The Hottest (Wackiest) Diets: What Works?

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

By various writers
trendy hot popular wacky crash celebrity diets baby food photo pictures plate
Photograph: Yasu + Junko

A day after our interview, I found a diet plan from Heron sitting in my e-mail inbox. For each meal, he noted several categories of food (for example, the breakfast categories included protein, fruit and toast) and said that at each meal I should eat from some or all of the categories; to help me do that, a wide range of foods was listed. Skimming down, I noted the diet staples we all are aware of but don’t always eat: lots of fruits and vegetables (including one of my favorites, sweet potato fries), fish, skinless chicken and quite a bit of water (16 ounces with each meal, which is supposed to help flush fat out of your body). And then there were the no’s: no sugar (because Heron feels that it increases your appetite) and no red meat or pork. Since I take cholesterol medicine, the doctor prescribed egg whites rather than whole eggs. And no Asian food: Heron had already warned me that it was problematic because of the high calorie count in curry sauces. Dessert was obviously going to be another challenge; he proposed a very limited list, with offerings such as Jell-O—definitely not my first choice.

According to Heather R. Mangieri, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and the owner of Nutrition Checkup, the plan Heron formulated is low in total fat and saturated fat and high in stomach-filling fiber (40 grams, about twice the average American woman’s typical daily dose). The category choices offered were so numerous that I could have eaten anywhere from 1,600 to 2,150 calories a day, she calculated.

Starting an eating regimen is pretty much like starting a relationship. You’re a little nervous but giddy and hopeful. Those first few days with this new partner were good. I didn’t mind not eating red meat, and it was easy to bring fruits and veggies to work.

Then I spent five days at my mother’s house in St. Louis—a virtual booby trap of temptations, since she loves to serve treats such as German chocolate cake and lemon cookies.

I held out for two days. Then, on a Friday night, while I was babysitting my young nieces, nephews and cousins, we had pizza delivered. I was fine until the kids had all gone to bed and it was just me and the leftover pizza sitting together in the kitchen. Alone, in the dark, I ate three small slices. Worse yet, this adventure opened the floodgates of longing, and the next day I started downing sweets like German chocolate cake, which isn’t even one of my favorites, and lemon cookies, which are.

But on Sunday my sister did something wonderful. She prepared a healthy and delicious family dinner that would have made Heron proud: salad, with dressing on the side; salmon; Cajun sweet potato spears; broccoli; and for dessert, two-bite pieces of cheesecake. I appreciated her support, which helped strengthen my resolve to get back on track.

Eating healthfully became easier again once I was back in D.C. I kept my home junk food free and resumed my exercise routine. I was able to manage my work lunches and dinners with my diet in mind, too.

Two weeks was enough for me to become convinced that a Heron-
customized weight-loss plan could really work. Although I tried it for just 14 days—with no time for the doctor to personalize the diet and lots of Midwestern cheating along the way—I ended up two and a half pounds lighter. Not a miracle, but I’ll take it.

Marcia Davis is a deputy editor on the national politics and government desk of the Washington Post.

The Twitter Diet
By Pamela Redmond Satran

I should have started worrying when I saw that the guy who’d lost 75 pounds on the so-called Twitter Diet was only 25 years old. In his New York Times article, reporter Brian Stelter made the plan sound so easy: (1) Commit to tweeting what you stuff into your mouth, (2) feel too embarrassed to tell your followers that you ate jelly doughnuts for breakfast and (3) therefore lose weight.

I should have known that what’s easy for a 25-year-old guy would not necessarily be easy for me.

First Published May 11, 2011

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