A Ranking Of The Most Ridiculous Fad Diets I’ve Tried

For upwards of four years now, I have been testing out various fad diets and writing about my experiences, typically to the detriment of my metabolism, mental stability, and overall health. Sometimes, people enjoy this. Sometimes they tell me to kill myself. It’s a mixed bag, really.

Despite the many things I have written to the contrary, I love doing these diets. I love pushing myself to limits that literally no one asked me to push myself to. I love the adverse reactions I get from people when I explain why I’m buying Grade B Maple Syrup in bulk. But mostly, I just love attention and suffering, so this is truly my calling.

While doing research for my next diet, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some of my more outlandish ventures. While this was initially a move of pure procrastination, it made me think that it could be fun to reminisce on the simpler times in my life when I walked around with ice cream in my purse or incited social media rants from unnamed wellness influencers.

Without further ado, here is the ranking of the most ridiculous sh*t I’ve ever put my body through in the name of art.

5. Keto

Full transparency, I loved Keto. I try to still adhere to it, albeit in the loosest terms possible. But in those early days when I had no idea what I was doing, before I truly understood macros or what it meant to measure food, sh*t got weird. How weird, you may ask? Please refer to the photo below of me, sitting on my patio, eating rotisserie chicken straight out of the bag at 9pm on a Tuesday because I had abruptly realized that I was still 790 calories short of my daily goal. This is not an ad for Frank’s Red Hot, but also, I would not be opposed to this being an ad for Frank’s Red Hot. Call me.

Keto is a dream once you can break down that mental barrier that tells you that you can’t eat things like butter. If that sounds like an easy feat to you, congrats on never having had an eating disorder. The idea that I was not only allowed, but encouraged, to eat buttery, creamy, fatty foods on a daily basis was so outrageous that for a second I understood the extreme resolve with which Flat Earthers stand by their beliefs. The ground doesn’t curve when you walk on it! Butter is fattening! These are indisputable facts, and I refuse to hear anything to the contrary!

But once you’ve moved past that simple obstacle, life is different. You know how many kinds of cheese are sitting in my fridge at this very moment? Six. SIX. Sure, there hasn’t been bread in my kitchen in months, but SIX KINDS OF CHEESE. It’s liberating, in a way that prison yards are liberating. Like yeah, there’s lots of fresh air and more activities to take part in, but also you’re still being held captive by a system built to deprive you of your humanity.

Diets are bad. Don’t do them.

4. The Master Cleanse

You would think that a diet that forced me to consume nothing but spicy lemonade for 10 straight days would be further up on the list of stupid things I’ve done, but that’s because you don’t understand the supreme comfort of not having options.

Most of the other diets on this list have a large margin for error. You can unknowingly eat the wrong ingredients or even too much of the right ingredients. You can be tempted by “safe” foods with hidden pitfalls or fool yourself with meaningless words like “moderation.” But that’s not the case with the Master Cleanse, because you’re allowed one thing and one thing only: cayenne lemonade. Two liters of it a day. For 10 days.

There’s no room to justify cheating, because there’s no gray area here. Every day is the same question, a thousand times over. “Is whatever I want to eat in this moment a liter of spicy lemonade? No? Then I can’t have it.” It’s crazy how easy life gets once choice is taken out of the equation. That’s usually a sentiment that dictators in movies use to justify their regimes, but I won’t waste time drawing any parallels there.

3. The Cabbage Soup Diet


No diet in my entire history of diets has gone off the rails faster than the Cabbage Soup Diet did. It came too early in my career, before I’d broken my will enough to truly understand self-control. Perhaps tackling it today would be a different story, but at the tender age of 23, I was unprepared for what the Cabbage Soup Diet would offer me: too many options.

Remember what I said about the Master Cleanse just few paragraphs up? This is the opposite, in every way. Every day the Cabbage Soup Diet gives you merely a parameter of the things that you can eat, without an inkling of portion sizes. To an adult with the ability to stop themselves from eating an entire flat of blackberries in a day, this probably wouldn’t be an issue. To me, an animal without the foresight to realize the mass outbreak of canker sores that would result from eating that many blackberries in a mere 24 hours, it was a hellscape of my own making.

The Cabbage Soup Diet is not a diet, it’s a social experiment. Some sadistic asshole wrote down on a website designed in 1984, “you can eat three steaks today” and then waited to see if some idiot would actually do it. Well, guess what! That idiot is here! And time has given her the wisdom to fight back! Or at the very least, yell about it on the Internet!

Despite the fact that I willingly opted into this experiment, I still somehow feel like the Cabbage Soup Diet took advantage of me. It’s a sentient being from another universe, sent here to prey on weak-minded people who think eating four bananas a day is something moderately within the realm of healthy behavior. That cursed website is the dieting world’s version of Tom Riddle’s Diary: another second longer and I would have been found in a dungeon, cradling a bucket of mushy vegetable soup. I don’t even know where I’m going with this anymore. F*ck you, Cabbage Soup Diet.

2. Whole30

As far as diets go, Whole30 wasn’t that crazy. Sure, I didn’t remotely enjoy it. But, all things considered, it’s not like the premise was insane. In fact I discovered, one of my favorite recipes of all time, a lovely Whole30 compliant Zuppa Toscana, during my 30-day trial. The entire experience was kind of like that time I (accidentally?) ate a bunch of edibles at homecoming senior year of high school and then puked all over my blackberry—it didn’t ruin my life but I’m not exactly in a rush to do it again anytime soon, you know?

So why does Whole30 hold the number two ranking on this coveted list? One that could be taken by Kourtney Kardashian’s godforsaken avocado pudding? For one very important reason, reader: this video.

(Please excuse the recording methodology—my roommate and I are incapable of grasping technology released past the year 1997)

On Monday, March 19th, 2018, the founder of Whole30, one Melissa Hartwig, posted a series of stories to her Instagram. This in itself isn’t out of the ordinary; she’s an influencer, that’s what she does. Except, on this fateful day, these videos were about me.

I think it goes without saying when I tell you that this kind of thing doesn’t usually happen to me. Except for that one time one of the kids from MTV’s Scream retweeted one of my recaps about his show, this is the most public attention I have ever received for my work on social media. I am 100% sincere when I say that I will cherish this series of impassioned statements about what a sh*tty person I am for the rest of my life.

I cannot stress enough to you how often this video gets broken out in my day-to-day life. At work. At bars. In Lyfts. At bars. When I’m home for Christmas. Mostly at bars. Drunk people love this stuff.

The fact that this woman exerted the effort to not only post a swipe-up to my article but then immediately tear it to shreds over the course of five consecutive videos will never cease to delight me. It makes every bloated, exhausted, sober second of Whole30 worth it. Guess I did find that life-changing journey, just not in the way she expected.

1. The Halo Top Diet

Nothing will ever top this, in terms of preparation, dedication, fervor, or absolute insanity. The absolute wildest thing about about the Halo Top Diet was that it’s not even justifiable; eating ice cream for seven days is, despite what I told everyone around me, not a diet. Period. This series is dedicated to the trials and tribulations of documented fad diets, and yet somehow I managed to convince a company, an editor, my friends, my family, and my coworkers that this was a viable idea. To this day, I don’t understand how it happened.

To have known me during the Halo Top Diet is akin to having known someone during war, except only one of you was at war and the other was bemusedly watching from the comfort of their home while eating a hot dog. Also your friend at war kept asking if they could smell your hot dog. Shut up. It’s fine.

Friends of mine still reminisce on the Halo Top Diet like it was a nostalgic era of their youth and not the most surreal seven days of my entire life. Let’s ignore the obvious physical ramifications at play here—do you understand the mental strain you endure when you set out to eat ice cream and nothing else for a week? Can you even grasp it? Let me answer that for you: you can’t. I thought I could, and I was wrong.

After two days, the laws of polite society cease to exist. There is no social norm too big to surmount, no simple civility that you aren’t willing to trample. You transcend faux pas and exist in a serene yet somehow also ominous realm of ultimate inner peace, save the unrelenting headache and constant nagging reminder that every meal you eat for potentially the rest of your life will be cold and sweet.

That realm makes things possible that you would never have believed yourself capable of before. Things like standing in front of your entire office and begging them not to touch the ice cream in the freezer because it is both your breakfast and lunch. Things like looking at a waiter in the eye, saying “I’m good, thanks,” and then pulling a pint of melted ice cream out of your purse to eat in front of them. Things like attempting to pour hot sauce onto your ice cream in a fevered search for something savory, only to be stopped by people who do, in fact, care about your dignity. You know, to name a few.

In short, if you can’t handle me at my Halo Top, you don’t deserve me ever. That’s it. That’s the deal.

Have an idea for a diet that could potentially rival the ones on this list? Leave it in the comment section and I just may hate myself enough to try it.

Images: Giphy (2), Instagram (@marykatefotch, @melissa_hartwig)

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