The Hottest (Wackiest) Diets: What Works?

Looking for a magic weight-loss bullet, our testers report from the trend trenches.

By various writers
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Photograph: Yasu + Junko

The Baby Food Diet
By Beth Levine

Whose bright idea was this? Media reports point to celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, whose reps once sent out a press release touting the “TA Baby Food Cleanse” but now distance Anderson from the plan. Regardless of its provenance, the Baby Food Diet is exactly what it sounds like: You eat nothing but jars of baby food, possibly with one real meal at the end of the day, for a total daily intake of about 1,000 calories. The extremely limited menu is supposed to help you drop pounds by providing portion control while still giving you valuable nutrients. A number of svelte celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga have been rumored to use this diet for quickie weight loss, though Jennifer Aniston, for one, has denied the reports. “I’ve been on solids for about 40 years now,” she joked to People.com.

I decide to see how I’d fare with this fad, making one adjustment: Since 1,000 calories a day is not a healthy number, especially if you exercise regularly, I aim for 1,200 to 1,500. But before I make my first trip to the baby food aisle, I consult Liz Neporent, a fitness expert and the author of a dozen books on fitness and health, including The Fat-Free Truth. Liz tells me she tried this diet for her blog on AOL’s thatsfit.com—and lasted 10 hours.

This does not bode well.

Day One
In a vaguely healthy move, I buy an organic brand of baby food. For breakfast I have Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal (6 ounces, 110 calories, 8 grams sugar, no sodium). It’s surprisingly tasty. And why not? It’s filled with sugar. Then I am off to my part-time job in a clothing store, where I dash about and climb ladders for four to eight hours at a stretch. At my 10 am break, I eat Sweet Potatoes (4 ounces, 70 calories, 7 grams sugar, 65 milligrams sodium). By 1 pm, I am hungry, cranky and headachy. When my boss says I haven’t dressed a mannequin correctly, I come thisclose to telling her to do it her own expletive-deleted self.

I am back home at 2 pm for lunch, which is Tender Chicken and Stars (6 ounces, 110 calories, 4 grams sugar, 55 milligrams sodium). It tastes like thick chicken soup that’s been sitting out too long. Mmmm, mmmm, eewwwwww. Dinner is more baby food: fruit, strained peas (memo to self: never again) and a meat thing that tastes vaguely of something that might once have lived.

 

Day Two
I am hitting the wall. Yes, I am allowed to eat quite a bit of the jarred stuff, but the problem is, I don’t want to. Food is boring when you can’t chew or smell it. I have decided I am going to allow myself a healthy, regular dinner every day (fish, vegetables, no dessert). Otherwise I am not going to last another 24 hours. And from the way I am snapping at my husband, neither will my marriage.

Day Three
Blech! Make it go away! Once again I begin my day with Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, but this time I start gagging; the texture is grossing me out. Later on I discover that the fruits—jarred pears, bananas and apples—are too sweet to eat regularly. Neporent nails it when she says eating them is like downing an entire package of Life Savers in every spoonful. Discovery: No matter how much baby food I choke down, I never feel full or satisfied. I am lie-down-on-the-floor-and-weep kind of hungry. And did I mention the constipation? I am not consuming enough fiber, so my system is now stopped up. Babies don’t have that problem because they drink tons of milk, which helps things move along.

By late afternoon, my brain is acting as if someone poured coffee on my motherboard. I e-mail Neporent for support, and she gives me sage advice: “Go eat a turkey sandwich!” I do, savoring every chew. I’m done, that’s it—I’m throwing in the spoon.

The Verdict
After three days of torture, I did not lose weight. In fact, the scale shows I’m up a little, probably the result of water retention after consuming too much sodium and not enough fiber.

First Published May 11, 2011

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