9 Infamous Diets: Fad or Effective?

Narrowing Down Diet Plans

Loading up on Thanksgiving and other holiday foods can take a toll on your waistline, making the winter, the post-holiday season in particular, a popular time to rethink how healthy you are.There are so many diets to choose from, however, that it’s difficult to decide which suits your goals.  Here’s a look at some of the more popular and strange dieting plans through the years. Many were popular briefly then seemed to fall off the map, while others were more enduring.  While some might not consider all of these "fads," MainStreet believes any strictly regimented diet, especially those that are hard to follow and maintain, are fads compared with simply a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Photo Credit: Malias


Cookie Diet

Sweet carb addicted consumers may rejoice just at the suggestion that cookies could be a part of any dieting plan.  And the cookie diet seems like a dream come true for lovers of baked goods who don’t want to sacrifice their favorites. How you eat:  You can eat special appetite-suppressing cookies as breakfast, lunch and snacks. Then you make your own sensible meal for dinner. Possible results:  If you’re that many cookies, notes The Wall Street Journal, you might not be able to squeeze in all the fruits and vegetables you should be eating every day.  For many Americans, that means nine servings a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cost: Smart for Life, one of the bulked-up cookie makers, says the cookies you’ll need for the diet costs less than $10 per day.  That doesn’t include dinner. Photo Credit: norwichnuts


Cabbage Soup Diet

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the seven day cabbage soup diet. This one in particularly good for people who want to lose weight quickly… and for people who really like cabbage. How you eat: You can have unlimited amounts of cabbage soup during the seven-day diet.  Since not many restaurants serve this, it may mean eating all of your meals at home, notes WebMD. You’re also allowed to have limited amounts of other fruits and vegetables as well as meat and skim milk.  Dieters are advised to avoid alcohol entirely. Possible results: While you might lose 10 to 15 pounds in one week on this diet, you may experience an embarrassing side effect: eating mostly cabbage and certain other vegetables can cause gastrointestinal problems, WebMD notes.  In the long run, since you’re drastically reducing your calorie consumption, switching to the cabbage diet may not be the best move nutritionally.  In fact, it’s pretty close to fasting outright, WebMD suggests, and eating less than 1,200 calories a day isn’t safe and may keep you from getting all the nutrients you need. Cost:  The amount you spend for a whole week is likely closer to what you pay in a day on any non-dieting day. Photo Credit: TheDeliciousLife


The Atkins Diet

We like to call this one the “meat-lovers diet.” If you stick to it, you lose weight fast, and get to eat delicious, greasy food.How you eat: Bacon, cheese, butter and heavy cream are still fair game for Atkins dieters. Possible results:  You can burn fat fast.  That’s because, generally, the body burns off carbohydrates before fat.  If most of what you’re eating is protein, your body will go right to burning off fat, and you’ll burn it off faster than you would otherwise.  If you’re a carb addict, efforts to stay away from bread, rice and the occasional sugary cereal might not hold up for long, so be warned.  Anyway, cutting out carbs completely can actually be bad for you since your body and brain actually need them to function properly. Cost:  If you don’t by Atkins-branded foods, you may spend a little more on meat to replace the bread, sweets and other carb-charging goodies you love.  If you’re buying Atkins branded products, you may end up spending $6 on a four-pack of shakes or 12 nutritional bars for more than $20. Photo Credit: rick


The South Beach Diet

This one is similar the Atkins, but a little less intense. If done properly, you’ll lose weight, but also develop healthy eating habits overall.How you eat:  The South Beach Diet is a low-carb diet, but instead of eating whatever fatty, greasy foods you want, you’ll train yourself to make heart-healthy decisions.  You can get South Beach Diet branded meals and snacks, or you can work up a customized eating plan. Possible results:  The South Beach Diet is meant to curb your cravings for carbohydrates, help you lose weight over time instead of all of a sudden, and sustain a healthy lifestyle while allowing indulgence once in a while. Cost:  It’s no secret: healthy food, including fresh produce, meat and fish are much more expensive than a value meal at a fast food restaurant.  And South Beach high protein cereal bars, for example, can cost $5 for a five-pack. Photo Credit: thebittenword.com


Nutrisystem

Lose weight without the hassle of cooking, measuring portions and counting calories or points. How you eat:  You choose from a variety of pre-packaged, nuke-and-go breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks that are already portion-controlled.  There are men’s and women’s plans, vegetarian and diabetic plans and post-baby weight loss plans. Possible results:  You can lose weight, but it won’t happen immediately.  But after all, the healthy way to lose weight means dropping no more than two pounds per week, according to the National Institutes of Health. Cost: The Nutrisystem plan can “As little as” $11 per day, according to Nutrisystem.  But making your own small portions of food is probably much cheaper, and you don’t have to decide what you want to eat for an entire month in one shot. Photo Credit: wraggy


Weight Watchers

Lose weight and keep it off by keeping track of all the foods you eat each day and gain control over cravings without giving them up entirely. How you eat:  Weight Watchers uses a four-part approach to weight loss which includes eating smarter, getting more active, developing good habits and getting dieting support when needed, the company explains. So it’s not just about how you eat; it actually suggests broad lifestyle changes as well. Weight Watchers is considered by many to be Alcoholics Anonymous for eaters.  Members meet for weigh-ins and to talk about weight loss efforts. Possible results: You’ll get a better idea of what foods will make you feel full and are high in nutrients, plus you and your peers can identify ways to lead a more active lifestyle, notes WebMD. Cost: Food under the Weight Watchers plan doesn’t have to cost more than you spend on food now, but to take part in the plan, including attending an unlimited number of meetings, costs $39.95 per month. Your first meeting is free. Photo Credit: masonmasteka


The Zone Diet

The goal here is to eat better for long-term health, prevent weight gain without being restricted to certain foods. How you eat: The Zone Diet, developed by Dr. Barry Sears, breaks down meals according to a 40-30-30 ratio of calories from carbs, proteins and good fats. Possible results: Nutritionists are mixed on the effectiveness of the Zone plan, according to WebMD. Many say that it doesn’t take into account the role of fiber in a balanced diet and how filling different types of foods are. But some sweet treats (even doughnuts!) are allowed as long the 40-30-30 ratio remains. Cost:  To have prepared Zone meals delivered, it can cost you $40 a day or more for a 30-day plan, plus a $10 delivery fee. Photo Credit: skyseeker


Jenny Craig

The central goal for this plan is to enjoy eating but still feel full, and lose weight in the process.How you eat:  Jenny Craig’s new menu includes meals like beef chili and treats like toffee cookies. It follows the dieting concept of volumetrics: “On average over a day or two, a person will eat about the same weight of food,” notes the Jenny Craig Web site. “Volumetrics shows you how to choose foods that provide a low amount of calories for the weight of the food,” the company’s Web site says. Possible results: First, you'll learn portion control and healthy eating habits, increase level of physical activity, even if you have a busy lifestyle. Cost: Jenny Craig says that on average, their dieters spend about $1 more per day on food compared to when they weren’t dieting, but many of the dieters spend about the same or less. Photo Credit: tobyotter


Slim Fast

Personal goal:  Simple and sensible eating to lose weight. How you eat:  With all the newer and more popular diet plans, Slim Fast may have fallen by the wayside because of its lack of variety.  Under the plan, you’ll replace two meals with either a nutritional shake or a “meal bar,” have a sensible dinner and healthy snacks.  The Slim Fast Web site also promotes the use of a pedometer to track your daily activity and suggests ways to stay active. Possible results:  Slim Fast says its shakes and bars will help control hunger for as much as four hours to help you resist cravings, but even if you’re full with Slim Fast for breakfast and Slim Fast for lunch, it may be difficult to rein in your cravings at dinner, which you plan on your own, and you might be tempted to cheat on your diet. Cost: Shake mix that makes 14 servings will run you about $8 and bars can cost you about $5 for a box of five bars.  Recently, we reported that Slim Fast ready-to-drink cans were recalled because of possible bacterial contamination. Photo Credit: Clean Wal-Mart


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