Throughout my years as a fitness professional, I’ve heard about a lot of strange, weird and downright crazy diets. I’ve even had clients tell me about their experiences with a number of the diets you’re about to encounter
I’ve always believed that moderation and a balanced lifestyle are the way to go – and if everyone followed that philosophy, there would be no need to engage in this kooky behaviour in the first place.
The following list is ordered least dangerous to most dangerous, but as you'll see, many of them are a tie due to their utter absurdity.
Horace Fletcher was nicknamed the "The Great Masticator” because he developed a way of eating that he called “Fletcherism” (also known as Fletcherizing) – prolonged chewing until your food becomes liquid, sometimes up to 100 times. He claimed that this slower way of eating led to reduced food intake.
Danger: You will often be late for work and miss important events because the bulk of your time is spent chewing.
2. Paleolithic Diet
Also known as the Stone Age Diet, Cave Man Diet or Hunter-Gatherer Diet, the Paleolithic Diet is based on the diet on which humans subsisted before agriculture existed – wild meat, fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Danger: Critics say that the diet misses out on key nutrients with the exclusion of whole grains, legumes and dairy products.
3. Baby Food Diet
While Jennifer Aniston denies that trainer Tracy Anderson ever had her on the Baby Food Diet, numerous reports have led many to believe otherwise. Regardless of whether or not Aniston’s lean physique can be credited to eating miniscule portions of pureed food 14 times a day, legions of fans have jumped on the wagon in misguided- copy-cat fashion.
Danger: Baby food is formulated for babies. One of the drawbacks is that it lacks adequate protein for adults and may result in decreased muscle tissue and therefore a slowed metabolic rate.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Apple Cider Vinegar is claimed to increase metabolism and reduce appetite. Followers are required to take one to three teaspoons before each meal or snack.
Danger: Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic and may irritate your throat when taken repeatedly.
5. Master Cleanse
Developed by alternative health practitioner Stanley Buroughs and detailed in his book The Master Cleanser, the Master Cleanse is a popular diet that celebrities such as Beyonce have admitted to following. Also known as the Lemonade Diet or the Maple Syrup Diet, it involves subsisting on a concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water for 10 to 40 days.
Danger: Experts warn that following this program can lead to dangerous blood-sugar levels, vitamin deficiencies, and loss of muscle tissue.
6. Cabbage Soup Diet
On the Cabbage Soup Diet, an extreme weight loss regime, you have seven days to look forward to bowl after bowl – in fact, unlimited amounts – of cabbage soup.
Danger: Cutting out entire food groups causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can not only lead to ill health but also affect the appearance of hair, nails and skin.
7. Cookie Diet
Created by Dr Sanford Siegal, the Cookie Diet involves eating six secret-blend, hunger-controlling cookies and a "reasonable" dinner per day. Kim Kardashian didn’t think this diet was reasonable, and was sued by the company after calling it "unhealthy." Jersey Shore Star Snooki, however, has jumped on board, saying, "I actually noticed that celebrities were taking Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet and I thought, 'This has got to work.’"
Danger: Exercise, key to a healthy body and mind, is not recommended for Cookie Dieters as they’re only allotted 800 calories daily – just enough energy to chew their cookies.
8. Grapefruit Diet
The Grapefruit Diet is a very low-calorie diet, or VLCD, that involves eating half a grapefruit before each meal. It’s claimed that grapefruits have fat-busting enzymes that speed up weight loss. Eating next to nothing speeds up weight loss, too.
Danger: VLCDs are based on eating 800 or fewer calories per day – much less than the American College of Sport Medicine’s recommendation of a minimum of 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,800 for men.
9. 50 Cent's Liquid Diet
Rapper/actor 50 Cent recently dropped 54 pounds in nine weeks for a movie role. He followed a low-calorie liquid diet – which can include anything from broth and juice to pureed produce and protein shakes – and walked up to three hours a day on the treadmill.
Danger: Following a low-calorie diet causes your body to start using not only fat, but lean body tissue as fuel – even organs can be broken down for use as fuel.
10. The Cigarette Diet
Before cigarette smoking was passe, tobacco companies marketed lighting up as a weight loss tool. Lucky Strike cigarette ads advocated, "Light a Lucky and you’ll never miss sweets that make you fat," and "Avoid that future [double-chin] shadow by refraining from over-indulgence."
Danger: Two words: lung cancer.
11. The Drinking Man’s Diet
Robert Cameron’s book The Drinking Man's Diet begins, "Did you ever hear of a diet which was fun to follow? A diet which would let you have two martinis before lunch, and a thick steak generously spread with Sauce Béarnaise." You had me at "two martinis!" The Drinking Man’s Diet was a predecessor to the Atkins Diet in its promotion of low-carb meal plans.
Danger: A diet rich in alcohol and fatty protein is very hard on your liver and kidneys.
12. The Tapeworm Diet
Followers of the Tapeworm Diet ingest eggs of the beef tapeworm, a parasite – which can grow to a staggering nine metres, according to Merck – that decreases appetite and interferes with the digestion and absorption of food. When you’ve reached your goal weight, you take an antibiotic that kills the tapeworm but then you must expel it.
Danger: The side effects of having a tapeworm can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and anal irritation (from worms or worm segments exiting the anus).
13. Red Bull Diet
A New Zealand mother, desperately trying to shed the baby weight after her first child, made up her own diet – the Red Bull Diet. For eight months she ate next to nothing and drank 10 to 14 cans of the super-caffeinated energy drink per day.
Danger: The founding Red Bull Dieter lost 99 pounds but suffered a minor heart attack and continues to experience severe cramping and anxiety attacks.
For more crazy fads or issues, check out our sister site Youthink.
Have you tried any of these diets? What worked for you?
Catherine Roscoe Barr, BSc Neuroscience, is a Vancouver-based writer, editor and fitness professional. Before settling on the West Coast she lived in Sydney, Toronto, Oregon, Montana, and practically everywhere in Alberta. She can be found jogging with her adorable dog, dining with her fabulous husband or voraciously reading anywhere comfy.