We talked to top nutritionists to find out why certain diets are just weird (and stupid) enough to actually work.
By MH Staff - Posted on 19th September 2013
You don’t have to swallow these weight-loss strategies whole hog. But there’s a little method to the madness of some unconventional meal plans.
1 The Beer and Sausage Diet
Call this the Tailgater’s Diet. Evo Terra, 44, an online exec in Tempe, Arizona, dropped from 88 to 80 kilos in 30 days consuming an average of about 6 270kJ a day – mostly from high-quality sausage and craft ale. Sometimes he used a roll; sometimes he added onions and peppers or chopped the sausage into mince. “I don’t consider the diet all that restrictive – there are more sausage varieties and kinds of great craft beer than most people realise,” says Terra. “Thirty-one days of a low-grade buzz and moderate hunger can do wonders for your physique.”
Make it work
No doubt Terra woke up looking forward to what he’d be eating, so his diet was easy psychologically, says Aragon. “For long-term health, though, it’s missing a range of nutrients.” Still, protein is filling, so it’s smart to eat it at every meal. Terra stocked up at boutique butchers; you can seek out quality brat, each packing 13 to 15g of protein, at your farmers’ market, or your local butchers. Washing down your wurst with a hops-heavy stout or IPA can help your metabolism – if you close your tab at two. Japanese research shows that moderate alcohol consumption increases insulin sensitivity, enabling your body to more effectively burn sugar. Registered dietician and MH nutrition advisor, Megan Pentz-Kluyts does warn that besides being poor in essential nutrients, not sustainable or very practical the diet is also low in fibre, “you might get weight loss, but at the cost of your health.”
2 The Bacteria Diet
Here’s a plan that doesn’t restrict kilojoules. Instead, you consume more of the kinds of foods that fatten up the populations of healthy bacteria colonising your digestive tract. Stella Metsovas, author of the 21-Day Digestive Health Detox, says that her clients who ate at least half a cup of probiotic-rich foods daily (such as yoghurt or sauerkraut) lost an average of 9.5kgs over six months – without cutting kilojoules.
Make it work
Bacteria play a significant role in regulating your metabolism and appetite, says Dr Gerard E. Mullin, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and author of The Inside Tract (R214, kalahari.com). “You aren’t what you eat but what you absorb: a healthier ratio of good to bad gut bacteria may help prevent weight gain.” To goose your ratio, Mullin advises eating fermented foods every day. Branch out into sauerkraut and kimchi – it’s a Korean vegetable dish. Equally important: minimise fatty and sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, because bad bacteria thrive on those, says Mullin. Pentz-Kluyts says that choosing foods that contain probiotics are inevitably higher in nutrients.
3 The Starbucks Diet
Stealing Jared’s strategy, Christine Hall, 66, a librarian from Alexandria, Virginia, lost more than 34kgs over two years by eating only at Starbucks and sticking to about a 4 180kJ per day diet. “Over time, scanning the kilojoule data helped me adjust my portion sizes,” she says.
Make it work
You don’t have to start living in your nearest coffee joint. Wherever you eat, track your intake using your smartphone (try Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker, free on iPhone). Also, to estimate how many kilojoules you should consume each day, multiply your target weight by 10 to 12 if you’re sedentary (13 to 15 if you exercise three to five days a week). Even at Starbucks, Hall was able to stay satisfied on a kilojoule-restricted diet because she avoided refined-carb bombs, like muffins and croissants and stuck to foods that were rich in fibre, protein and healthy fats, says Alexandra Caspero, owner of the weight-management and sports-nutrition service deliciousknowledge.com. “Figure out some safe go-to nutrient-dense items on your favourite menus – foods like tuna salad, cheese and crackers, apple slices, grapes, and hard-boiled eggs.” Pentz-Kluyts warns that you’ll need an adequate intake of all nutrients, with such a low energy intake.
4 The Cabbage Soup Diet
Peasants subsisted on cabbage soup for centuries. You only need to endure it for a week, on the Seven Day Cabbage Soup Diet (cabbage-soup-diet.com). Cabbage soup is what’s for dinner – and breakfast and lunch. Dieters report losing about 5kgs on this low-kilojoule combination of green onions, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and half a head of cabbage.
Make it work
“Drinking lots of liquid can help you feel full,” says Valerie Berkowitz, director of nutrition at the Center for Balanced Health in New York City.
“And you’ll have less room in your stomach for more kilojoule-filled foods.” Any low-kilojoule, low-salt soup – tomato, minestrone, French onion (sans cheese) – 15 to 30 minutes before a balanced meal does the trick. “You won’t lose weight as quickly as you would with the extreme cut in kilojoules of a soup-only diet, but you also won’t be depriving yourself of essential nutrients,” she says. Or just have
a water appetiser. Dieters in a Virginia Tech study who drank two cups of water before meals lost about 2.5kg more than those who didn’t increase their water intake. Besides the increased fluid and vegetable intake - all the red flags go up here says Pentz Kluyts. This diet lacks in protein and good fats. It is not sustainable long term and as cabbage is a “gassy” vegetable, it may cause discomfort and bloating in some individuals.
5 The Eggs & Dessert Diet
You can have your cake and lose your gut too, a recent Tel Aviv University study found. People on 6 688 kilojoules a day who ate a carb- and protein-rich breakfast that also included a dessert lost the same amount of weight (an average of 14 kilos over four months) as people on a low-carb diet (and no dessert). Not only that, but the people in the dessert group, who ate 45g of protein at breakfast, lost another seven kilos over the next four months, while the low-carb eaters, who ate 30g of protein, regained 12kg.
Make it work
Eating something sweet that early could curb later cravings, says Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. But it’s the higher dose of protein given to the dessert eaters that’s really the key. “Consuming more protein at the start of the day helps you eat fewer kilojoules at the end of the day,” says Politi. Her advice: for breakfast eat 45g of protein with a small sweet; for instance, two eggs cooked any way you like, 170g of Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese, and a small slice of apple crumble, cheesecake, or chocolate cake, or a rusk.