Single-Item Diets – Are They Any Good, Or Are The Celebrities Wrong?

Would you like to eat only one thing for day after day? Probably not — unless you could really convince yourself that it would do something for your figure!

There are certainly plenty of celebrities who do embrace single-item diets and then appear in magazine articles complete with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos that claim to show how much better they look post diet. And we’re supposed to sympathize with them over their ‘diet hell’ while we struggle with our own expanding waistlines. But, carefully staged pictures aside, do these regimes work?

Can you lose weight on a one-food diet? Well, yes, at least in the short term. If nothing else, boredom will ensure that you eat less than you would if you were allowed a choice of foods. Basically, most single-item plans are no more than modified fasts — and most of the weight you lose will be water, sad but true. Our bodies are wonderfully adaptable though, and they will adjust to the restricted intake. Weight loss will start to slow, and may even stop, as your body slows down your metabolism to protect you from the effects of starvation. And just when you are fed up (or not) with the regime, and begin to eat other things, your body grabs onto every bit of fat in the food and stores it!

Is it healthy to eat only one thing? Only if that one food is a balanced combination of sufficient vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Even then you could suffer digestive problems from eating the same thing all the time.

Here are some of the most enduring single-food diets around — with a few of the pros and cons…

The Cabbage Soup DietYou brew a cauldron full of cabbage and vegetable soup and ‘enjoy’ a bowl whenever you feel hungry. Celebrity fans include Sarah-Michelle Gellar, and probably many other celebrities in the week before the Oscars.

What it is: a low-fat high-fibre diet that should not be used continuously, but as a seven-day boost before a more moderate regime — note that episodes ‘on’ this diet should have at least two weeks between them. Some additional vegetables and fruit are permitted, and taking a multivitamin supplement is recommended.

For: rapid initial weight loss.

Against: halitosis, flatulence, the lingering smell of boiled cabbage.

The Lemon Detox DietYou mix up lemon juice, Madal Bal Natural Tree Syrup (the sap of maple and palm trees), cayenne pepper or ginger and water and drink this in place of food. Celebrity fans include Beyoncé Knowles, who used the diet for 14 days to lose one-and-a-half stones (21lb) for her role in the film ‘Dreamgirls’.

What it is: a liquid-only diet that restricts daily calorie intake to 500 kcal or less, for the full detox. More relaxed versions replace one or more meals a day with the drink, and ban processed foods and red meat for the remaining meals.

For: rapid initial weight loss.

Against: hunger pangs, irritability, lack of energy, blood sugar swings, constipation, can interfere with the balance of potassium, sodium and fluids in your body, can make teeth more vulnerable to decay (from the acid and sugar in the drink).

The Egg DietYou eat eggs cooked any way but no other foods. Celebrity fans include Charles Saatchi, who used the diet for 10 months and lost four stones (56lb).

What it is: a high-protein low-carbohydrate diet. Some versions allow other high-protein foods such as meat, which makes it a variant of the Atkins diet.

For: initial weight loss.

Against: halitosis, constipation, flatulence, burping, sulphurous smells, weight gain if you add carbohydrates.

All of the above plans have been around in since the 1970s, and yet — despite legions of fans trying them — the number of people who are overweight or obese is ballooning. Recently, some even more strange diets have appeared, together with a new crop of celebrity adherents. For instance:

The Baby Food DietYou eat minute portions of baby food in place of meals. The craze was started by Hedi Slimane, formerly head designer at Dior, and current celebrity fans are said to include Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Marcia Cross.

What it is: a very low-calorie diet that replaces some or all meals with tiny helpings of bland beige pap. Great if you have no teeth.

For: initial weight loss.

Against: lack of fibre, nutritionally balanced for newborn babies not adults.

The Pineapple DietYou eat pineapple. Not that popular with celebrities.

What it is: a diet that restrict calorie intake to less than 1000 kcal daily by replacing some or all meals with pineapple. Pineapples contain Vitamin C, thiamine, potassium and manganese, as well as an enzyme called bromelain (a protein-digesting enzyme used in the food industry to tenderise meat).

For: initial weight loss, pineapple tastes good.

Against: lack of protein, pineapple should not be eaten by people with blood glucose problems or diabetes, can make teeth more vulnerable to decay (from the acid and sugar in the fruit).

There are loads of variants on the pineapple diet, where one fruit or vegetable replaces most of the meals — for example the apple diet. Kylie Minogue is supposed to be a fan of the grapefruit diet, where you begin every (very small) meal with half a grapefruit. Katie Holmes purportedly lost three stone (42lb) on a diet consisting mainly of raw organic broccoli, with some carrots and steamed tofu or fish.

Regimes that concentrate on the intake of protein foods, such as the egg diet and the Atkins diet (although not a single-food regimen), and the lack of carbohydrates (all of the above), will also cause ketosis after several days. This is carbohydrate deficiency and can cause a range of gut problems, from constipation to excessive flatulence — so pity your nearest and dearest!

And any diet that claims to detox our bodies is always popular. But we don’t really need any extra detoxing — our liver and kidneys do that for us 24/7 unless we’re really sick (and then we’d need more than a one-food diet to fix our problems).

The main attraction of such strict eating plans is that they take away the need to make a decision about what you can eat. The theory is that because you have no choice over what you are going to eat, you are less likely to stray into the territory of ‘forbidden’ foods. Monotony will ensure you don’t overeat. And in the meantime, you also have more time to do other things if you are not using up time planning and cooking meals. In effect, you are going ‘cold turkey’ on your addiction to food.

But once you are ‘clean’ — or thinner anyway — you could just go right back to the same old unhealthy eating habits that caused the flab in the first place. While you were on the diet you probably spent time fantasizing about all the things you missed — I know I would! Most people dream about carbohydrate-laden foods because they are the ones that most stringent diets prohibit. So what is the thing you’d do as soon as the diet‘s over? Of course, have a big helping of your secret fantasy food!

But before you slump on the sofa with a bowl of chips/popcorn/pasta and vow to drink only lemon juice tomorrow, don’t give up hope!

When it comes to lasting weight loss most experts agree that a varied and balanced eating plan is by far the most effective route to take. That means you can eat all kinds of foods, just not too much of the ones that are high in fat, sugar and salt. Hooray! Being slimmer doesn’t mean you have to be a picky eater.

© Eleanor Knowles 2008

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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

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