Over the years, I think I’ve tried every new fad diet that has come along. I remember going on a popcorn diet back in the 80s. You would eat a normal breakfast and lunch, then have popcorn for dinner. It worked for me for about three days.
All diets work to some extent, says Susan Burke March, MS, RD, of Flagler Beach, Fla., a dietician and author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally, because you’re restricting your food intake. But with diet fads, the weight loss is usually temporary and can be quite dangerous. Here are some of the strangest diet fads.
The Twinkie Diet
A bakery manager invented Twinkies in the 1930s, but the diet fad’s origins are unknown. Twinkies have 150 calories each. Eat nothing but Twinkies and you could lose weight. It works, March says, because even if you eat 10, that’s only 1,500 calories a day. “You’ll also get mighty tired of it fast. It’s similar to the nothing-but-chocolate diet. You can lose weight because after the first day or two you’re not that interested in eating chocolate.” And you’re depriving your body of essential nutrients.
I guess this would work petty well if you decided you don’t really need your teeth any longer. (That would solve the problem, though, wouldn’t it?)
Ear stapling involves having surgical staples placed in the inner cartilage of the ear. The staples are believed to stimulate pressure points that control your appetite, similar to acupuncture. But after a few weeks, they become ineffective as a weight-loss tool because your body gets used to them. “I don’t know of any science that says this will work,” March says. “It might have a placebo effect. Better to tie a rubber band around your wrist and snap it to remind yourself not to overeat.”
I hate to admit that I got my ears stapled back in 04. Plunked down $50 and got staples in my ears. They seemed to make me want to eat grass right off the lawn.
The Cotton Ball Diet
For this diet, you eat cotton balls before meals. The idea is that they fill your stomach so you’re not hungry and don’t eat too much. “But it’s like eating paper,” March says, dismissing this weight-loss plan with one word: nonsensical. Cotton balls have no nutritional value and could damage your digestive tract, March adds. “Have some sugar-free gelatin or drink a big glass of water before eating instead.” Both are better ways of reminding yourself you could feel fuller with less food.
Baby Food Diet
This Hollywood diet fad works by substituting baby food for two, possibly three, adult meals a day. “You will lose weight because you’re restricting calories,” March says. “But you’ll lose a lot of what adults enjoy about food — fiber, taste, and crunch.” Baby food may be pure and high in vitamins, but it’s not appropriate in terms of adult nutrition, says March.
“The tapeworm diet is a draconian way of losing weight,” March says. A tapeworm is a parasite. You can get tapeworms unintentionally from undercooked, contaminated meat, especially pork. Untreated, a tapeworm infestation can be lethal. In the 1900s, hucksters sold pills that supposedly contained tapeworms that would eat the food in your stomach. “It’s absolutely inadvisable to infect yourself with something that could be dangerous to you,” says March. Importing or selling tapeworms is illegal in the United States.
This is one plan I will NEVER try.
The Sleeping Beauty Diet
This diet advocates sleeping 24/7 for weight loss. You might be tired because you’re starved, but if you sedate yourself to be able to sleep that much, you’re putting yourself in real danger. Elvis Presley apparently was a devotee of this diet fad. “There is some scientific research to support the idea that lack of sleep can contribute to excess weight and obesity,” March says. “So there is something to be said for getting adequate sleep — adequate, not total.”