It’s officially a new year, and you know what that means – resolutions galore! Most people make some kind of resolution as the new year starts, and it’s easy to see why – it’s like getting a fresh start for whatever habits you’re looking to build. One of the most common resolutions, hands down, has to do with health and fitness. Every year, tons and tons of individuals promise that they’ll finally go to the gym on the regular basis, they’ll get fit and toned, and perhaps most importantly, they’ll start to eat healthier. After all, who doesn’t want to better their health and become their best selves in the new year?
However, with all that dedication often comes some unhealthy decisions. While the best route is always a balanced, healthy diet which pays attention to the proper nutrients and ensures that your body gets the calories it needs, a fad diet can be incredibly tempting. Sure, everyone knows that they’re terrible for you, but losing a few pounds at a relatively rapid pace can be so much more encouraging than losing weight at the recommended, fairly slow pace. People get sucked into fad diets time and time again, and during resolution season in January when everyone and their aunt is looking to shed some weight. We break down 14 of the most famous fad diets ever – some are more contemporary, while others have become a thing of the past.
14 The Lemonade Diet/Master Cleanse
The Master Cleanse diet, developed by Stanley Burroughs, has been around since the 1940s, but it became a huge fad after none other than Beyoncé followed it to shed weight for her role in Dreamgirls. It’s basically a type of juice cleanse, where dieters can consume tea, salt water, and most importantly, a special lemonade made with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. While there are countless claims made about it by fans, including how it energizes and detoxifies, let’s just call a spade a spade – most people lose weight on this diet because they’re consuming very low calories, and not consuming any solid food.
13 The Atkins Diet
Everyone knows about the Atkins diet – in fact, it’s become so well known that many seem to think it’s just a regular diet. However, the drastic measures it requires its followers to take, and the rapid rise to popularity it experienced, pretty much puts it in the fad diet camp. It was created by a cardiologist, Dr. Robert Atkins, in 1972, and involves eating very, very low carb while upping your protein and fat intake. That’s right – this is the one that encourages eating slabs and slabs of bacon, as long as you don’t pair it with toast. The diet might be effective for a short period of time, as the low amount of carbs makes dieters’ bodies turn to their own fat stores rather than the glucose created by carbs. However, let’s be honest – who wants to live a life devoid of all the delicious carb-y treats? Many Atkins devotees found it difficult to keep the weight off once they reintroduced carbs, proving that it might not be the most sustainable way of eating.
12 Ayds Candies
We’re not making this one up – while not everyone is old enough to remember this fad diet, Ayds Candies were definitely a popular choice when they were on the market in the 1970s and early 1980s. These candies were basically an appetite suppressing candy that helped dieters make good choices by curbing their hunger – something that many products on the market today continue to try to do. However, when the AIDS crisis began to rise in the public’s consciousness, the candy’s name suddenly seemed a lot more sinister. Suddenly, this fad diet seemed insensitive and offensive, and sales absolutely plummeted.
11 The Beverly Hills Diet
When you think of a diet called the Beverly Hills Diet, chances are your mind begins to conjure up images of cocktails, cavier, and fresh California greens. Well, the real Beverly Hills Diet was created by a woman named Judy Mazel in 1981, and is a quick six-week program. The program begins with a strict ten days when dieters can eat nothing but fruit in a specific order. After that, it doesn’t get much more lenient – while dieters are able to consume a few more items, it’s very regimented according to the day. For example, complete proteins cannot be consumed until Day 19, and on Days 11 through 18, you’re able to snack on bread and limited amounts of butter and corn. Safe to say, the diet was criticized by the medical community, but the book that contained all the diet’s rules and information still managed to become a bestseller.
10 The Hollywood (Grapefruit) Diet
We’re pretty sure that one of the main requirements for a fad diet is some type of glamorous name – I mean, who wouldn’t want to try out something called The Hollywood Diet? The name promises that you’ll have the physique of a starlet on the red carpet. In actuality, the Hollywood Diet is also colloquially known as the grapefruit diet, for reasons that are pretty self-explanatory – dieters are required to eat half a grapefruit at nearly every meal, paired with a few other sensible choices. However, this diet that began gaining popularity as far back as the 1930s succeeds for one reason, and it’s not because of the grapefruit. It’s simply because dieters are supposed to eat between 800 and 1,000 calories a day – with such a restricted caloric intake, of course dieters will lose weight in the short term!
9 The HCG Diet
The HCG Diet is one of the fad diets that has received the most criticism – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. has even called it “fraudulent,” “dangerous,” and “illegal.” So what’s all the controversy about? Well, the HCG diet is an extremely low calorie diet that involves daily injections of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG), which is a pregnancy hormone. The HCG shots are basically the element of the diet that makes it a fad – they’re supposed to rev up your metabolism and just help the weight melt off. However, if you look a little closer at the meal components of the diet plan, you’ll see why dieters shed the weight with this diet – because they’re consuming very, very little, about 500 to 800 calories a day. It’s nothing to do with the shots, and a lot to do with starvation!
8 The Caveman Diet (Paleo Diet)
Like Atkins awhile back, the Paleo Diet is a fad diet that has become so beloved and popular in the mainstream public that it has transcended fad diet status. Unlike many fad diets, which require dieters to eat specific foods, in specific orders, the Paleo Diet is a lot more maintainable. That’s because it simple seeks to adjust the types of foods dieters are eating, encouraging them to eat the foods that our prehistoric ancestors would have consumed. This means a lot of nuts, seeds, meat and vegetables. What’s banned on the Paleo diet? Processed foods, dairy, grains, junk food, and more. It’s easy to see why many experience weight loss when switching to the paleo lifestyle – it’s because they’re cutting out a ton of unhealthy, calorie dense foods and opting for better choices. However, for most, it’s possible to eat healthy and still enjoy a bit of grains and dairy.
7 The Scarsdale Diet
The Scarsdale Diet was introduced in the 1970s, and has many similarities to the Atkins Diet, including its founder – this diet was also created by a cardiologist, Herman Tarnower, who named the diet after the New York town in which he was practicing. It’s a 14-day plan that has a very specific ratio of macronutrients – 43% protein, 22.5% fat, and 35.5% carbohydrates. The meals are pretty much what you might expect – things like fruit, cold cuts with no bread, coffee or tea with no sugar, cream, or milk, lean proteins, and salads. The diet became even more well known after a tragic event ended Tarnower’s life, but let’s be honest – it would likely have been successful regardless because of the extremely regimented plan. People looking for fad diets love to be told exactly what to eat and when.
6 The South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet, which was invented by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, burst into popularity in 2003 when the book detailing the new fad diet emerged. It follows the lead of many fad diets, including a lot of rules and breaking food into different groups. The most well known part of the diet involves the three stages – the infamous first stage is designed to achieve extremely rapid weight loss, and then carbohydrates are gradually increased in the following two stages while fats and proteins are slightly decreased. While some of the diet’s recommendations, such as three meals and two snacks a day, are sensible, there’s really no need to follow the fad diet’s rules of splitting your healthy eating into stages.
5 The Zone Diet
As far as fad diets go, the Zone Diet is one of the less extreme choices out there. The diet, created by biochemist Barry Sears, surged in popularity in the 1990s, when it seemed that half of Hollywood (including mega-bombshell bods like Jennifer Aniston) was following it. It’s centered on a very specific ratio – 30% proteins, 40% carbs, and 30% fats. The diet also is reasonably low calorie, recommending about 1,200 a day (still very low, but far better than the 500-800 calorie limits other fad diets impose on followers). The premise is healthy, with 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, but there seems to be little evidence that Sears’ specific ratio is some type of magic solution.
4 The Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet
A diet that only requires 48 hours of effort? It seems too good to be true! And, in the case of many fad diets, it just might be. This fad diet was invented by Jamie Kabler, who was inspired to create a type of health spa in a bottle after a trip to Europe. Thus, the 48 Hour Miracle Diet was born. This diet is extremely simple – it involves two days of consuming absolutely nothing except the miracle diet juice, which is, according to the creators, “a special blend of all natural fruits and fruit juices along with antioxidants and essential oils.” It’s supposed to detoxify and cleanse your body, and can allegedly yield a weight loss of anywhere from 5 to 10 lbs. However, let’s break this down – the daily juice drink means you’re consuming 400 calories daily, an extremely low amount of calories. While the creators claim that the special juice blend will eliminate cravings and make you feel energized rather than starving and weak, we’re not too sure about that.
3 The Cookie Diet
Most fad diets require you to give up all sweets and indulgent treats like cookies – not this one. However, you can’t exactly go scarfing a plateful of your favorite calorie-packed cookies. Instead, followers of this fad diet must buy specially made cookies, and are to consume six per day. You can mix up the flavours if you want, but the majority of your day will involve eating the packaged cookies prepared by the companies who support this diet. The cookie consumption is followed up with a dinner of your choice – the diet doesn’t really specify, but just encourages something sensible. While it might seem fun to eat nothing but cookies for the majority of the day, the reason that this fad diet is successful has to do with restricted calories rather than magic cookies.
2 The Cabbage Soup Diet
Unlike many of the most famous fad diets of all time, which stem from a book outlining the diet’s rules, the cabbage soup diet cannot be contributed to a single source. It has been linked to different institutions, but the creator doesn’t really matter to fad dieters – it’s all about the rules of the diet, and they’re fairly simple. Basically, while there are a few variations, the diet consists of consuming a ton of very low calorie cabbage soup for a seven day span. You can toss in a bit of lean protein, vegetables and fruit on certain days, but the bulk of your diet will center on the soup. It can encourage dieters with an impressive amount of weight loss, but many critics note that the high fiber nature of the diet means you’re pretty much just losing water weight.
1 The Dukan Diet
The Dukan Diet was created by French doctor Pierre Dukan, and originated in France (a departure from the majority of fad diets, which often originate in the United States). It’s unquestionably a fad as of late – while the diet has been around for quite awhile, it really picked up steam after Dr. Dukan published The Dukan Diet in 2000. It increased another surge in popularity when Kate Middleton used it to slim down in anticipation of the royal wedding, as did her mother and sister Pippa.
So, what does it involve? It’s a complex plan with four stages, all designed to achieve specific goals. The Attack Phase involves a ten day intense slim down, where you consume only lean protein, water, and 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran. primarily lean protein. Then comes the longer Cruise phase, where you add in some non-starchy vegetables every second day. The third is the Consolidation phase, where you can add in a piece of fruit, two slices of whole-grain bread, a serving of hard cheese, and one or two celebration meals. It finishes off with the Stabilization phase, where dieters are free to eat whatever they want for six days of the week, and then spend one day following the all-protein rule from the Attack phase. Even outlining it is exhausting!