear regulates your appetite. The procedure is like getting an ear pierced, but the constant pressure of the staple on the “stomach” of your ear is supposed to curtail your eating.
Fat chance. There is no science behind ear stapling for weight loss, but there is plenty of evidence that stapling could lead to serious infections and deformities. If you need help in controlling your appetite, better to try something that really works, like eating more fruits and vegetables and less of everything else.
This one takes the cake. (Oh, but only if it did.) It’s a diet that promotes living on air alone, no food or water. Hmm. That is pretty contrary to what I learned in undergraduate and graduate school while studying nutrition. I believe our bodies will only survive a few days without water and a few weeks without food.
The mumbo jumbo on this diet is that you align yourself to the universe and you won’t need water or food. You know what this sounds like to me? Starvation.