Health Bytes: How not to diet
I dug around a little, trying to find the craziest diets, ever, and I am honestly astounded by what the internet threw up. They’re not just ineffective, but exceedingly dangerous. Here are the worst of the lot (and no, don’t try them out, ever).
Every time I meet this man, let’s call him D, he looks slimmer than he was the last time I met him. “I’m on keto," he tells me. "It's working."
Keto or the ketogenic diet, is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, developed byDr Russell Wilder in 1921.
It was a therapeutic diet back then, explicitly aimed at children who have epilepsy. In its current avatar, however, it is a weight-loss tool. A pretty popular one if Instagram is anything to go by; it’s flooded with pictures of people who have used the diet to lose massive amounts of weight.
Many versions of the diet exist, but the basic principles involve cutting one's carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day and obtaining most of your energy—70-80% at least—from fat.
In the short-term, keto does help with weight loss. Since fat is more satiating, you end up eating less overall, says an article published in the Harvard School of Public Health. Also, the metabolic effects of converting fat and protein to glucose may lead to increased calorie expenditure, says the same article.
But the diet is also believed to have long-term side effects, including increased risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies and raised cholesterol levels which could, in turn, lead to heart disease. More practical drawbacks: bad breath, diarrhoea, or constipation— a negative impact on athletic performance, sluggishness, and more.
And yet, it works. "I've never lost weight so easily before," D tells me, convinced that it is possible to follow this way of eating all his life.
I'm the last person to tell anyone what is right and wrong for them diet-wise: I've been on some version of a diet since I was 14, and have tried out some ridiculous ones. But this also got me thinking about nutrition and how thinness, often misleadingly equated with health, fitness and attractiveness, is almost always the end goal of most diets. (A somewhat myopic way of looking at nutrition. It is also about performance, well-being, enjoyment, celebration and nourishment.)
So, I dug around a little, trying to find the craziest diets, ever, and I am honestly astounded by what the internet threw up. They’re not just ineffective, but exceedingly dangerous. Here are the worst of the lot (and no, don’t try them out, ever):
1. The Tapeworm Diet
You know all those terrible things a woman does to look beautiful: waist-training, heavy-metal-laden cosmetics, hair dyes full of carcinogens? Add the tapeworm diet to that list. And, yes, it's as disgusting as it sounds. You ingest tapeworm eggs, wait for them to hatch in your stomach and feed off you. The theory is that since you are sharing your meals with the tapeworm, you are absorbing fewer overall calories. The truth is you will end up with nasty tapeworm infection and completely ruin your body and health.
2. The Sleeping Beauty Diet
Sleep is great for you; we all know that. But this diet proves that adage about too much of a good thing isn't always good for you. The underlying thought behind the diet is this: if you sleep, you cannot eat and will, therefore, lose weight. In short, the diet encourages you to pop in sleeping pills and snooze all day, therefore dropping plenty of weight. It works, of course. But popping sedatives can also lead to memory loss, mental health issues, and loss of bodily functioning. Besides, what's the point of fitting into that little black dress, if you are too sleepy actually to wear it and go out into the world? I rest my case.
3. The Cotton Ball Diet
The models do this to stay skinny: they dip cotton balls into orange juice and swallow those, instead of eating a real meal. A manifestation of anorexia, this way of eating can lead to severe nutritional deficits and cause blockages in the body. And, yes, let's not forget that bleached cotton is chockful of harmful chemicals, stuff no one should be eating.
4. The Breatharian Diet
You know the prana they talk about in a yoga class, the energy, life and power it contains. It turns out that the breatharians think that you can replace a hot meal with it, and subsist on nothing but air. Unfortunately, since you aren’t a plant, air and sunlight cannot really nourish you. And while it may have made sense for the yogis of yore, it certainly doesn’t if you have to work, workout and well, live.
5. The HCG Diet
HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is the hormone women produce when they are pregnant. This diet involves frequent shots of HCG—it apparently is an appetite suppressant—coupled with a very low calorie (VLC) diet. Technically, the weight loss comes because you're eating so little, around 500 calories. But let's be honest, injecting random hormones into your body is never a good idea.