Sometimes it can seem like there's a new weight loss fad being touted every couple of months, promising great results. But do any of the diets really work?
Some folks at America Now tested several popular fad diets. Our group lost a combined 11 pounds in less than seven days.
Keep reading to check out the details of what worked and what didn't so you don't have to waste your time.
Jo Smith and Sarah Livesay tried the "Cabbage Soup Diet." This one has been around for years. You eat a homemade vegetable soup and follow a strict eating plan. It promises to help you lose 10 pounds in a week.
"Something that made it easier was, I would use chili powder, cumin or garlic powder," Sarah said. She was trying to spice the soup up, but both agree it was a hard diet to follow.
"It was a little difficult to stick to with [the soup] because you were hungry. A lot," Jo said.
"You start to feel really tired and really hungry. I thought I really needed to eat," Sarah remembered.
Brooke Spivey put the "Grapefruit Diet" to the test. You eat half of a grapefruit or drink the juice at every meal. Something Brooke thought would be easy, since she already enjoys the fruit.
"Normally when you eat it, you put sugar on it and that makes it taste good," Brooke said. "When you can't have sugar and you can't have carbohydrates and you can't have starches, eating a grapefruit really makes you nauseous. It's not very good."
The diet lets you eat until you're full at every meal, but you can't have desserts, breads or potatoes.
"It promised that you'd feel full with what it told you to eat, and it was right, I did feel full. But I never felt satisfied," Brooke remembered.
Marla Branson tried the much-hyped "Special K Diet." You've probably seen this one advertised on TV.
"In four days, I lost about a pound and half. Two pounds over the week," Marla said.
The company lets you customize a two week eating plan online. You eat Special K cereal, protein bars, shakes and crackers during the day and a sensible dinner each night. Right off the bat, Marla was off track.
"Day one breakfast, I poured out one cup and saw how small it was and thought ‘No way','' she laughs. "I never felt satisfied."
Marla lost a little bit of weight, but didn't feel good about it.
"At the end of the day, I felt like I'd just snacked all day on junk food and packaged food," she admits.
The "Paleo Diet" is gaining popularity right now. Sean Maginnis wanted to try the diet because he said he always hears people talking about how effective it is. Sean had to cut out refined sugars, high fat meats, wheat and dairy.
"Whatever a caveman had, that's what you stick to," Sean said.
The idea behind the diet is that the cavemen didn't suffer from modern day illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
"Two to three days in, my energy was higher. I felt better; I felt more alert," he said.
In fact, Sean was the only one in our group who said he could see himself following the diet long term, even though he had cravings for bread.
Another popular diet right now is known as the "HCG Diet". HCG is the hormone produced during pregnancy that changes fat into energy for the baby. When regular men and women use it, the hormone is believed to have a similar fat-burning effect. You can't try this one on your own; you need a doctor to administer the HCG injections. Again, this diet promises a lot if you give up a lot.
"Five hundred calories a day divvied up into two meals a day [and] coffee or tea for breakfast," says Dr. Fred Norman at Myrtle Beach Diet.
Dr. Norman says it's up in the air whether or not the HCG injections make the difference in the weight loss.
"It's an extremely low-calorie diet. You'll lose weight dramatically, once you get off, if you don't have a solid eating plan you'll regain weight back extremely fast," he says.
In fact, Dr. Norman says losing weight in a healthy way cannot be accomplished in seven days or less.
"To keep weight off involves a lifestyle change. Almost any diet that affords accountability, structure, focus on eating, keeping [a] diary, weighing [yourself] daily, almost anything will work," he says.
Unfortunately, the scales are not tipping in our favor for success on fad diets.
"As long as you live in America, the temptation and reality is going to be there and you're going to slip again," Dr. Norman says.
That temptation proved to be too much for most of our diet group.
"Towards day seven, I was craving silly things like a funnel cake or a corn dog," Brooke remembers.
Sarah gave into her cravings.
"I got ice cream, went to work and there was pizza there, so I ate that," she remembers. "Then an anchor brought in cookies, so I really jumped off the diet."
Sean went to a barbeque and says the sight and smell of food on the grill was too much for him.
"Hot dogs, hamburgers...I caved," he laughs.
They all agree these diets are fads for a reason.
"You were constantly thinking about food and your next meal," Marla says.
"It's just not real life, it's not possible to maintain that long term," Jo added.
Sarah said dieters might find some success on the "Cabbage Soup Diet" but she didn't think it would be worth it.
"It does work, if you want to lose weight quickly, but it's not fun," she warns.
Brooke echoed that sentiment, saying it doesn't pay off to keep yourself from having the foods you love once in a while.
"Even if you can fit into a slimmer dress at the end of the week, you're not going to be happy with yourself," she said.
At this point, most of our group gained back the few pounds they'd lost.
Jo lost two pounds in four days and Sarah lost four pounds in four days on the "Cabbage Soup Diet". Jo said she kept her weight off by turning to a healthy diet and exercise after her initial weight loss. Sarah said she gained her weight back quickly. Both of them agreed they don't want to see cabbage soup for a long time.
Brooke lost two pounds in seven days on the "Grapefruit Diet". She also gained her weight back and a few extra pounds, but says she enjoyed gaining them back. Brooke wasn't sure when she'd eat another grapefruit.
Marla lost 1.5 pounds in four days and over the course of the week lost two pounds. She also kept her weight off by eating better and working out. Marla enjoyed the different Special K products available but she missed her normal diet, which she says is healthier.
Sean lost one pound over the course of the week on the "Paleo Diet" but wasn't worried about the weight because he says he felt so much better. Sean said he would definitely try his diet again sometime.
Whatever diet you choose, the CDC says people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping it off. That's about one to two pounds per week, and even modest weight loss can have big benefits.
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