The Truth About Fad Diets

If the words ‘I’m starting my diet tomorrow’ have never left your mouth, you’ve either:

a) never lived through the vicious teenage years of hormonal weight gain, and therefore are probably aged between 0 and 12b) been blessed with a speedy metabolism and are consequently universally hated by those of us who are less fortunatec) never eaten a Domino’s.

Dieting has been around literally forever. From Roman post-banquet bulimia to the popular Apple Cider Vinegar diet of the 1800s, the lengths people put themselves through in order to ‘stay trim’ have reached bizarre stretches of the imagination. In more recent years, the development of medical knowledge (the term ‘medical’ here used very loosely; most of the sites accessed for this article were the sort you would generally avoid in order to prevent your laptop contracting a killer virus) means that methods have grown in both variation and extremity.The term ‘fad diet’ literally means ‘craze’: a diet plan which will almost always exclude at least one of the essential food groups in order to provide ‘quick fix’ results. Which is interesting, because more often than not it would seem the ‘doctors’ who promote these weight loss miracles have their own ‘quick fix’ in mind: money. Whether it’s in the form of a guidebook, a pot of pills or a daily injection, ‘fad diets’ are a multi-millions industry which primarily benefits from the daily grind of media pressure: you’re only going to be happy if you look like Gigi Hadid.

Researching into the world of fad diets is like stepping into a bizarre matrix where chocolate cravings become the equivalent of Class A drugs. There are online forums where people discuss the results and effects, justifying comments such as ‘by day three I had cramps and kept going lightheaded’ with the apparent rationale, ‘but by the end of the week I lost 4kgs!’ and failing to note that as soon as they ate a pie they ended up right back where they started. Despite the glamorisation of fad dieting by celebrities, magazines and the internet, the growing recognition of their potentially negative health implications placed in conjunction with ‘healthy lifestyle’ campaigns is helping people to see them for what they are: an obscure means of short-term weight loss with no actual significant results. Here’s a few of the favourites:

The Grapefruit Diet: surprisingly doesn’t mean that you eat nothing but grapefruits. An American trend which dates back to the 1930s and values itself for being popular with celebrities, the basic principle lies the in the belief that grapefruits contain an enzyme which burns fat. Alongside 10-12 days of low carbs (around 800-1000 calories per day), its reputation as a ‘miracle diet’ fails to recognise that as soon as we inevitably return to our normal eating patterns, the weight loss is short-lived.

The Banana and Milk Diet: unsurprisingly means that all you can consume is bananas, milk and water. Developed in 1934 by Dr George Harrop, the idea is that if you can manage an excess of potassium for 4 days, you’ll lose 3-4 kgs.

The Cabbage Soup Diet: even the developers themselves clearly state on the website, ‘not recommended as a long-term solution’. Another means of speedy weight loss, the cabbage soup diet involves a lot of liquid and is described as ‘a great kick-start for a moderate diet’. There are certain listed foods of which they generously say you can ‘eat as much as you want’, and enforce the fact that it should not be continued for more than a week.

Hollywood Diet: the consumption of a ‘miracle juice’ over a 48 hour period which helps you lose 10lbs, described on Amazon (where it’s being sold at $30 for 32 1oz bottles) as ‘an ideal jump start to any diet’. Sounds feasible.

Beverly Hills Diet: created by Judy Mazel in 1981, the diet follows a 6 week course beginning with 10 days of consuming nothing but fruit. It takes until day 19 before you’re allowed to eat any complete protein. The diet has been massively criticised by medics and has led to illnesses such as fever, muscle weakness and blood pressure measured low enough to kill someone.

3 Day Diet: the clue’s in the name. Most of these diet plans promise weight loss of up to 10lbs and consist largely of tuna and vegetables.

5:2 Diet: Perhaps one of the healthier options from the ones listed here, the 5:2 diet is the simple theory of 5 days of low calorie eating and 2 days of normal eating. An increasingly popular diet in the UK over the past decade, it is potentially one of the ‘safer’ fad diets.

JuicePlus Diet: starting up as a line in 1993 but only becoming popular in the past 5 years, JuicePlus is a diet supplement containing highly concentrated fruit and vegetable extracts to be taken in tablet form. The business claims their theory is backed by research, but there have been conflicting results.

HCG Diet: literally as dodgy as it sounds. HCG - Human Chorionic Gonadotropin - is a hormone produced by the embryo when women are pregnant and is detected in pregnancy tests. The product being used as a diet supplement was banned in the US in 2011. The diet allows you 500 calories a day over a period of 8 weeks and an injection of HCG to accompany it, claiming that HCG can ‘reset your metabolism’ and help you lose 1lb per day. Most recent studies have found that in actuality, the hormone has nothing to do with the weight loss. It’s probably more to do with the fact that you’re eating 500. Calories. Per. Day.

Tapeworm Diet: so the general gist of this one is that you actually physically ingest tapeworms into your body, and they’ll help to clean up any excess food, thus excess calories. If you’ve seen a microscope picture of a tapeworm, the phrase ‘kill it with fire’ is probably most apt. The idea is that the tapeworms attach onto your stomach using ‘suckers’ and absorb food from your body. Pretty vile.

The truth about fad diets is, they’re pointless. Extreme methods with minimal results. Short-term solutions to long-term issues. For people who are serious about losing weight, the answer is actually quite simple: you eat less food and you do more exercise. This is the only method, tried and tested, which produces actual lifestyle changes alongside weight loss results in a healthy, controlled way. And the best part is, you won’t feel like you’ve just committed a criminal offence if you accidentally slip and eat an entire bag of ‘share size’ Malteasers in about 24 seconds flat. Calories don’t count if no one was there to witness it and that is a dieting fact.