Fad diets and supposed miracle weight-loss methods have been around for decades. Big in the ’70s and ’80s, these wonder diets tended to come with their own assorted entourage of C-grade celebrity endorsements, glowing anecdotes and pseudo-scientific justification for why they work. They don’t. For most, there is a lop-sided focus by the diet’s proponents on either eradicating one food group or exaggerating the consumption of another. And while some initial weight loss can be expected with all of them, none are sustainable in the long term. Thankfully, with a growing consciousness amongst the general population about the benefits of a balanced diet, regular exercise and caloric intake, fad diets no longer enjoy the same zealous resurgence as they used to. Here are a few of the more infamous ones, what they entail and why you should steer clear, along with comments from nutritionist and wellbeing practitioner Mogestri Pather.
Cabbage Soup Diet
What does it entail? Exactly what it sounds like. Drinking soup made from cabbage.
Does it work? Usually pitched as seven-day, fast-result diet, it will result in weight loss but that can be mainly attributed to fluid loss.
Cons? Aside from the depressing blandness, high salt intake and increased flatulence, nutritionist Mogestri Pather says, “By limiting intake to just cabbage, the body is being deprived of the nutritious benefits of fruits, vegetables, protein and essential fatty acids. This type of diet cannot be sustained long-term and the body will eventually shut down all attempts to lose fat.”
Sacred Heart Diet
What’s it entail? False advertising, for a start – the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital never employed or endorsed this diet for overweight patients. It is another magical soup recipe combined with strict adherence to only consuming certain food groups each day for a week.
Does it work? Maybe in terms of fluid loss in the short term however you will gain weight again straight away.
Cons? The obsessive food regime is as depressing as the soup is tasteless. As Mogestri says, “This type of diet does little to implement healthy eating habits for long-term wellbeing.”
What does it entail? Travel to an exotic locale – usually a “health” retreat in South America (it’s illegal everywhere else) – where you are deliberately fed beef tapeworm cysts which then thrive and multiple inside you.
Does it work? Undeniably. Tapeworms are parasites, so they will take all of the body’s nutrients and you will shed the kilos.
Cons? Aside from the thought of a squirmy, squiggling parasite inside your gut, let’s start with the formation of cysts on the liver, eyes, brain and spinal cord as a big down-side. As Mogestri puts it, “This type of diet is wrong on so many levels! It is destructive to health, weakens your immune defences and leaves you prone to contacting other illnesses. The tapeworms may also travel in the bloodstream to other parts of the body, resulting in neurological conditions and digestive symptoms such as pain, weakness and bloating.”
What does it entail? Eliminating all carbohydrates from the diet (which supposedly directs the body to burn fat cells for energy in a process called ketosis) and then a slow, staggered phase back in. Controversially, it’s also a diet that doesn’t target the scaling back of fatty foods.
Does it work? For many people, yes. And, admittedly, new amendments to the original 1970s Atkins diet now acknowledge a more nutritional and balanced approach.
Cons? “By initially restricting fresh vegetables and fruit, the body is deprived of fibre and disease protective antioxidants and phytonutrients,” says Mogestri. “Whilst studies of the Atkins diet show weight loss will result due to restricting carbs, this severe deprivation of carbohydrates can result in unwanted side effects such as neurological conditions, constipation due to lack of fibre and bad breath due to a compromised digestive system.”