Trigger/content warning: This article includes discussion of dieting, including descriptions of specific types of diets. If you are in ED recovery and find yourself sensitive to these discussions, please be aware of this before moving forward.
"Diets don't work." I don't know who originally sold that line, but Weight Watchers certainly uses it to lend credibility to their Oprah-infused "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle" campaign. Even the CDC echoes that assertion. Meanwhile, humans of the world who are desperately -- frantically, even -- trying to lose weight, hear this: I need to change my life. But "changing your life," while it may sound romantic, is not so clear-cut, not always possible, and is often loaded with assumptions about the health-weight continuum.
What I know to be true is that diets don't work. You may be able to "stick" to a diet long enough to lose 10, 20, 50, even 100 pounds, but a diet is still a diet. And when it's over? The weight usually comes back -- 95 percent of the time (which is a lot). Even if there wasn't scientific data to support the "diets don't work" assertion, I could tell you they don't. I've been on approximately 73 and I weigh over 200 pounds.
Let's have a quick chat about some of the stupid shit I have put my body through, in an attempt to get thin enough to be "happy."
(Spoiler alert: Never happened.)
The Cabbage Soup Diet, aka The "Torture" Diet
You just put cabbage in water and cook it. And you eat it. All day. It is not good. You will still be hungry, and you will also be farting -- very smelly, paint-peeling farting.
The Grapefruit Diet, aka The "I Don't Need Any More Vitamin C, Thank You" Diet
You just eat grapefruit before every meal. Apparently there are some "enzymes" in there.
I never want to see another grapefruit again.
The SlimFast Diet, aka The "Diarrhea" Diet (first cousin to the Dieter's Tea Diarrhea)
I don't know what's in SlimFast, but it makes you poop. A lot. I don't think this is my IBS talking, either. Also "two shakes a day and a sensible dinner" is not eating. Don't be fooled by the chocolate-shake appearance. It's all a poop-causing lie.
Weight Watchers, aka The "How Many Foods Are Zero Points?" Diet
Weight Watchers is arguably the most popular diet ever in the history of diets. It's taken on many incarnations over the years, the most recent of which (besides Oprah, anyway) was the Points System. In the "Points System" each food is assigned (based on caloric content, fat, fiber, and other variables) a point value, and each day you are alloted X points based on your current weight.
Some foods are blessedly zero points (celery and canned green beans, for example) which basically means I ate canned green beans for a year. I lost 65 pounds eating canned green beans for a year. Of course, as soon as I stopped eating canned green beans I gained those 65 plus 20 more.
I never want to see another green bean again.
The Special K Diet, aka The "This Cereal Isn't Even That Good" Diet
This is not unlike SlimFast, just exchange "two shakes" for "two bowls of cereal." And be real, real hungry.
Atkins, aka The "Baby Paleo" aka The "I Never Want To See Meat Again" Diet
This diet works by putting you body into ketosis, which is the metabolic effect of depriving your body of carbs. Ketosis, at its most extreme (particularly in diabetics), can turn into its meaner and more awful cousin ketoacidosis. And then you die (I mean, it's not a foregone conclusion, but it's a really bad thing to have).
The Fruits And Veggies Diet, aka The "I Like Painful Gas" Diet
I never want to see an apple again.
The Tiny Plate Diet, aka The "Where Am I Supposed To Put My Food?" Diet
This diet is supposed to work by "tricking" your brain into thinking you have a lot of food, when actually, you have a toddler-sized portion of food on a salad plate. No one said you can't use two plates, though. So I just did that.
The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet, aka The "OMG THAT HURTS GOING DOWN" Diet
I don't care about the health benefits of ACV. This is just fucking gross.
The Popcorn Diet, aka The "This Isn't Even Real Food" Diet
Popcorn is meant to be swimming in butter and served while watching a rom-com. Dry popcorn, drenched in tears? Just no.
The Liquid-Only Diet, aka "I Really Miss Chewing" Diet
Do milkshakes count? THEY ARE LIQUID.
Alli, aka The "I Just Farted Oil" Diet
Alli was supposed to be some sort of miracle fat absorber. That seems innocent enough until you oil-shit your pants. Strongly advise against.
The Pineapple Enzyme Diet, aka The "I Don't Even Like Tropical Fruit" Diet
This is like the grapefruit diet, because enzymes.
I never want to see another pineapple again.
Dexatrim/Hydroxycut/Green Tea Extract/Quick Trim, aka The "Why Do I Feel Like I Drank 7 Cups Of Coffee" Diet
It's all fun and games until someone has heart palpitations.
What I'm saying here is I've done all of the most ridiculous diets -- eaten grapefruit/pineapple until I was yellow, lined up four tiny plates to equal one regular one, drank actual vinegar, oil-shat my pants, suffered through the pain of SlimFast diarrhea, and nothing but cereal/popcorn/foul-tasting fart-causing soup.
Also none of it worked.
Just get a regular size plate and put cake on it.
NOTE: Disordered eating is real and awful and a battle I continue to fight. This is in no way meant to belittle that struggle. I resorted to these ridiculous diets and many more very harmful behaviors before I finally broke the cycle. If you need help please contact NEDA.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.