“I need to get rid of these love handles,” I overheard a woman say in the elevator. “So, I’m going to do a juice cleanse.”
Though I kept my thoughts to myself, I knew her slim-down strategy wasn’t a smart one. From liquid-only detoxes to cabbage soup diets, there are plenty of tactics that promise to help you shed pounds fast—and miraculously stay slim for life. But most too-good-to-be-true weight loss plans are ineffective at best, and in some cases, can have serious health consequences. Oh, and not to mention, many quick weight loss strategies can leave you feeling pretty miserable, too. (The term "hangry" had to come from somewhere, amirite?!)
“If it took you months or even years to gain unwanted weight, you shouldn’t expect to lose it overnightm," says Caroline Cederquist, MD, a weight management doctor and founder of the meal delivery service bistroMD. "And if you do, it will most likely be water weight."
To help you stay on the straight and narrow toward true weight loss success and lasting results, we’ve sifted through the latest fads to uncover the very worst weight loss schemes out there. Vow to never try any of them and shed those unwanted pounds with the help of these 50 Best-Ever Weight Loss Tips instead!
Doing a Juice Cleanse
A juice-only diet might leave you feeling light and clean. Problem is, juices have almost zero protein. “So you’ll lose water weight and muscle mass, but not fat,” Cederquist says. And once you go back to solid food, those pounds will pile right back on. Whomp, whomp! Curious about all the other wonky things that can go down when you say no to solids? Then don’t miss our special report, 27 Things a Juice Cleanse Does to Your Body.
Passing on breakfast, lunch, or dinner might be an easy way to drastically slash your calorie intake. But doing so will probably backfire. One recent animal study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that mice who ate just one meal daily wound up gorging on their food—and packing on unhealthy belly fat.
Despite what some celebrities might say, there’s no scientific evidence showing that a gluten-free diet will help you get lean. In fact, it might do the opposite—especially if you rely on gluten-free packaged foods like breads or muffins. “Manufacturers add extra fat, salt, and sugar to make up for the missing flavor and texture of gluten. So these foods are often higher in calories,” registered dietician Jennifer McDaniel tells us. Instead of going gluten-free, nix simple carbs like white bread and slim down with the help of better-for-you starches like quinoa, fruit, beans, or any of these 25 Best Carbs That Will Uncover Your Abs.
Drinking Vinegar Before Every Meal
Some findings do show that vinegar promotes healthier blood sugar levels and feelings of satiety. But since drinking highly acidic liquids like vinegar can irritate the throat and stomach it shouldn’t be something you do on the reg, Cederquist says, adding, “My recommendation is to use vinegar as a healthy alternative to salad dressings and to continue to eat a nutritionally balanced diet.” If you don’t have a go-to recipe, why not whip up this raw apple cider vinaigrette from Megan of the blog Detoxinista? We’re big fans!
Eating Fat-Free Everything
Foregoing all forms of fat—including healthy ones like olive oil and avocado—won’t just leave your food bland at tasteless, it could make you sick, too. Not eating enough fat has been assocaited with hunger, dry skin, and extreme mental fatigue. Not to mention, low-fat diets are completely ineffective for weight loss, according to a recent analysis of 53 studies and nearly 70,000 participants published in The Lancet. To discover which sources of fat can best help whittle your middle, don’t miss our report, The 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss.
Cutting Out Entire Food Groups
Sure, it might seem like swearing off carbs or sugar will be the answer to your weight problems but that's simply not the case.“Each food group contains vital nutrients that our bodies need to function,” Cederquist says. Plus, you could find yourself with massive cravings for the foods you cut out. “It’s all about balance,” Cederquist adds.
Drinking Ice Cold Water
If you prefer ice water over H20 that’s room temperature, that’s totally fine. But if you’re only adding ice cubes to your glass to lose weight, your efforts aren’t likely to pay off. You may have heard that drinking colder water forces your body to work harder (and subsequently burn calories) to bring the water up to your body’s internal temperature—and that’s 100 percent true. But the process only burns eight calories, say experts at The University of Washington. And sorry to say, when it comes to losing weight, eight measly calories just isn’t very meaningful. These 25 Ways to Cut 250 Calories, however, can help you slash enough calories from your diet to actually notice a difference over time.
Sipping Laxative Teas
Laxative teas might leave you feeling, er, a little lighter. But they don’t actually help you lose weight—and they could be harmful. “Teas that cause an increase in bowel function are not helping you lose fat,” Cederquist says. “Rather, you are losing fluid, and can have [health] issues [as a result of] disrupting electrolyte levels.” If you like the idea of sipping tea to slim down, add some of these gentle—and safe—weight loss teas to your diet instead.
Eating Just One Food
There’s a reason gimmicks like the Grapefruit Diet or Cabbage Soup Diet never really caught on. “They’re crash diets in disguise,” McDaniel says. “They might lead to short-term weight loss, but long-term, it’s a guarantee for weight gain and an unhealthy relationship with food.” Plus, eating only one thing makes it impossible to meet your nutritional needs and increases your odds of deficiencies.
Switching to Diet Soda
Going from sugary, high-calorie soda to diet pop may seem like it would help you drop pounds—but don’t be fooled. Diet beverages come with their own set of health risks. One long-term study published in The Journal of The American Geriatrics Society found that subjects who consumed artificial sweeteners (in diet soda and in other drinks, like coffee or tea) gained more weight and belly fat compared to subjects who skipped the stuff—even without increasing their calorie intake. Yikes! While we aren’t fans of soda, you'd be better off cutting back on the amount of regular cola that you drink and slowly weaning yourself off of it over time.
Trading Your Meals for Weight-Loss Shakes
Having a high-quality protein shake for breakfast or lunch can help you control your calories and lose weight. But only if your other meals consist of real foods like lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, Cederquist says. If the only things you consume all day are shakes, that’s a recipe for deprivation. And when you do go back to solid food, the weight will pile back on.
Working Out For Hours and Hours
More exercise means more calories burned. But upping your activity level will likely make you hungrier and drive you to eat more, suggests one PLoS One study. And piling extra food on your plate—even healthy stuff—can easily erase that hard work you put in at the gym. Cut yourself off after an hour or two to ensure you’re able to control your hunger.
Eating Tons of Protein
Cutting all your carbs in favor of meat, meat, and more meat might help you lose water weight in the short-term. But in the long-term, these kinds of diets aren’t actually any more effective at helping you drop pounds, says McDaniel. And after a while, you might start to really miss the occasional piece of bread. “That can leave you feeling deprived, which usually sets off a binge and restrict cycle that leaves you heavier than when you started,” she explains. To discover even more not-so-great things that happen when you overdo it on chicken, eggs, and beef, read up on these 7 Things That Happen When You Eat too Much Protein.
Working Out On An Empty Stomach
You might’ve heard that exercising when you’re hungry prompts your body to burn more fat. But a review article published in Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded that the opposite is true. When you hit the gym without fueling up, you’re more likely to end up losing muscle. And that’s bad news since muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue.
Adding Coconut Oil to Everything
Some research suggests that the fatty acids in coconut oil could give your metabolism a small boost. But “there’s no evidence showing that it actually leads to weight loss,” says McDaniel. Plus, like other fats, a tablespoon of coconut oil contains 120 calories—so it’s easy to overdo it. Enjoy it if you like the flavor, but do so in moderation—and don’t expect that it will help you shed pounds, she says.