Thursday, July 22, 2010
World's Weirdest Diets
World's Weirdest Diets By Goudreau Jenna - Friday, July 16 During a summer of skimpy bathing suits and bare sundresses, many women are thinking about one number. It's not the number of diapers they need to cart to the Hamptons or the balance of their bank accounts. This season most women will be obsessing about their weight. And it seems they will try anything to drop the pounds. This year's diet trends have spanned from the commercial to the comical. Star of MTV's reality show The Jersey Shore, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi has turned to the so-called Cookie Diet to lose weight this summer. The program allows followers to eat only six cookies and a healthy dinner every day for as long as it takes to meet their goals. In the last few months, some celebs have been connected to a new Baby Food Diet, in which they eat several servings of goopy pureed greens daily. Fast food companies have tried to roll out new diet fads too. Taco Bell, insisting it is not a weight-loss program, debuted its "drive-thru diet" menu and advertised that one woman lost 54 pounds on the fast-food meal plan. "Every time a diet craze hits the market, people want to give it shot," says David Edelson, M.D., founder and medical director of weight loss facility HealthBridge. "It's the American way. We want it fast. We want it now. And we don't want it to be difficult." According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Americans spend billions annually on weight loss products and programs, and women are the majority of dieters. The CDC reports that women are twice as likely to diet as men, and that on any given day 45% of women are dieting. Meanwhile, Mary Gocke, a registered dietician at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York, estimates that women are the vast majority of "extreme dieters," at a ratio of 10:1. Extreme diets are the severe calorie-cutting and experimental plans that could be dangerous. Gocke says women experience much more social pressure to be in shape, and often use events such as weddings or class reunions as deadlines. That makes them more apt to try quick fixes. They are also more likely to view rail-thin models and actresses on the covers of women's magazines as the ideal, Gocke says, adding, "and they're all airbrushed." Despite the fact that health professionals agree fad or quick fix diets often don't work--dieters may lose weight in the short-term but gain it all back and more once they stop dieting--they continue to pop up, becoming progressively more weird and wacky. Diet doctor and Cookie Diet creator Sanford Siegal, D.O., M.D., says some of the weirdest diets can be found in the history books. Wish you could wash the pounds away? Siegal recounts that 18th-century physician Malcolm Flemyng suggested his patients try to do so by eating soap. Then at the turn of 20th century a man named Horace Fletcher suggested dieters "Fletcherize," or liquify, their food by chewing 100 times per minute and then spitting out any solid remains. Siegal snorts, "Can you imagine attending his dinner parties?" At the same time, desperate dieters began turning to the shiver-worthy practice of eating tapeworms. They believed the parasites would attach to their stomach linings and consume some of their calories. The worms actually cause nauseating digestive problems and can reproduce in your system. "It's terribly dangerous," says Siegal. Spring forward to the 1970s, when Robert Linn, M.D., prescribed a program called the Last Chance Diet, on which people ate nothing but a liquid protein elixir called Prolinn a few times a day. The blend was pre-digested animal hides, tendons and slaughterhouse byproducts combined with sweeteners and artificial flavors. The FDA stepped in after several Last Chance dieters died. "Some of these fad diets are extreme," says nutritionist Gocke. "People get to that point because they are so frustrated with weight loss, but they really need to see a good nutritionist so they don't harm themselves." Many of today's diets, too, might make you lose your appetite--and maybe that's the point. Weight-loss doctor Edelson says the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet, popularized by supermodel Heidi Klum and consisting of swigging vinegar before a meal, may aid weight loss only because vinegar--and everything eaten after it--tastes horrible. Edelson does not recommend it, though, as the high acidity could damage the esophagus. Edelson notes two other "scary" diets that have him worried. Some supermodels and dancers have been known to eat cotton balls, he says, to feel fuller. But because the body is unable to digest them, they can cause serious injury to the digestive system. Another eyebrow-raising fad is the HCG Diet. Practitioners eat only about 500 calories a day and inject themselves with a hormone that is naturally produced by the placenta of a pregnant woman. "There are so many red flags there," Edelson warns. "Stay away from this." There will always be new and ever-weirder diets, Edelson says, but ultimately you have to come up with a long-term strategy for keeping the weight off and maintaining your health. He suggests you first figure out why you've gained weight, considering your portion sizes, the types of foods you eat, emotional eating patterns and your exercise habits. Then you can start a healthy weight-loss plan, which he says usually consists of about 1,200 to 1,400 calories for women, small meals throughout the day and lots of vegetables . Diets are popular in part because people like to follow rules and regimens to keep themselves on track, weight loss experts say. If you're looking for a safe and healthy diet to follow, Edelson suggests the low-carb South Beach Diet, the hormone-balancing Zone Diet or a vegetarian diet.