Ever heard of the Twinkie diet? What about the tapeworm diet? Yes, these diets are as absurd and as gross as they sound. And, even worse, they are real.
Here’s the thing about dieting… there’s a million ways to lose weight. Some are healthy. Others aren’t. A few diets out there can actually destroy your health at the very root.
Here are eleven diets that really SHOULD NOT consider doing.
#1 The HCG Diet
Otherwise known as the Weight Loss Cure, the HCG diet allows only five-hundred calories per day – one quarter of the recommended daily allowance for calories for most people.
This diet also calls for daily doses of human choriogonadotropin (HCG), a hormone produced by the body in the early stages of pregnancy. This hormone can be ingested in the form of a pill, but is more commonly injected into the body.[i]
Firstly, going on a 500-calorie diet will make you lose weight with or without hormone supplements. Secondly, there is zero evidence that HCG aids in weight loss. Finally, HCG has several side effects including “fatigue, irritability, restlessness, depression, fluid buildup (edema), and swelling of the breasts in boys and men (gynecomastia)” and “the risk of blood clots forming and blocking blood vessels (thromboembolism).” [ii]
#2 The Twinkie Diet
A professor of human nutrition conducted this diet as an experiment, only consuming one Twinkie every three hours for a total of ten weeks. He ended up dropping twenty-seven pounds.[iii]
At first glance, this might seem amazing. But consider this: the professor consumed significantly fewer calories than he burned daily. Twinkies only contain 150 calories per piece.
David Katz, M.D. has this to say about the diet:
“The Twinkie diet was a dreadful diet. But it was, nonetheless, a diet in the conventional sense, meaning it was calorie-restricted. The professor reduced his calorie intake from a maintenance level of roughly 2,600 kcal per day to fewer than 1,800 kcal for ten weeks.”[iv]
#3 The Tapeworm Diet
Sounds like a low-budget horror film.
The Tapeworm Diet requires that you ingest the namesake parasite, either as a pill or in egg form, so that they can grow in your stomach and ingest the food you consume.
The idea is that these tapeworms consume the food you eat and also help suppress your appetite. After you’ve reach your ideal weight, simply take antibiotics to kill the parasites and flush them out of your intestines.[v]
However, the truth is that left untreated, tapeworms can grow up to nine meters long inside your body, which could ultimately add significantly to your weight rather than decreasing it.
Moreover, the dangers of this method far outweigh its supposed benefits. Aside from symptoms like abdominal pain, bowel problems, and anal irritation from expulsion, leaving a tapeworm infection untreated can ultimately be fatal.[vi]
#4 The Baby Food Diet
This diet involves consuming not less than sixteen jars of baby food and only one regular meal per day. The rationale behind this is that the calorie deficit will promote weight loss. (Yes, that’s how diets are supposed to work.)
In spite of the health benefits weight loss may offer, eating baby food as a substitute for proper meals will not be very good for your body. Aside from the fact that you will not get the same flavor and crunch from baby food that you will from regular food, the formulae for baby food lack sufficient nutrients and proteins for adults. As a result, you have a very good chance of gaining back even more weight once you start eating regular food once more.[vii]
#5 The Cigarette Diet
Before it became common knowledge that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health, tobacco companies actually marketed their products as weight-loss and dieting aids. They were meant to replace actual food because they had no calories and contained nicotine, which is a stimulant. The logic was that lighting up a cigarette would suppress your appetite and help you refrain from eating too much food and sweets.[viii]
Of course, it is widely accepted today that smoking a cigarette can cause a multitude of health problems, such as lung cancer and heart disease. Cigarettes are addictive, and chronic use of them has been linked to many conditions including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, which seem a high price to pay for a lower body weight.
#6 The Sleeping Beauty Diet
The Sleeping Beauty Diet, as its name suggests, advocates sleeping throughout the day in order to lose weight. Simply put, dozing off and staying unconscious for the entire day will prevent you from experiencing hunger pangs or putting anything in your mouth.
Although there is scientific research that backs up the importance of sleep in weight control and management, this diet takes that idea way too far. While a deficit in sleep can be a contributing factor to excess weight gain and obesity, it is never a good idea to sedate yourself for days at a time just to avoid eating; in fact, it can even be dangerous to your health.[ix]
#7 The Chewing Diet
Also known as Fletcherism, the Chewing Diet was created by a man called Horace Fletcher, who lived in the early 1900s and was nicknamed “The Great Masticator.” According to him, all it took to lose weight was to chew each bite of food until it was completely purified or in liquid form, and then spit out whatever solids remained in your mouth. This very slow chewing, which sometimes took up to one hundred repetitions, was not only supposed to decrease food intake significantly, but also prevent the contraction and development of diseases.
While there is some science that supports this fad diet, taking it to the extreme will not really do you any good. Research has suggested that eating more mindfully and taking time to chew your food thoroughly will give your body enough time to send your brain the proper signals that your stomach is full, thus preventing you from overeating and helping you feel more full even if you eat less. Nonetheless, liquefying each bite of food will not only be a big hassle, but will also take up way more of your time than is necessary to have a meal.[x]
#8 The Vision Diet
The idea is to wear glasses that are tinted blue so that everything you are going to eat instantly looks less appetizing. Red and yellow foods, such as french fries, ripe produce, and of course, meat, appear the most palatable and so stimulate your appetite. This diet is thus designed to trick your brain into eating less by changing the appearance and reducing the appeal of your food.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. The actual taste of your food will probably negate its supposedly unappealing blue appearance, leaving you to continue to eat whatever you want in any quantity.[xi]
#9 The Cookie Diet
Eat six special diet cookies throughout the day, and then eat a five-hundred calorie dinner at night and lose weight. These special cookies contain only eighty to ninety calories apiece, and some variants contain added ingredients such as wheat bran or beef protein hydrolysate to provide you with essential nutrients. The six cookies and dinner add up to a total of roughly one thousand calories, creating a calorie deficit that promotes weight loss.
However, a mere 1,000 calories barely provides enough energy to function properly throughout the day. Moreover, a drastic reduction in calorie intake may indeed lead to weight loss, but, as with other extremely low-calorie diets, you are more likely to gain even more weight when you start eating regular food again. Furthermore, the special cookies are not cheap.[xii]
#10 The Cabbage Soup Diet
This week-long diet will have you eating nothing but cabbage-based soup for all your meals, with one or two meals composed of small amounts of certain other foods. You can have as much of the low-sodium soup as you want for the entire week and still be rewarded with as much as ten pounds off your weight.
This diet supposedly works because the vegetable-based soup provides you with sufficient nutrients while keeping your appetite satisfied at the same time. Plus, the severely limited options will discourage you from over-eating, leading you to consume less food through the week.
Unfortunately, removing entire food groups from your diet may cause a deficit in your body’s vitamins and minerals, which can negatively affect your skin, nails, and hair. Though you may end up losing weight instantly from consuming such a small amount of carbohydrates, you will almost certainly pack on the pounds once you start eating normally again.[xiii]
#11 The Master Cleanse
The Master Cleanse, Lemonade Diet, or Maple Syrup Diet is a ten- to forty-day liquid-only diet that includes a mixture of maple syrup, lemon juice, water, and cayenne pepper. In addition to containing very few calories, it has ingredients have been known to boost metabolism. The diet also includes laxative tea, which is meant to be taken before bed each night. Because this diet contains so few ingredients, experts have cautioned that it can lead to the loss of muscle tissue, a deficit in vitamins, and a spike in blood sugar levels.[xiv]
The common denominator in all of these fad diets is their promise of helping you lose weight quickly and efficiently. However, this instant weight loss is only a temporary solution, which means that the diets will eventually backfire. In fact, research has suggested that people who lose weight quickly are likely to gain it back in the same amount of time.
Instead of following fad diets, the key to losing weight is to break poor eating habits and get enough exercise. There is no single diet plan that can work for everyone; the best diet for you will fit your lifestyle and be one that you can realistically follow for the long run. In reality, making simple lifestyle changes is the best way to attain a healthier, better you.
If you would like specialized help with healthy weight loss and/or other health concerns, please schedule a consultation with our in-house nutritionist, Julie Haugen, MS, RD, LDN.
[iii] Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds, Madison Park, CNN, Published November 8, 2010, Retrieved September 10, 2015.
[iv] ‘Twinkie Diet’: A Physician’s Take on What Really Happens, David Katz, M.D., The Huffington Post, Published November 13, 2010, Retrieved September 10, 2015.
[v] Have people really eaten tapeworms for weight loss? Ed Grabianowski, howstuffworks.com, Published December 19, 2008, Retrieved September 10, 2015.