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The 4 Stupidest Lose-Weight-Quick Schemes

From ab belts to Taco Bell diets, here are some of the dumbest -- and unhealthiest -- things people do to lose weight.
 
 
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Although the American dream has many facets, one of the most powerful is the desire to obtain a perfectly fit body through a combination eating crap and not exercising.

Every year, we Americans are bombarded with advertisements that promise us sparkling abs, thighs and buttocks, all without doing any work or significantly changing our eating habits. Without fail, of course, these diets have certain critical flaws to them, such as depriving your body of key nutrients or giving yourself permanent bone damage. Indeed, most of these diets don’t even qualify as snake oil, since consuming such oil would probably be a healthier alternative.

While the following four lose-weight-fast schemes are among the stupidest schemes around, they are actually quite representative of the fad-diet industry as a whole. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see even stupider schemes emerge in the near-future, such as a diet that promises to help you lose 40 pounds in a week by consuming only deep-fried leprechaun testicles. Even so, these schemes each stand out in their own unique, forehead-slap-inducing ways and are thus worthy of our attention. Let’s get started, shall we?

Scheme #1: The Cookie Diet

The title of this diet alone should be enough to have it laughed off the Earth by sane people everywhere. Say the word combination “cookie diet” to yourself over and over again and ask yourself if it’s any less ludicrous than the word combinations “frosting diet” or “raw pig fat diet.” And yet, this diet has apparently proven to be financially successful as it claims to have helped 500,000 people lose weight.

And to be fair, you can see how the cookie diet could help you lose weight, since it involves consuming a mere 800 – yes,800 – calories per day. The basic idea is that you eat six 100-calorie cookies and an extremely light meal for dinner and you’ll start shedding pounds like nobody’s business.

“But eating only 800 calories a day can’t be healthy!” you say. And you’d be right. As the New York Times helpfully notes, eating a mere 800 calories per day “can result in potassium deficiency, gallstones, heart palpitations, weakened kidney function and dizziness.” So really, it sounds like the only thing separating the cookie diet’s side effects from Flomax’s side effects is that the cookie diet doesn’t make you lose semen (at least not that we know of).

One bad sign for the diet’s effectiveness is that its own adherents are wary of using the term “cookie diet” to describe it. As John Nemet, the manager at a Cookie-Diet-selling Smart for Life store told the Times, “It’s unfortunate that they’re called cookies, because in some ways it denigrates them.” Nemet also pointed out that you really can’t consider it a diet, since it’s more of “a behavior modification program.”

Yeah, it’s really unfortunate that this program is referred to as a “cookie diet,” especially when its official website is called CookieDiet.com.

Yet another bad sign is that the person who invented the diet, in this case Dr. Sanford Siegal, feels the need to constantly dress in a white lab coat to show off his doctor-y credentials. Hey, you know who else was a doctor? Hannibal Lecter. That doesn’t mean I’ll be taking dietary advice from him anytime soon.

Scheme #2: Magical “Fitness” Shoes

For past 30 or so years, athletic shoe companies have operated under the premise that their footwear should make you as comfortable as possible while you exercise. This meant that companies tried to design shoes that optimized support for your arches and ankles to ensure that people could exercise without suffering from debilitating bone and muscle injuries.

Well, throw all that out the window because the newest craze in shoe design is to create shoes that make working out as awkward and difficult as possible. So-called “fitness shoes” are being made with unstable soles that require people to use more of their muscles while walking. The idea is that the shoes will help tone up your calves, thighs and buttocks without going through any intense physical exertion.

But as the Chicago Tribune’s Julie Deardorf points out, the shoes are so unstable that trying to exercise in them could result in injuries. Indeed, she notes that the shoes are so unfit for fitness that “wearers are discouraged from using this kind of shoe to run or jump.” In other words, the shoes are akin to a winter coat that shouldn’t be worn in the cold or a hat will give you a concussion if you wear it on your head.

The fact that some people are going out of their way to buy uncomfortable shoes in a vain attempt at avoiding exercise is a true testament to contemporary laziness. Next up: a pair of fitness boxer shorts that work out your butt while you rip farts on the couch.

Scheme #3: Ab Belts

I’ll put it to you like this: Anytime an exercise device looks like something Dick Cheney uses on Guantanamo Bay inmates, it’s probably not a good way to get fit. Ab belts are basically devices that you tie around your stomach that deliver stimulating electric shocks to your muscles to simulate the effects of exercise. So basically you can forgo actual workouts by walking around with a belt on your stomach that’s constantly zapping you with electricity. I feel healthier already!

The ads for these belts are, of course, predictably hilarious. The Slendertone System Abs ad says, for instance, that its belt can give you “a great abdominal workout while you walk, watch TV, read and even at the gym!” Yessiree, the gym is typically the last place I’d expect to get a good workout! Meanwhile, the website for the Flex Beltactually recommends giving the belt to both new mothers and seniors. Uh, sure. Folks, the only reason for giving granny a belt that fires electricity continuously into her stomach is to cash in early on her will.

The Federal Trade Commission has not looked fondly upon the ab belts over the last decade, as it has accused three ab belt companies of peddling their products using hilariously false claims. Among other things, some ads have said said that the ab belts are “30% more effective than normal exercise” and that using the ab belts for 10 minutes is equivalent to doing 600 sit-ups. But while that FTC has done a good job of quashing these particular devices, I’m sure it won’t be long some genius designs a quick ab exercise program that involves firing a spud gun point blank into your belly five times a day.

Scheme #4: The Taco Bell “Drive-Thru Diet”

And this is where we scrape 20,000 leagues below the bottom of the barrel.

The “Drive-Thru Diet” is Taco Bell’s polite way of saying to the American consumer, “We think you’re a mindless, drooling goober who has never had a critical thought in your life.” I don’t think Taco Bell could have insulted peoples’ intelligence more if it had started up a Web company called “Maggot-Infested-Cow-Dung-for-Gold.com.” And yet the Drive Thru Diet is sadly for real. The diet’s ad campaign revolves around a woman named Christine who claims that she lost 54 pounds over two years by eating mostly “low-fat” Taco Bell food items and by making “other sensible choices.”

Hold on, back up right there. If Christine honestly considers eating exclusively at Taco Bell to be a “sensible choice,” you have to wonder what other “sensible choices” she made to help her lose weight. Did she go to a witch doctor for monthly leeching seminars? Did she inject herself with flesh-eating bacteria to vaporize the extra calories? The mind reels.

Another thing: Christine admits that the results she got from the Drive-Thru Diet “aren’t typical” but were still “fantastic.” Also, the company’s lawyer-reviewed Drive-Thru Diet infomercial goes to great lengths to tell us that the diet is not a weight-loss program, but rather a way “to reduce your fat and calories while enjoying great taste.” Uh, yeah. You can also reduce your calories and enjoy great taste by forgoing food altogether and chewing gum all day, but that doesn’t make it a great idea.

Although I found Cookie Diet, the Fitness Shoes and the Ab Belts to all be relatively amusing weight-loss schemes, the Drive-Thru Diet just makes me angry. If anyone is stupid enough to fall for this, I swear to God I will grab them and start shaking them while madly stuffing piles of carrots and celery into their mouths. But then again, this highly abusive behavior would be vastly better for them than eating Taco Bell every day, so I guess it all evens out.

 

Brad Reed is a writer living in Boston. His work has previously appeared in the American Prospect Online, and he blogs frequently at Sadly, No!.
 
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