With the holidays coming to a close it's time to step up to the scale and assess the damage. If the numbers on the scale are much larger than you remember it's possible that a diet may be in order. But don't panic! Rushing into a fad diet is at best not along term solution and at worst might actually leave you worse off.
Before we run into the list let's take a moment to talk about the easiest way to spot a diet that it is dumb and that you should avoid: It sounds too good to be true. Fad diets are like those online ads that promise to dramatically improve your life if you just, "Do one simple thing!" Hopefully you don't click on internet spam, so use those same skills to spare yourself the embarrassment of being screwed over by a fad diet. We would also note that branded diets with tie-in foods are probably out to separate you from your wallet rather than you from your fat.
Gluten-Free Diet The Sell: Having trouble losing weight? Tired? Stressed out? Stomach problems including diarrhea or constipation? You have a gluten intolerance and everything in your life will be immediately improved if you switch to a gluten-free lifestyle. The Burn: Gluten-intolerance is indeed a medical condition caused by celiac disease that affects many people to varying degrees. The problem with a "gluten diet" as an actual weight loss/life improvement strategy is that the only person who should be informing you that you have a gluten-intolerance is a doctor, not your friend who once heard about it or you spending two hours reading WebMD and sagely deciding that you totally have this disease and that's why you're always tired and sometimes have digestive problems. If you do have a gluten-intolerance or sensitivity, switching to a gluten free diet will definitely provide you relief from symptoms. But again, the only person who can help you figure that out is a trained health care provider. Beyond that there's no reason to think that a healthy person without a gluten-intolerance will suddenly have an improved life because they've taken the medical advice of someone who does have a gluten-intolerance.
Dukan Diet The Sell: Aren't European people always so skinny? It must be because they have a special diet regime! Thankfully, this French doctor has revealed the secrets of Continental good health and will share them with you if you buy this book and follow his four step process. It's so amazing because you can lose weight even though you're eating as much as you want! I heard Kate Middleton used it to get ready for her wedding! The Burn: This diet largely boils down to switching you to a high lean protein diet similar to the Atkins diet and then drastically cutting your calorie intakes for a course of rapid weight loss. If all you're eating is chicken breasts and unlimited snow peas it's fairly easy to lose a lot of weight. The major problem with this diet is pretty straightforward: Starving yourself by heavily restricting the calories you eat, whether by switching to foods with less calories or simply not eating as much, will make you lose weight. The problem is that they're largely unsustainable for anyone who doesn't want to subsist on grilled chicken breasts and salad for the rest of their days. Beyond that any diet that promises or promotes rapid weight loss runs some pretty well known health risks.
Alkaline Diet The Sell: Feel sick? Have trouble concentrating? Losing weight? It's because your bodily fluids are too acidic! That's because you're eating meats and diary products which "acidify" your blood and that's what's making you sick and fat! If you just drank and ate more greens, which we conveniently sell in easy to use mixes, you can reverse this process. You can drink away your fat! The Burn: This is just straight bunk pushed by people trying to sell you magic pills and drinks. The basic premise, that certain foods make your body more or less acidic or alkaline and that varying your internal chemistry by avoiding certain faoods can cure you of your fat or even cancer, has virtually zero supporting evidence from reputable sources. Many of these diets claim that you can test the acid/alkaline balance of your urine as a means of monitoring your progress. Without getting heavily into the physiology of why the whole diet plan is dumb, let's focus on why these home monitoring kits are a waste of time. Your body is a finely tuned machine, it requires very specific levels of acidity and alkalinity to continue to function properly. As a result it's very good at getting rid of anything that would try to alter that delicate balance. One of the favored methods of eliminating unwanted substances is by filtering your blood through your kidneys which remove all unwanted things and dump them into your urine. So if you eat a bunch of acidic foods, so much that it starts to upset the balance inside your body, the chemicals that are causing that rise will get yanked out of circulation by your kidneys and dumped into your urine. This basic mechanism makes the home urine testing kits "work" because the person pushing it can create a self-fulling prophecy.
HCG Diet The Sell: Don't you think it's amazing how people can get so fat during pregnancy but lose it so quickly afterwards? The reason women lose weight is because the HCG in their blood after pregnancy causes them to burn up their fat. But it only works if you eat certain foods and take these "natural" HCG supplements. The Burn: This is one of the most dangerous diets on this list. These diets "work" by restricting you to a 500 calorie or less diet and bombarding your body with, well who knows what because the FDA has long made it illegal, for obvious reasons, to suck down human hormones without medical oversight. The average person needs around 1,500 calories to remain healthy and as eating 1/3 of that amount for an extended period of time is a starvation diet. To put it in perspective, a Big Mac with cheese is around 700 calories, someone on a 500 calorie diet would be sitting down to a single Big Mac a day and still leaving food on the table when they left. You'll lose weight on this diet because you're starving yourself, not because of any magical properties of HCG, which legally shouldn't be sold outside of a doctors office anyways.
Beef Tapeworm Diet The Sell: Go to Mexico, pay a lot of money and infect yourself with a parasite that will eat your food for you and keep you thin. The Burn: This diet will work. If you get infected with tapeworms one of the key symptoms is that you'll start losing massive amounts of weight no matter how much you eat. Tapeworms attach themselves to the lining of your stomach and intestine and suck life giving calories straight out of your blood. So yes, you'll lose weight. But let's loop back to the part of this diet "plan" were you infect yourself with a potentially fatal parasite. In fact, let's just look at what that parasite looks like inside a human being.
We'll also note that a common feature of many cancers is rapid weight loss and even suppression of appetite. Perhaps we can look forward to designer weight loss cancers making this roundup next year.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.