Top 20 Craziest Fad Diets

The nutty—and sometimes downright dangerous—ways people try to lose weight.

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The Cabbage Soup Diet

Want to lose up to 10 pounds in a week without ever feeling hungry? Great! You just have to load up on a low-sodium cabbage soup. It makes up the bulk of this strict diet plan, which is also supplemented with fruit, vegetables and water, as well as beef and grains on certain days.


The Master Cleanse Diet

Fresh lemon juice, Grade B maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water are the key ingredients in this 10-day detox diet. Mix them all together to make the 60-ounce lemonade concoction you must drink every day—even if you have to hold your nose while you do it. Our advice? Stay near a bathroom: one cup of a non-caffeinated laxative tea and a separate salt-water flush is also required daily to keep things moving.


The Hollywood Diet

This mini fast claims you can lose up to five pounds in one day and 10 pounds in two. Sounds plausible considering you’re not allowed to ingest anything except 16 ounces of a specialized juice blend (about 400 calories) and eight glasses of water a day. The creators recommend you fast at least once a week for the best results. We, on the other hand, recommend you stick to a combination of healthier solids in addition to your normal liquid intake.


The Grapefruit Diet

This quick-fix plan requires you to eat half a grapefruit or drink eight ounces of unsweetened grapefruit juice after each of your three specified low-carb, low-calorie meals. Grapefruit is thought to lower insulin levels and promote small weight loss, although no substantial studies have been conducted to confirm this belief.


The HCG Diet

Needle-shy people need not apply. To burn stored fat, this diet suggests injecting yourself with hCG, a hormone produced during pregnancy that ensures extra fat cells are available for growing fetuses. The injection is believed to prevent hunger even though you’re only consuming 500 calories a day on the accompanying diet. We have a feeling the intense calorie-deprivation, not the hCG, is responsible for any potential weight loss.


The Cookie Diet

Instead of just limiting yourself to one cookie a day, why not have six on Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet, which allows you to munch on specially designed cookies whenever you’re hungry, in addititon to a 500-calorie dinner. In total, you’ll only consume 1,000 calories a day. Not sure that sounds too “sweet” to us.  


The Tapeworm Diet

If you’re not afraid of sleeping poorly or suffering life-threatening intestinal blockage and malnutrition, then try this diet, which instructs you to willingly ingest a tapeworm in pill or egg form to freeload off of all the nutrients in your digestive tract. However before you give this revolting regimen a try, keep this in mind: Hosting a tapeworm doesn’t guarantee weight loss. That’s because they can grow up to 30 feet or longer in your body, adding extra weight.


The 3-Day Diet

Follow this diet plan (made of up mostly fruits, veggies and lean protein) precisely for three days. Then return to your normal eating habits for four or five days, repeating the cycle until you lose your desired amount of weight. You better like vanilla ice cream, though. It’s the only sweet you can have and are required to eat daily on this very low-calorie diet.


The Baby Food Diet

Dine like you did when you were an infant—on portion-controlled, low-calorie, low-fat jars of mushy fruits, vegetables and protein—and weight loss will supposedly be effortless. If you’re tempted to dig in for seconds and thirds of tasteless goop, be careful not to overeat; the calories can easily pile up. Click here to find out what happened when one of our writers tried to subsist on this soft-food fare.


The Dukan Diet

Nutritionist Pierre Dukan promises you’ll lose weight fast on his four-phase diet plan. In the first step, which can last from two to 10 days, he says you can lose up to 10 pounds by eating only high-protein foods and three tablespoons of oat bran. During the second phase you alternate days of pure protein foods with days of protein plus healthy vegetables and the oat bran. Once you reach your target weight you move onto phase three, which allows you to eat unlimited protein and veggies, along with the three tablespoons of oat bran, and some carbs. Phase four is the part of the diet you’re expected to maintain for the rest of your life. Two rules: continue consuming the oat bran every day and eat a protein-only menu one day a week.


The Fork It! Diet

Based on the principal of eating like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner, The Fork It! diet promises you’ll lose weight slowly and steadily, increasing the chances that you’ll keep it off longer. During the day you can eat whatever you’d like in moderation, but after 6 pm, you can only eat meals that can be consumed with a fork—no knives, spoons or fingers allowed! This keeps foods such as hamburgers and steak off limits, encouraging more veggies, grains, fish and white meats instead.


The Sleeping Beauty Diet

Consistently getting a good night’s sleep has been proven to help weight loss. However, some people have taken this idea to the extreme by sedating themselves for days. Elvis was known for being a big fan of this fad diet, which possibly contributed to his death.


The Chewing Diet

What’s the easiest way to enjoy your favorite foods without gaining weight? Don’t actually eat them. The chewing diet, supposedly made famous by self-taught nutritionist Hoarce Fletcher, suggests masticating foods until they liquefy. You then spit out the excess and watch your extra pounds disappear—right along with the essential nutrients you just discarded.


The Special K Diet

Replace two meals a day with a serving of Special K cereal and skim milk. Have one meal as you normally would and snack on any two Special K items and all the fruits and veggies you’d like throughout the day. By following this cleverly branded diet, you’ll supposedly drop a jean size and lose up to six pounds in two weeks.


The Paleolithic Diet

Eat like cavewomen did and fill up on natural foods like meats, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries. Avoid all processed foods for a taste of what life was like back then. Just be aware, many experts question the logic behind this ancient way of eating, as well as its lack of cereals, legumes and dairy.


The Acai Berry Diet

Antioxidant-rich acai berries are believed to have anti-aging effects, making them a prime candidate for “magic” pills and potions. Be wary of any products that extol the weight loss benefits of this wonder berry—no rigorous studies have proven they help. 


The Blood Type Diet

What does your blood type have to do with your ability to lose weight? According to Peter J. D’Adamo, ND, author of Eat Right for Your Type, blood types react differently to lectins, proteins in food, which can cause harm. To minimize reactions, he says you must choose your diet based on your blood type. Critics say his theory is unsupported.


The Green Tea Diet

Like acai, green tea has been linked to weight loss, spurring a variety of get-fit-quick products. Most require you to down a green tea drink daily or take a certain amount of green tea supplements, none of which are regulated by the FDA as weight-loss aids. Although drinking a cup of natural green tea every day will probably help your overall health, don’t expect it to torch fat, especially if you're using it to wash down a Big Mac.


The Twinkie Diet

Instead of regular meals, eat a Twinkie every three hours instead of regular meals, like this professor of human nutrition at Kansas University did, and you could lose 27 pounds in 10 weeks. Sometimes he would even add variety to his diet plan by substituting Doritos or other Hostess snacks. Sounds tempting, but the diet mainly worked because he consumed less calories than he burned (1,800 vs. 2,600) and snuck in the occasional serving of vegetables, plus a multivitamin and protein shake.


The Negative Calorie Diet

If something sound sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This diet is based on the theory that your body burns more calories digesting some foods—such as celery, broccoli and asparagus—than the food itself contains. Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence to back up this up. Eat these foods because they're healthy, not because you think their calories don't count.


Read: Celeb Detox Diets


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First Published September 23, 2011

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