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Twinkie Diet

For 10 weeks in 2010, a Kansas State University nutrition professor cut down on their daily calories and ate mostly Twinkies, powdered doughnuts, and other junk food. They lost 27 pounds. This may sound crazy, but they showed the basic rule of weight loss: Burn more calories than you eat, no matter what that might be. Bad news for junk food junkies, though. The lack of nutrition in this diet makes it a lousy idea for your overall health.

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ear staple for diet
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Ear Stapling

Put down the office supplies. This is dangerous, and it doesn’t work. The idea is a lot like acupuncture: A surgical staple is placed in the bowl of your ear. Some people say it decreases their appetite and helps them lose weight. But there’s no science to back that up, and it can lead to infection and may even change the shape of your ear.

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cotton balls
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Cotton Ball Diet

Yes, some people have actually tried this: Dip a few cotton balls in your favorite juice and swallow them. The idea is that they’ll fill your stomach so you eat less and lose weight. What could possibly go wrong? Choking, intestinal blockages, and eating harmful chemicals, to name a few. Seriously, don’t do this.

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dieter with plate of one green pea
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HCG Diet

This combines severe calorie cuts with a drug mainly used to help women get pregnant: human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Studies show it doesn’t help you lose weight, and it can have side effects. It might make you feel super tired, grumpy, restless, or depressed. It could also lead to fluid buildup in your body and even blood clots. Need more reasons to skip this? Doctors say drastic calorie cuts can be bad for you.

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apple cider vinegar
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Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

Some people say they sip a bit before meals to curb their appetite and burn fat, but there’s little proof it works. It’s mostly harmless, but it could stop insulin and some blood pressure meds from working the way they should. There have been adverse events reported with apple cider vinegar tablets and with vinegar taken daily for several years. The risks for hypoglycemia or hypokalemia are also concerns with long-term use or when used with some prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements. Plus, all that acid can be bad for your throat. 

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lit cigarette close up
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Cigarette Diet

In the 1920s, Lucky Strike cigarette company told Americans to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” And, boy, did they. Cigarette sales zoomed, and the idea that smoking prevents snacking is with us to this day. Whether that’s true is unclear. What is clear is that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

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human tapeworm
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Tapeworm Diet

How did a health hazard become a diet fad? Yes, there are people who swallow a tapeworm -- on purpose -- to lose weight. An adult worm can live up to 30 years in your body. It stays alive by stealing nutrients from your food. Its eggs can cause cysts and infections. Just say no.

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glass of cola close up
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Caffeine Diet

Guzzling gallons of coffee may curb your appetite and help you burn a few more calories, but not enough to make you lose much weight. Plus, too much caffeine can boost your blood pressure, make you sick to your stomach, and keep you up all night. The result: Those extra pounds come right back. And some caffeinated beverages, like soft drinks and special coffees, are high in calories, fat, or both.

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baby food
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The Baby Food Diet

There are many versions of this diet on the Internet. Some have you replace one or two meals a day with a couple of jars of baby food and have an “adult meal” for dinner. Others tell you to eat a jar of baby food every couple of hours. Most jars have less than 100 calories and don’t contain enough of the nutrients adults need. So you’re likely to be hungry a lot. That can be a recipe for overeating.

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cabbage soup
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The Cabbage Soup Diet

The soup you’d eat two to three times a day in this diet is relatively healthy. But you have only the soup and a few other foods, depending on which day of the plan you’re in (for example, fruit on the first day, and beef and vegetables on the fifth). You get as little as 1,000 calories a day. Any fewer than that will put your body in “starvation mode,” which can slow your metabolism. That won’t help you slim down.

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raw vegetables
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The Raw Food Diet

Most of us could stand to eat more fruits, vegetables, and nuts. But this diet lets you eat only plant foods that haven’t been heated to more than 116 F. So food safety can be an issue. People who eat exclusively raw end up with low levels of important nutrients like vitamin B-12. It’s also hard to get the calories your body needs. You may lose weight at first. But you’re likely to feel less than your best.

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The Cookie Diet

Eat cookies and lose weight. It sounds fun, but don’t bet on it as a slim-down strategy. Under this diet, you’d eat nine 60-calorie cookies and one 500- to 700-calorie meal a day. It may help you slim down in the short term. But chances are you’ll get too few vitamins, minerals, and calories. That can sap your energy, making it hard to exercise and get through your day. 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/11/2020 Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on September 11, 2020


1) Evan Sklar / Getty Images

2) dolgachov / Thinkstock

3) Dori OConnell / iStockPhoto

4) eisi91 / Thinkstock

5) naito8 / Thinkstock

6) Charles Thatcher / Getty Images

7) Science Picture Co / Getty Images

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CNN Digital: “Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds.”

Diet in Review: “The Cotton Ball Diet is Trending Amongst Young Girls Despite All Logical Reasoning.”

Mayo Clinic: “HCG Diet: Is It Safe and Effective?” “Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss,” “Tapeworm infection.”

Mount Nittany Health: “The Cotton Ball Diet -- Watch out for the dangerous diet trend.”

National Institutes of Health: “On the Futility of Dieting,” “Cigarette Smoking, Nicotine, and Body Weight,” “Effect of the human chorionic gonadotropin diet on patient outcomes.”

Stanford School of Medicine: "Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising.”

Today Show Health & Wellness: "Iowa woman tries ‘tapeworm diet,’ prompts doctor warning."

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on September 11, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.