I know that when you want to lose weight, you want a shortcut. Losing weight is hard. It requires constant sacrifice and worse, it takes a while for that sacrifice to have a meaningful impact on your figure.
That’s where fad diets come in. They promise the user that they will help you lose weight fast with less effort. Sadly, most of their claims are bogus and unhealthy.
There’s only one-real recipe for long-term, sustained weight loss – eat fewer calories, exercise more and keep doing that for life. Sucks, right?
However, some fad diets go beyond bad advice and these 15 fad diets might cause you more harm than being overweight.
- The Raw Food Fad Diet
- The Cotton Ball Fad Diet
- The Alkaline Fad Diet
- The Tapeworm Fad Diet
- The Blood Type Fad Diet
- The HCG Fad Diet
- The Lunar Fad Diet
- The Sleep Fad Diet
- The Cookie Fad Diet
- The Grapefruit Fad Diet
- The Five-Bite Fad Diet
- The Cabbage Soup Fad Diet
- The Master Cleanse Fad Diet
- The Baby Food Fad Diet
- The Ketogenic Fad Diet
- Final Thoughts on Fad Diets To Avoid
The Raw Food Fad Diet
Still the flavor of the month. Raw food diet proponents claim that any form of processing “destroys vitamins, minerals, and fiber” – sadly, this is true. What they don’t seem to realize, however, is that this destruction is minimal at best.
A peeled carrot contains nearly all the same ingredients as an unpeeled one. It is also cleaner and safer to eat.
Then when you cook your peeled carrot, you kill off any bacteria on the surface, the raw foodie is not doing the same thing.
Will you die from eating dirty carrots? It seems unlikely, though you should probably plan on more regular visits to the lavatory than you might usually expect.
But it’s a colossal waste of time and a true raw food adherent is going to waste hours a day turning their “raw food” into something edible.
Give it a hard pass.
The Cotton Ball Fad Diet
It should be fairly obvious to anyone who isn’t deranged that soaking cotton balls in orange juice and then swallowing them whole is a stupid thing to do. Yet, it turns out that to a certain group of the population this isn’t obvious at all.
Yes, in the short-term you will lose your appetite if you fill your belly with cotton balls. They are not poisonous, and they do take up space.
Sadly, in the longer term, they can cause blockages in your intestines which are highly dangerous and they’re full of toxic chemicals which are used to bleach them white in the first place.
This is the sort of damaging diet behavior often exhibited by those suffering from anorexia.
If you know somebody who advocates this; try to persuade them to seek help before they really hurt themselves.
The Alkaline Fad Diet
The alkaline diet “works” by cutting out all food with a low pH value. In essence, it prevents users from consuming anything acidic. This includes; meat, dairy, sweets, alcohol, and caffeine among other things.
What’s the issue with it? Well, firstly there is no evidence whatsoever (not so much as a single study) that says your body cares whether your food is alkaline or acidic. In fact, we have a great body regulation system which keeps our own pH in constant balance.
The key ingredients of this diet aren’t unhealthy, but it is a colossal pain to follow and it is 100%, completely, unnecessary.
Avoid it unless you have far too much spare time on your hands and like follow complicated and pointless instructions for every meal.
The Tapeworm Fad Diet
We cannot believe that anyone thinks that this would be the right way to lose weight but sadly, there are countless tales from hospitals around America that lead us to believe otherwise.
Yes, this diet involves knowingly swallowing a tapeworm so that it can absorb all the nutrients in your food. It would, in theory, work. This is exactly how a tapeworm functions.
What don’t they tell you? Well, first of all, tapeworms can migrate from your intestines to other parts of your body and there they can cause life-threatening complications. Secondly, removing tapeworms is hard and expensive.
There’s no guarantee of success and you may need to spend a lot of time under a surgeon’s knife. You’d be better off having bariatric surgery which is safer and cheaper.
The Blood Type Fad Diet
Do you want to know when you can spot that diet is based purely on someone’s imagination? It’s when they try and focus on one thing that has nothing to do with your digestive processes whatsoever. In the case of “naturopathic physician” (an interesting pseudo-scientific term for a person with no medical qualifications of value) Peter A’damo that’s your blood type.
He says people with type O blood should meat, fruit and vegetables and those with type A must go vegetarian. He probably found this diet in his horoscope because there’s not a shred of evidence supporting his utterly bizarre claims. None of his diets will harm you but once again, they’re not going to do much for you either.
The HCG Fad Diet
HCG is a hormone called human chorlonic gonadotropin (HCG) that its adherents claim is a miracle appetite suppressant. They want you to combine it with a 500 calorie a day diet in order to lose weight fast.
The truth? 500 calories a day is a dangerous number of calories. Of course, you will lose weight fast on it. You’re essentially starving yourself. You don’t see fat people in the middle of famine but it doesn’t make famine a good plan for weight loss.
HCG is not medically approved for weight loss because there’s no evidence that it works at all as an appetite suppressant. You may find someone who will give you an HCG injection legally because the FSA has approved its use for fertility problems but if you’re buying a pill? It’s not even legal.
This diet is genuinely dangerous if you were to follow it for any length of time. Ultra-low-calorie diets can cause you to develop kidney stones or even diabetes. Talk to your doctor before you even consider such a drastic measure.
The Lunar Fad Diet
This one is regularly referred to as… the werewolf diet. So, yeah you can feel the crazy coming, can’t you?
The idea is that you drink only juice and water during the period of a new moon or a full moon. This is basically a very low-calorie diet for 2-3 days at a time. Yes, you’ll lose a little weight with it but no, it won’t stay gone unless you modify your eating habits for the rest of the month.
What has the moon got to do with anything? Well, nothing but diet fads are often explained by pure mumbo-jumbo masquerading as science and the whole lunar tide thin brings a lot of crazy out of the woodwork – where do you think the word “lunacy” comes from?
The Sleep Fad Diet
This diet is incredibly dangerous and should never be attempted by anyone. The idea is, sadly, appealing. You don’t eat while you’re asleep but you do burn calories. Therefore, in order to lose weight without hunger or pain – you should sleep it off.
“Hey!” You cry. “I can’t sleep for a week or a month!” No, not naturally anyway. So, in order for the sleep diet to work – you need to much down a ton of sedatives.
Sedatives that might, in large quantities, kill you.
Even if they don’t kill you, prolonged periods of sleep cause muscle wastage, ask anyone who has ever woken up even from a fairly short coma.
I think it’s best to stick to a diet that you’ll actually wake up from.
The Cookie Fad Diet
The theory is sound. Eat some highly calorific cookies for breakfast (500-600 calories) full of protein and fiber. They will keep you feeling full until you get to dinner time.
Then you chow down on a normal sized evening meal (usually 1,000 – 1,200 calories) and you lose weight.
Yes, this is a calorie-controlled diet with an expensive cookie or two thrown in.
What’s wrong with it?
People generally don’t like starving all day long. In fact, they hate it. So, when they do starve for a day they tend to eat a lot more at the next meal. So, they don’t stick to 1,000-1,200 calories for that last meal and they don’t lose any weight. Except in their wallets paying for the expensive cookies.
This plan is safe but not very good.
The Grapefruit Fad Diet
Eat nothing but grapefruit and lose weight? No surprises there, the grapefruit is a low-calorie fruit. If you eat nothing but grapefruit, you simply couldn’t pack in enough of them to gain weight.
This has nothing to do with the (imaginary) “fat busting hormones” of grapefruit and everything to do with the maximum daily calorie consumption of 800-1,000 calories of grapefruit.
You will lose weigh in the short-term like this. Of course, you will. But it’s not sustainable and eating just one thing all the time quickly becomes boring and unhealthy.
Give it a hard pass but do eat grapefruit every now and again, they are yummy and full of fiber and Vitamin C.
The Five-Bite Fad Diet
10 bites of food all day. No breakfast. 5 bites of whatever you want to eat (no matter how big the bites are) for lunch. Then 5 again for dinner.
Another calorie-controlled diet in disguise.
No matter how big your mouth is, you can’t eat more than 1,000 calories in 10 bites. So, you’ll lose weight on this diet.
You won’t stick to it though. You’ll be permanently hungry. That’s a recipe for failure. It might work if you want to lose 2lbs in a rush to fit in a swimsuit but otherwise, this is a bad diet which sets you up to stay fat.
The Cabbage Soup Fad Diet
They say oldies are goldies but in the case of the cabbage soup diet, they’d be lying. This was the first ever diet fad and it’s still junk today.
The idea is regular bowls of cabbage soup fill you up and help you lose appetite. Does it work? Yes, for a bit because you pair the soup with low-calorie food. The cabbage makes you feel sick and bloated and gives you gas. So, you probably don’t want to try this around friends.
Also, it’s not sustainable because it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. You’d be better off finding a nice calorie-controlled routine to follow. It won’t kill you, but it won’t make you stronger either.
The Master Cleanse Fad Diet
The master cleanse diet is also sometimes called the “lemonade diet.” It’s a very foolish diet plan.
The idea is that you spend your days living on a mixture of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup dissolved in water. It will cause rapid weight loss because it has almost no calories.
Sadly, as soon as you start eating again (and you will because the master cleanse diet will kill you if you don’t) you’ll put all the weight on again.
You’re also going to feel sick very quickly after starting this diet. You’re going to lose muscle weight, have fatigue, nausea and ironically suffer from dehydration until you start eating again. Give it a miss for you own sanity’s sake.
The Baby Food Fad Diet
Replace two meals a day with baby food. Eat a low-calorie third meal. It doesn’t kill babies, but will it kill you?
No, of course, it won’t. This is another ultra-low-calorie diet in disguise and as with all ultra-low-calorie diets – it can’t be sustained. You’ll lose a little weight. Your friends, family, and colleagues will talk about you behind your back because eating baby food is just odd.
Then you’ll start eating normally again and boom! You’ll put all the weight back on.
The Ketogenic Fad Diet
The ketogenic diet has some basis in science. It’s used to treat people with severe epilepsy, for example, but what it’s not prescribed for or recommended by doctors for is weight loss.
This hasn’t stopped people from hijacking it as the latest “health fad”. How does it work? Straight up starving yourself for a day or more each week. Advocates recommend “fasting” (sounds nicer than starving even if does mean the same thing) for 2 days or more to put your body into ketosis.
This is a state where your body burns more sugar than usual. It’s a bit like what happens when Type 2 Diabetes gets ahold of your body.
Does it work? Sort of. It certainly burns more calories and as you aren’t eating any – of course, you will lose weight. Sadly, it also brings a high risk of kidney stones and studies are emerging that it also brings a substantial risk of diabetes.
Body hacking might sound clever, but the results don’t appear to be so clever. I’d avoid this until better data is available.
Final Thoughts on Fad Diets To Avoid
I know, it sucks but the best way to lose weight and keep it off remains: eat fewer calories and exercise more.
A lot of people get very rich selling fad diets, but they don’t work, they can be dangerous and they won’t make you happy.
I wish it were otherwise but it’s not.