The ten most popular fad diets of the last 100 years
Check out the most gimmicky of the lot.
Paleo, Raw Food, Cabbage Soup, Metabolism… chances are you’ve tried one or more and stuck to at least long enough to fit into your fave pair of skinny jeans. Then you start over, on the latest craze to hit the stands. Even though many of their claims are unrealistic, unhealthy and pretty much hopeless, fad diets are still fascinating and entertaining to learn about. Here’s a compilation of ten of the most talked about fad diets out there. Surprisingly some have actually stood the test of time and helped their devotees lose weight successfully while others have been relegated to the backburner. If you’re still shopping for one that fits your needs and lifestyle, who knows one of these might be the right pick for you, for a short time anyway.
Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears swear by Adderall, a drug prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder that keeps you awake and kills the appetite
Beyonce swears by the Lemonade Diet. Victoria Beckham is living proof that the Skinny Bitch Diet works, and Jennifer Aniston is a Zone diet devotee.
South Beach Diet
Designed by a Florida-based cardiologist, Arthur Agatston, MD, for his patients suffering from heart disease and diabetes, this diet stresses the importance of controlling hunger by eating before pangs strike. What’s attractive about it is that unlike many modern diet plans, it’s not about low carb or low-fat dieting. The focus is on eating healthier carbohydrates and fats to disrupt the typical ‘hunger-overeat-gain weight’. You’re allowed to eat lean protein, low-fat dairy and ‘good’ carbs like whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. While the first phase of the diet—when you settle into the meal plan—is strict, the ‘Maintenance’ phase is all about a lifelong eating plan that allows you to enjoy occasional treats while maintaining a healthy weight.
Verdict: Definitely worth a try! It’s done a great job at outlining healthy nutrition guidelines that essentially lower your intake of calories, the gold standard for successful weight loss.
Negative Calorie Diet
It’s a misleading concept this one. After all, no food has negative calories, though some model favorites like celery have just 5 calories a stick. The premise is that some foods take more calories to metabolize than they actually possess. Supporters of this fad claim that digesting one teensy stick of celery takes up to 95 calories! Therefore, there’s a negative calorie loss of 90 calories. Compare that to a slice of frosted chocolate cake worth 400 calories that needs just 150 to digest, leaving a net gain of 250 calories and you’ll see why this fad might appeal to the lissome, willowy model types.
Verdict: Avoidable! There’s no scientific proof one way or the other to support it. Besides, this diet hinges in you only eating fruits and veggies, leading to serious vitamin, mineral, protein and carb deficits. It’s also impossible to sustain. Finally, the fact that the ‘official’ Negative Calorie Diet is only available as an e-book promptly gives it fad status!
The Skinny Bitch Diet
This is a “a no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous.” Bordering on a promotion of anorexia this requires you to go vegan. So no sugar, meat, dairy, flour, alcohol and caffeine! Be prepared to live on fruits, vegetables, soy, nuts, legumes and green tea. The premise is that being skinny means being healthy, al la Victoria Beckham. It’s about eating what’s good for you and passing on what’s not.
Verdict: Worth a miss! This extreme vegan diet places dieters at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies, namely iron, calcium and zinc. Besides, it doesn’t put any emphasis on exercise, one of the key pillars of a sensible weight loss plan. Finally, the name sounds pretty offensive.
The Lemonade Diet Plan
Everyone knows—unless you’ve hibernated in a cave for the last decade—that pop idol Beyonce lost 20 pounds following this while preparing for the movie Dream Girls in 2006. Actually, it’s been around for 50 years and it’s also called the Master Cleanse. This one’s not for the faint hearted. All you get on it is—surprise—lemonade made from lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. Common side effects include cramping, dizziness, nausea and of course weight loss.
Verdict: Avoidable! This Master Cleanse crash diet isn’t safe or sustainable. It’s deficient in essential nutrients and calories, and puts the body into a state of starvation that reduces muscle tissue and lowers immunity.
As you’ve probably guessed this diet is all about consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice at every meal. You can add spices, dressing or butter to taste. Nothing should be prepared in aluminum vessels and ‘protein meals’ and ‘starch meals’ should be at least four hours apart. Around for more than 80 years, the diet’s goal is quick weight loss—up to 10 pounds in 12 days thanks to the fat burning enzyme in grapefruit—with a daily caloric intake less than 1,000 calories.
Verdict: Worth a try! There’s some merit in using it to kick-start another program to keep the weight loss going after the 12-day diet is over. However, if you are on prescription medication, check with your doctor before starting it because grapefruit can react with medications used to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, antihistamines and heart drugs.
This is one of the most doable ‘fad diets’ out there. If fish and veggies with a glass of red wine sounds like an ideal meal to you, then you’ve found your match! This heart-healthy diet includes the food staples that grow abundantly near the Mediterranean Sea, including fish, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and whole grains.
Verdict: Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s heart-healthy, brain healthy, and healthy for pretty much every system in your body. The only problem though is that it isn’t really a diet that aids weight loss but a lifestyle choice. There’s also no calorie counting and no advice on portion sizes. It’s not the diet for anyone who needs strict limitations and rules to stick to a meal plan.
The Zone Diet
One of the most famous proponents of this is Jennifer Aniston. It involves changing the balance of the foods you eat (by adding protein to balance carbs at every meal or snack) to lose weight, reset your metabolism, and ward off chronic health conditions. Followers have to follow the 30-30-40 rule; 30% from protein, 30% from fat and 40% from carbs at every meal. Founder Dr. Barry Sears claims that the science behind The Zone is based on his 15 years of research in bio-nutrition, and prefers to call it a lifestyle not diet.
Verdict: Worth a try! It’s hard to argue against a menu that calls for lean protein, good fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, be warned that the rigid plan can feel restrictive and is deficient on certain nutrients.
Forget the older all-you-can-eat bacon and scrambled eggs Atkins Diet, the new kid on the block is the New Atkins Diet Revolution, created in 2002, as a streamlined version of the original. This one balances lean protein with controlled portions of fat and healthy carbs. You start with 20 grams of carbs a day and gradually increase the amount every week. Refined flour, sugar and carb-dense whole-grains are off limits.
Verdict: Give it a try if you can’t imagine foregoing kebabs and fried fish. While the new avatar Atkins offers more lean protein and a wider variety of fruits and veggies, and not half as much high fat protein as the previous version, it still increases your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Unpleasant side effects include bad breath, constipation and insomnia. Besides, it lacks some vital nutrients like calcium.
The Caveman Diet
In its purest form, the Paleo or Paleolithic Diet is also called the Caveman Diet. As the name suggests it only allows you to eat the foods man ate when he first roamed the planet millions of years ago. Fish, lean meat, fruit, non-starchy veggies and nuts are allowed. Starchy veggies, dairy foods, grains and processed foods are out. It’s actually one of the most sensible—and doable—diets out there and no wonder, there’s a loyal legion of followers who insist that not only does it help you lose weight but get — and stay — healthier.
Verdict: Yes! A very sensible diet that focuses on eating healthy rather than portion control. However, it’s a bit restrictive because of the lack of whole grains and dairy.
Blood Type Diet
The basic premise of the ‘Eat Right for Your Type’ diet is that you should be eating certain foods based on their blood type: A, B, AB, or O. The plan is based on the assumption that that each blood type digests food proteins (lectins) differently and that eating the wrong proteins can slow down your metabolism, cause bloating and disease. Devised by naturopathic physician Peter D’Adam, the diet says that Blood Group O’s should consume lean meats, fish, and limited grains, Type As benefit from soy proteins, grains, and vegetables and small amounts of red meat, Type Bs should eat dairy, meat and most produce, and Type ABs can eat a mix of foods recommended for Type As and Bs.
Verdict: Worth a try! Practitioners have reported feeling energized and we have to admit it sounds intriguing, the fact that we are tied to our ancestors by thousands of years of blood-type evolution. However, cutting out entire food groups for an extended period of time isn’t a very good idea.