Doing what I do here at The Great Fitness Experiment, one of the questions I get asked the most is “So which diet/exercise program is the best?” closely followed by the inevitable “And which one is the worst?” My answer is generally not what people are looking for: “Um, all of them.”
See, the thing is, the vast majority of diet and exercise programs work. You’ve heard of clean eating and exercise, right? But then eventually, because of the body’s amazing ability to adapt, they all stop working. Which is why change is so important.
But there are genuinely bad diets and exercise programs out there. And occasionally I do something really really stupid. I won’t say I’m not tempted to hide my mistakes from you all but what is the point of failing if others can’t learn from it? Chalk this one up under Epic Fail.
The Worst Diet I Have Ever Done
Being a serial dieter, I’ve tried pretty much all of them. I started out as a wee lass on your basic Crazy Diets like Scarsdale, Grapefruit and Cabbage Soup. As a teen I went through a rebellious phase and abandoned organized diets altogether in favor of tortuous regimines of my own design, eventually culminating in an eating disorder. As a young mother I returned to the dieting world with Atkins, BFFM, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and Veganism among others. I know. And I haven’t even gotten to the embarassing part yet.
But the worst diet I’ve ever done is called the Every Other Day Diet. The concept is simple. I found it in a magazine… which I will not name. You eat whatever you want on one day. Ice cream, cookie dough, liver and onions – whatever you want. But the next day you eat nothing. You can drink water but that’s it. Nothing with calories can pass your lips. Not even the dieter’s staple of sugar-free Jell-O. The idea is that the net calories over the two days will result in enough of a deficit to allow you to eat whatever you want and still lose weight. That’s the theory anyhow.
Here’s what it looked like in practice:
Day 1: Down entire box of Junior Mints. Euphoria! Sugar crash! Guilt! Eat a whole steak. Euphoria! Stomach ache! Double Guilt (for sacrificing an animal on the altar of my gluttony)! Lather, rinse, repeat until bedtime. Consider waking up at midnight to have a last meal because if I don’t then that means I’ll be without food for 36 hours.
Day 2: Starve. Watch the food channel obsessively at the gym. Feel lightheaded during workout. Ponder if Ghandi worked out during his hunger strikes. Feel guilt for comparing myself to Ghandi. Stare longingly at toddler licking crushed fishy crackers off the dirty floor. Drool a little. Feel like a martyr the whole time I’m making dinner so that by the time husband comes home, I’m ready to throw the food at him even though the poor man has no idea why. Run to my bedroom and cry. Realize that not eating makes me moody. By bedtime though a strange euphoria sets in. Decide I kind of like not eating. Panic.
Day 3: Eat everything in sight. Feel massively uncomfortable at the gym because I ate waaay past the point of fulness and am now sorry. Am also sorry I ate jelly beans for breakfast. Go to the grocery store and stock up on calorie-free flavored waters so that at least I’ll have some variety tomorrow. Eat a massive farewell-to-food meal. Have weird dreams about college all night.
Day 4: Have a breakdown when I discover husband and children drank all my flavored water. Don’t they know they just stole my only sustenance for the day??? Have plain water for breakfast and resent everyone and everything in sight. Realize that it does not bode well for my day that it is only 7 a.m. and I’ve already had a crying fit. Hoard the copies of Fine Cooking and Gourmet at the gym. Furtively lick the knife after making toddler’s PB&J. Feel guilty. And then do it again. The not-eating euphoria sets in early today and I sail through dinner feeling fantastic. Fuzzy, but fantastic. Until husband asks me what’s wrong with me. It takes me a full 45 seconds to comprehend the question. Ooops.
Day 5: Can’t enjoy food fest as I’m already dreading tomorrow.
Day 6: Am resigned to starving. The world feels bleak. Is this what they call learned helplessness?
Day 7: Time to weigh in. After 3 complete days of starving, I expect to see big numbers on the scale. And I do. But it’s a gain. That’s right – an entire week of thinking about nothing but food every waking second and I gained three pounds. Three pounds in one week. Cry myself to sleep.
I’m not saying that all fasting is bad. I think the occasional intermittent fast is good for you, both mentally and physically. Many people also fast for religious reasons, me being one of them. But fasting purely as a weight loss technique? Doesn’t work. At all. Period. Epic fail.
But hey, at least I enjoyed that first box of Junior Mints.
What’s the worst diet you’ve ever done? Tell me I’m not alone in my stupidity…
PS> Don’t call or e-mail to tell me how crazy this sounds. I know it was crazy. And it’s been a while since I did this. Yeah, I waited to share this until I was safely distanced from the insanity. It was dumb. I get that. I’m not going to do it again. Thank you.
UPDATED (12/3/2009): Due to the influx of new comments regarding this diet and my stance on it, I have written a new post to clarify a few points and opened a new comment thread to address these issues. Comments are closed on this post but don’t despair you can still tell me what an idiot you think I am on the new post. Please join us there.
UPDATED AGAIN (1/6/2014): Please do not e-mail me about this post until you’ve read the update. Seriously.