But that’s where registered dietitians come in. The nutritional experts are here to clear up the confusion over crazy diets and put you on a path tosustainable weight loss that won’t leave you hungry or full of tapeworms. (Yep, tapeworms.)
With that in mind, we asked 10 nutritionists to spill on the strangest dietsthey’ve come across and how to safely drop the pounds instead.
Why It’s Nuts: “Baby food is basically pureed fruits, vegetables, and meats,” says Sharon Palmer, author of Plant-Powered for Life. “So there’s no real reason why eating baby food would help you lose weight.”
On top of that, a baby food diet is unsustainable, says Palmer. When food is liquefied, the body doesn’t pick up fullness cues, which can make you feel hungrier after eating a sufficient amount of calories, she says.
Better Move: Eat in a way that you could sustain for the rest of your life without feeling miserable, says Palmer. Practicing common-sense portion control, mindful eating, and eating more minimally processed plant foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, which are rich in nutrients and low in calories should get you to your goals.
Why It’s Nuts: “For this diet, people are supposed to add cayenne pepper and honey to a glass of apple cider vinegar, and drink three glasses a day, one before each meal,” says Ginny Erwin, R.D. This diet is a really awful idea for people that have irritable bowel syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disease because of the spices and acidity. Plus, it’s overall irritating to the stomach lining and can cause terrible gas pains, says Erwin.
Better Move: “I recommend drinking water or herbal tea before a meal. It calms the digestive system and helps the metabolic processes move along,” she says.
Why It’s Nuts: “The HCG diet requires that you take a human chorionic gonadotropin supplement and restrict your total calories to 500 per day, equally divided into two meals,” says Ashvini Mashru, R.D., author of Small Steps to Slim. “Each meal can contain roughly 3.5 ounces of lean meat, one serving of a specified fruit and vegetable, and one piece of toast, says Mashru. It’s easy to see that this diet is deficient in calories, nutrients like protein and fat, entire food groups, vitamins, and minerals. So it’s not a plan you can sustain forever. Plus, HCG supplements have not been approved by the FDA for weight loss.
Better Move: “Quit looking for quick fixes,” she Mashru. “Small lifestyle changes like portion control make a big difference.” There is no quick fix diet or pill that will result in lasting weight loss.
Why It’s Nuts: With the Military Diet, you follow a highly calorie-restricted meal plan that allows a random selection of foods, like hot dogs and cottage cheese, for three days. Then, you eat whatever you want for the next four days. “It has absolutely no clinical significance or scientific merit,” says Monica Auslander, R.D., founder of Essence Nutrition in Miami.
Better Move: Pick a weight-loss plan that doesn’t rely on slashing your calorie intake or food groups and you’ll see a sustainable transformation to you body over time, says Auslander. Give yourself non-food rewards as you achieve your goals.
Why It’s Nuts: Some A-listers have said this plan, which entails stirring clay into a glass of water, clears your gut of toxins and curbs hunger, says Toby Amidor, R.D., author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. However, this diet is potentially dangerous, he says. Consuming clay regularly could actually damage the lining of your intestines and lead to deficiencies of important nutrients, says Amidor. “The clay actually pulls nutrients out of your body, which keeps them from being absorbed.”
Better Move: Your body was created to naturally detoxify itself using the liver and kidneys. “Your job is to make sure to eat a balanced diet in order to provide your natural detoxifying organs the nutrients they need to do the job,” she says. To curb hunger, nosh on small fiber- and protein-rich snacks, like fruit and veggies or nuts throughout the day.
Why It’s Nuts: You hold your empty fork up to your mouth and pretend to eat high-calorie foods instead of giving into cravings, says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., author of Body Kindness. It’s easy for most people to see why this one is crazy. It promotes disordered eating and, thanks to a drastic drop in calories, lowers your metabolism and leads to muscle breakdown. It also increases leptin resistance, which crushes your ability to get a sense of fullness when you start eating again.
Better Move: “Your cravings will only increase if you try to avoid eating a specific food, and you’ll end up making a choice you regret,” says Scritchfield. If it’s sweets you crave, fruit will give you a boost of quick energy and hydration. If you’re looking for a tasty snack, try nuts, beef jerky, and hard-boiled eggs, which have a mix of protein and fat and will leave you feeling satisfied, she says.
Why It’s Nuts: This diet requires ingesting a tapeworm, which feeds on the food you’re eating, so you don’t absorb the calories, says Alexandra Caspero, R.D., author of delishknowledge.com. Eventually (hopefully) the worm will leave your body through your digestive tract. “It’s important to realize that these are parasites and can be very difficult to remove,” says Caspero. There’s also no guarantee that the worm won’t move to other parts of the body, which can lead to severe side effects like weakness, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea. Just no.
Better Move: “Focus on eating foods that are lower in calories and higher in nutrients, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins,” says Caspero. Those will fill you up for less calories. No tapeworm required.
Why It’s Nuts: “If you focus on avoiding fat, you may end up turning to carb-laden, low-fat foods, says Jackie Ballou Erdos, R.D., owner of Balancing Act Nutrition in New York City. Carbs, especially refined carbohydrates (pretzels, white bread, white rice, most crackers, and other snack-type foods), are quickly digested, and raise your blood sugar significantly, leading to a blood sugar crash soon after. That leads to cravings for more rapidly digested carbs and promotes fat storage, says Erdos.
Better Move: “Don’t fear fat! Instead of fat-free pretzels as a snack, go for a handful of almonds,” she says. Swap low-fat, sweetened yogurt for plain yogurt made with whole milk and add natural sweetness with fruit. Ditch low-fat salad dressings for olive oil and your favorite vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice. Doing so will actually help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your salad more easliy, she says. Experiment with a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles instead of pasta, and toss with pesto sauce or olive oil, which are high inhealthy fat, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, says Erdos.
Why It’s Nuts: “This diet cautions people to stay away from acidic foods, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains, processed food, and alcohol,” says Julie Harrington, author of RDeliciousKitchen.com. Proponents suggest acidic foods make us sluggish, deteriorate our bones, and make our bodies prone to diseases. The claim is that sticking to alkaline foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) will make the body alkaline, and that cancer cells and fat do not thrive in an alkaline environment, says Harrington. “It’s insane because it’s all based on unscientific claims,” she says. Your body naturally regulates your blood pH levels, and certain foods do not change this.
Better Move: “The one part I like about this diet is that it emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” says Harrington. “But you don’t want to eliminate food groups like protein and dairy.” You need those nutrients to keep your body healthy and fuel sustainable weight loss.
Why It’s Nuts: Dr. Siegal’s Cookie diet entails eating one or two cookies (which are supposed to be made with a special hunger-fighting ingredient) every two hours for a total of nine cookies a day. Then, you can have one 500- to 700-calorie meal of your choice. “Who wants to ruin an enjoyable treat like cookies by packing them with processed versions of protein and fiber and using them to replace actual meals?” says Stephanie Clarke, R.D., co-author of Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook. “It takes all of the mindfulness and enjoyment out of eating, which can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food,” says Clarke. Plus, this diet doesn’t teach you anything about how to change your eating behaviors by making smart choices. Most people will gain all of the weight they lose immediately after stopping this super low-calorie diet.
Better Move: “Take a more levelheaded approach to weight loss by planning ahead to prevent crash dieting,” says Clarke. In other words, don’t wait until a couple of weeks before a big vacation or event to start making healthy changes in hopes of losing weight. Start months in advance and work on changing your worst habits first. Need to cut out soda? Start there. Make a list of the habits you want to change and give yourself at least a week or two to adapt to each one, one at a time. Continue changing your habits until you feel comfortable with your diet, she says.