The eternal battle of the bulge has many casualties, and one of the first is often common sense.
We all accept that the best way to lose weight is through a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise, but we're still easily tempted by diets that promise extraordinary weight loss with little to no effort.
As someone who has succumbed the siren song of fad diets on more than one occasion, I'm not one to judge. But I think you'll agree that when it comes to ludicrous or outdated dieting tips, these take the cake.
The Werewolf Diet
Sadly, this one has nothing to do with lyncanthropy, and it certainly won't give you abs like Taylor Lautner.
Despite its namesake, the werewolf diet doesn't involve turning into a wolf during the full moon—just imagine how many calories a traumatic body transformation would burn! Instead, this diet involves a highly regimented fasting schedule based around the lunar cycle.
The theory is that just as large bodies of water are affected by the lunar cycle, so is the water in the human body. So during the full moon, when the gravitational pull is at its strongest, a 24-hour fast will result in massive weight loss.
Needless to say, there's absolutely no scientific basis for this assumption.
The Blood Type Diet
The blood type diet does at least have the sheen of scientific legitimacy. Developed by naturopath Peter J. D'Adamo, the theory posits that the lectins—carbohydrate-binding proteins—found in food react differently to different blood types, and an individual's eating habits should be based around their blood type.
For example, a person with the O blood type should stick to a protein-rich diet, type A eaters should favor fruits and vegetables, type Bs should avoid gluten, and type ABs should limit their intake to tofu, seafood, and green vegetables.
While Dr. D'Adamo makes many bold claims, none of his theories have been scientifically proven. And even if the diet had any legitimacy, it just sounds like way too much effort.
The Chimp Diet
By this point, you've no doubt heard of the paleo diet. Probably the biggest of the post-Atkins diet fads, it touts the effectiveness of a hunter/gatherer-inspired eating regimen.
Well, the chimp diet is its evolutionary ancestor. On the surface, this idea could maybe make some kind of twisty logical sense. After all, we share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, so it stands to reason that what nourishes them should nourish us. Right?
Well, maybe. But probably not for that reason. Know who else we share more than 90% of our DNA with? Housecats. That doesn't mean we should be tucking into tins of Friskies.
The Red Bull Diet
Want to lose 100 pounds in just eight months? Of course you do. Well, don't worry—the only side effect is a mild case of heart attack.
That's exactly what happened to a New Zealand woman who lived off of energy drinks and cereal for eight months.
While consuming large quantities of high-caffeine beverages can indeed result in a temporarily heightened metabolism, the effect is minimal. But more to the point, caffeine can prove fatal if taken in excess.
The Beer Diet
The mythical beer diet is every frat boy's dream, but like all the diets on this list, it's just not a good idea.
Way back in the 1600s, history tells us that Bavarian monks consumed hearty dopplebock beer and little else during the month of lent. In 2011, blogger J. Wilson tried the same trick using contemporary doppelbock.
Sadly, while the lord giveth, he also taketh away. Though Wilson did manage to lose 25 pounds during the 45 days he subsisted on the drink of the gods, he also came dangerously close to a chronic case of kidney failure.
The Raw Vegan Diet
We aren't going to criticize anyone who decides to go vegetarian or vegan. Eschewing meat and other animal products is an impressive feat, whatever your reasons.
However, raw vegans take things one step too far. This diet, popular with celebrities, regards any cooked food as unhealthy. As nutritious (and potentially noble) as this diet sounds, it's sadly based on a number of myths and misunderstandings. Ultimately, eating a balanced mix of raw and cooked food is far healthier than sticking entirely to one or the other.
The Grapefruit Diet
Ah, the venerable grapefruit diet. What could be more enticing than a diet that says you can eat whatever you like so long as you eat a grapefruit before every meal?
This particular piece of culinary misinformation has been knocking around since the 1930s, despite having absolutely no factual basis. No one seems to know where it originated, but the essential premise is that grapefruits contain enzymes that help burn fat when consumed before a bigger meal.
As you can probably imagine, the grapefruit diet just doesn't work.
The Baby Food Diet
As the name suggests, this diet involves replacing all snacks and at least two main meals with baby food.
While an adult diet built entirely around baby food is safe in principle, be aware that infants and adults have variable nutrient requirements, and baby food may lack the quantities of vitamins and minerals adults need.
And seriously, do you really want to only eat baby food all day, every day?
The Junk Food Diet
This one works (in the sense that you can lose weight on it), but it's still far from advisable.
The junk food diet is really a blanket term for all the various donut, Twinkie, Jell-o, and snack food diets that follow a simple principle: You can eat whatever you like, just as long as you limit your calorie intake. Really, this is pretty obvious. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
But while there are examples of subjects losing weight by eating only processed snack food and nutritional supplements, the long-term health effects of this kind of diet are unknown and highly dubious.
Before embarking on any diet centered around 99-cent snacks, ask yourself one question: Is some short-term weight loss really worth early-onset type-2 diabetes?
This is just a small sampling of the veritable buffet of fad diets out there. As awful as some of these sound, know that we chose to not include some of the downright deadly examples.
So if you're hoping to lose a few pounds, before you head off to the weight loss section of your local bookstore (or, worse, Google), we urge you to sit down with your doctor and set up a real weight loss plan. You'll thank us later.
Hero image: Flickr user "kemprung (CC BY-NC 2.0)