Last week I surveyed all my followers on twitter and all my friends and fans on Facebook to find out what they thought were the worst diet and fitness fads of 2010. Hundreds of people responded and many votes were given for a small handful of real stinkers. In today’s Burn the Fat Blog post, you’ll see the complete list, as determined by survey response, along with a few choice comments of my own. Most of these are good for a real laugh, others are taken seriously by many and will surely draw some ire from “true believers.” Either way, this should be fun…
The biggest diet and fitness fads of the last year are listed, countdown-style below, from least to most votes, with #1 being the worst fad of the year. I’ve included diet or fitness fads that may have intitally appeared before 2010, but had a resurgence in popularity or continued going strong enough in 2010 to make the list.
The Ballbike hasn’t received nearly the publicity or market exposure as fad number one on our list, but this was just too good to exclude. I said I’d speak a few choice comments for each 2010 fad, but frankly, I’m lost for words on this one. I’ll just post the website that has the promo video and then let you and all the other readers comment away:
7. The Tapeworm Diet.
Even though the tapeworm diet is so outrageous you’d think it were an urban legend, apparently it’s real. This old one came back to public attention again because the Tyra Banks show did a “gross-out” spot on the tapeworm diet in November of 2009. Audience members squirmed as the doctor pulled a 15 foot worm out of a jar live on camera. By December 2009 after the show re-aired for an encore, “tapeworm diet was #1 on google trends.
Purchasing these parasites for weight loss is illegal in the USA and not approved by the FDA, but you can allegedly order (illegally) from countries like Venezuala or go to Mexico and pay a couple grand for beef tapeworm worm larvae.
After you consume the “worm egg pill” it hatches in your digestive tract, latches onto your intestinal wall and feeds off the energy and nutrients from the food you eat, growing larger and larger. After a few months, you return to the clinic for anti-parasitic medication that kills the worm. The dead creepy crawler then passes out your body (try to visualize that if you want to really gross yourself out).
Aside from that fact that it’s vile and disgusting, what’s wrong with this idea? On the mild end, the tapeworm can lead to pain, nausea and a bloated stomach. It can also compete with you for vital nutrients, leading to deficiencies or anemia. At the severe end, the hermaphroditic tapeworm can lay eggs inside you. Infestation of certain species can travel beyond the digestive tract into the circulation and can also lead to cysts in the liver, lungs, eyes and spinal cord or brain.
Using tapeworms for weight loss can be fatal. No source for the story was cited, but according to Spike TV’s “1,000 Ways To Die” a woman lost 60 pounds after ingesting a tapeworm for weight loss. The worm grew to 20 feet then laid eggs, which burrowed through her intestinal wall and into her circulation where the infestation of worms promptly killed her.
Spike TV: 1000 Ways To Die: Way # 734 – “die -it”
Tyra Banks – The Tapeworm Diet Part 1
Tyra Banks – The Tapeworm Diet Part 2
Tyra Banks – The Tapeworm Diet Part 3
6. Cookie Diet.
The Cookie diet has been around since at least the 1970’s. Why did it get popular again in 2010? All it takes is one celebrity endorsement. This year we had Snooki from the Jersey Shore (and whatever diet she’s on MUST be the best one, right?). In stark contrast to the booze-happy reality TV star, Jets tackle Kris Jenkins was reported as going on the cookie diet as well (one news site said he resorted to lap band surgery to finish the job).
All you have to do is eat special fiber and protein-fortified cookies for breakfast, cookies for lunch and then a sensible dinner of lean protein and vegetables. The cookies are supposed to suppress your appetite due to the fiber and amino acids. Im not aware of any proof that the cookies do this any better than other sources of fiber and protein.
This diet appeals to people because they are fascinated and titillated by the idea of comsuming what’s normally a forbidden food while still losing weight. The fact is, you can lose weight eating any foods when the calories are starvation or semi-starvation level. That doesn’t mean it’s a healthy way or permanent way to lose weight. The cookie diet calls for as little as 800 calories per day.
This is a form of meal replacement diet, and while high-quality, protein-rich meal replacements do have some value for some people, a huge drawback of these diets is they fail to teach you how to choose, cook and eat real, nutrient-dense, healthy food. For people who fear deprivation (“I can never eat cookies again!!!), they need to realize that (a) occasional cheat meals are not only ok, but recommended and (b) you can learn how to make delicious healthy nutrient-dense food in countless ways and enjoy it every day.
Why not learn how to prepare and eat real food, right from the start, rather than depend on a meal replacement crutch of any kind?
By the way, one of the most popular brands costs $59.95 for one box of cookies – a one week supply (14 meals).
5. Twinkie Diet
“Nutrition professor loses 27 pounds in 10 weeks eating twinkies,” said headlines all over the USA earlier this year.
This one almost didn’t make the list because “The Twinkie Diet” wasn’t really marketed as a weight loss diet program designed for other people to follow. It was more like a “mad scientist” class experiment of a college profesor, Mark Haub of Kasas State University. However, it did bring people out of the woodwork saying, “see I told you calories are what counted in weight loss,” and prompted many people to abandon “clean eating” and advocate low calorie junk food diets. Not good.
The results of professor Haub’s self-experiment were not surprising at all. If you sustain a calorie deficit, you will lose weight regardless of what kinds of foods you eat (this thermodynamic truth being much to the chagrin of the low-carb hardliners who think that calories dont count. Hmmm. aren’t Twinkies all carbs/sugar? If so, how did professor Haub lose 27 pounds eating mostly Twinkies and other sugary junk? (ummmm…. a calorie deficit, maybe???) What does that do to the low carb theory that carbs drive insulin which drives fat storage? Never mind… thats another post, another day…
However, that doesn’t mean eating a low calorie Twinkie diet is the best way to lose weight, nor does it mean that it’s healthy over the long term. I don”t know about you, but I Iike to be lean AND healthy, not one or the other (not to mention, I think Twinkies are disgusting).
For more info, see my previous blog post about The Twinkie Diet.
4. Taco Bell Drive Through Diet.
The Drive Through Diet was Taco Bell’s answer to Jared’s Subway diet. Jared was the guy who lost 245 pounds during which time he ate at Subway regularly. He simply picked the lower calorie items on the menu. Jared later became a spokesperson for Subway in their nationwide advertising campaigns which became known as the Subway Diet. During that campaign, Subway sales doubled to 8.2 billion.
With its own dedicated website and advertising campaign, the drive through diet flaunted their own version of Jared: Christine! The restaurant chain was very conservative with their claims. They say Christine’s results aren’t typical and she lost the weight (54 lbs) over 2 years by reducing her calories to 1250 a day>
Christine claimed part of her success was simply from choosing Taco Bell’s new lower calorie “Fresco” items. These include “7 diet items with 150 to 240 calories and under 9 grams of fat.” For example, there’s a chicken soft taco with only 170 calories, 4 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein.
Like the Twinkie diet, this is another low calorie junk food diet. Is it a good thing that fast food restaurants are offering low calorie alternatives? Absolutely. What miffs me is that these fast food joints advertise low calorie fast food with a weight loss hook (complete with before and after photos) and market it as “healthy” instead of just lower in calories. Read more in this post:
The Double Edged Sword of Healthy Fast Food.
3. Butt-Toning Fat-Burning Shoes.
2010 saw the “toning” shoes become best sellers for several footwear companies, as they promised eager buyers a tighter butt, toned thighs and even greater fat loss, all with the “power of shoes.”
Also known as “the gym in a shoe,” and promoted with provocative commercials (with camera-men zooming in on the model’s butts instead of the shoes), people believed it and bought it.
I was so irked at this one, it prompted me to write a letter to the editor at the New York Times after the paper published a review of one brand of these “miracle toning shoes.”
2. HCG Diet (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) and Homeopathic HCG.
HCG is by no means a new 2010 fad. In fact, it first appeared in the 1950’s, but the resurgence of HCG this past year has been remarkable. New books have been published – ebooks and hardcovers on Amazon – clinics opening everywhere, plus a surge of homeopathic HCG. If there’s anything on planet Earth more bogus than a homeopathic version of something already proven to be bogus, I don’t know what it could be!
The HCG protocol is a 500 calorie per day diet combined with injections of a fertility drug which is extracted from pregnant women’s urine (i kid you not). HCG has been proven in nearly a dozen controlled clinical trials to be no more effective than placebo, with some of these trials going back to the 1970’s.
True believers in HCG come out of the woodwork to defend it fiercely. To all of them, before you post a comment on my blog, please read my full article and research review on HCG which cites all the evidence that HCG is a scam. I will welcome any intelligent, evidence-based rebuttal.
The HCG diet comes with a 500 calorie per day diet. Do the math. That’s 3-7 pounds per week of weight loss depending on a person’s size, gender and energy expenditure. Pretty close to what the diet promises. Up to a pound a day is indeed possible for a very large, active man.
The weight loss comes from the starvation level calorie deficit, not the HCG. Which means… 500 calories a day plus _________________ (fill in the blank with any gimmick) will get you about the same results. (How about a 500-calorie per day diet with fat burning lip balm, made from essence of grapefruit, lemon and green tea. That oughta be a best seller eh?)
Advice to the wise: steer clear of this stuff. The HCG diet has zero scientific support and zero evidence of efficacy.
And the #1 fad of 2010 is…
1. Shake weight!
Shake weight wins by a landslide. Shake weight also wins an honorary award for “Fitness fad the most fun to make fun of.” In fact, I think the execs at Shake weight have no problem with that since shake weight has been great for laughs on every talk show (Ellen really went to town) and people have been buying these things as gag gifts. Maybe that was part of their master plan, and shake weight is laughing its way to the bank… brilliant!
I think South Park wins the award for best shake weight parody! (sorry SNL!)
Here’s to a happy new year, with a lot more diet common sense!
– Tom venuto, author of:
Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle:
(Fat burning secrets of the world’s leanest physique athletes)
The Body Fat Solution:
(the mental, social and emotional side of losing fat and staying lean for life)
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle (e-book) and the national bestseller,The Body Fat Solution. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, the Burn The Fat Inner Circle