Before you even think about starting a diet to drop pounds fast, you should review this list of the worst diets around. It was compiled with the help of registered dietitians who are members of the Weight Management Dietetic Practice group of the American Dietetic Association. Here are the nominees:
Raw food diet
Devotees of the raw food diet aim to get the majority of their calories from unprocessed and uncooked foods. Rawists believe that cooking foods above 116 °â€“118 ° F destroys enzymes that provide many health benefits. While most dietitians would agree that eating lots of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and grains is best, we also understand that processing actually boosts the bioavailability of several key nutrients, primarily the phytonutrients, and inactivates some of the unhealthy compounds.
The raw food diet is rich in all plant-based foods including fruits and vegetables; nuts and seeds; and sprouted seeds, grains, and beans. Don't get me wrong; these ingredients are greatâ€”and you can make plenty of meals using these guidelines. But following this type of diet to a T requires a lot of complicated food preparationâ€”creating pine-nut and yeast "cheese," for exampleâ€”that makes it impractical for most working people.
I have had plenty of experience with raw foods because I live in Marin County, Calif., where Roxanne Klein, the co-author of Raw (Ten Speed Press, 2003), started Roxanne's Fine Cuisine, a line of pricey prepared raw food creations available at our Whole Foods and other high-end supermarkets. I've tried several of the items but have found them to be extremely expensive and not very tastyâ€”certainly nothing I could follow for more than a day or two at most.
As a part-time vegan, I know that eating lower on the food chain can help promote weight loss, but I also know that caloric content is not related to the temperature at which food is cooked. Skip the raw food diet, and eat more healthful whole foodsâ€”cooked or rawâ€”to help whittle your waist, not your wallet.
The hCG diet is a very low-calorie plan (500 to 800 calories per day) supplemented with injections of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Any diet that drops below 1,000 calories is really unsafe for most of us to begin with, and you're apt to lose a lot of weight even if you're getting injected with milk shakes (which, needless to day, is a dangerous thing to do). Of course, the golden rule of dieting is that the faster it comes off, the more likely you are to regain it, so this diet would be on my list no matter what. Moreover, the hCG shots raise so many red flags I don't know where to begin. Bottom line: Scientists don't know if hCG is safe to inject when you're not producing it naturally, so please don't be a weight-loss guinea pig.
In southern California, this is a big trend. Dieters are trying the "cleanse" by drinking a concoction of squeezed lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper several times a day for 10 days, says Karla Campbell, M.S., R.D., a dietitian in Long Beach, Calif. Then they down an herbal laxative tea at night and a quart of salt water first thing in the morning, supposedly to clean out the GI tract and bowels. Needless to say, there are no studies to suggest that our GI tract and organs need any help in removing waste or so-called toxins from the body.
The diet allots only 650â€“1,300 calories daily, and it lacks key nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and zincâ€”so no dietitian recommends doing it for more than a day or two. Campbell also adds this warning: "Dieters who try it end up losing lean body mass, and then when they are 'cleansed' and go back to their old ways, they gain fat. They end up being a fatter version of their old selves."
Cabbage soup diet (and all of its single-food-diet cousins)
Contrary to rumors, this diet is not recommended by, nor did it originate with, the American Heart Association (AHA); the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital in Spokane, Wash.; or any other health organization. In fact, AHA and others have made it known that you should steer clear of this fad diet.
While there are several versions of the diet, all have a seven-day cycle based on all-you-can-eat "fat-burning" cabbage soup (a mix of cabbage, carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, and onions).
Since the diet provides plenty of liquids and nutrient-packed veggies, it's not as bad as many other fad diets. However, if you enjoy food at all or have a life, you won't be able to stay on any diet that restricts food groups or relies on one or two superfoods for very long. And then you'll be back where you started right after you go off it.
This relatively new fad is based on a theory among acupuncturists that stimulating an area of the ear helps to regulate your appetite. The procedure is like getting an ear pierced, but the constant pressure of the staple on the "stomach" of your ear is supposed to curtail your eating.
Fat chance. There is no science behind ear stapling for weight loss, but there is plenty of evidence that stapling could lead to serious infections and deformities. If you need help in controlling your appetite, better to try something that really works, like eating more fruits and vegetables and less of everything else.
This one takes the cake. (Oh, but only if it did.) It's a diet that promotes living on air alone, no food or water. Hmm. That is pretty contrary to what I learned in undergraduate and graduate school while studying nutrition. I believe our bodies will only survive a few days without water and a few weeks without food.
The mumbo jumbo on this diet is that you align yourself to the universe and you won't need water or food. You know what this sounds like to me? Starvation.