This is a guest post from one of my favorite female voices in the real food movement, Stefani Ruper of PaleoForWomen.com. Stef’s take on health, body-love and self-image are passionate, well-spoken and unrelenting. She holds no punches, and the world is better for it.I’ll be writing a companion post soon to cover how this applies to men, as well. Stay tuned and please let us know what you think in the comments below.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This post is meant to demonstrate that the bodies that grace the front of magazines are artificial and extremely unhealthy. These are NOT our recommendations for weight loss. Please understand that the best (and only) way to achieve sustainable weight loss is by improving your health, not sacrificing it. If you want to know the truth about how to look and feel great, take a listen to my show, peruse the hundreds of free posts on this blog, or check out The Wild Diet.
Please don’t try this at home.
10 Extreme Weight Loss Methods That You Should NEVER Try
A week ago, Abel and I decided to team up to write about extreme weight loss methods. When I told my mother, she squinted at me, tilted her head to the side, and asked, with a nervous laugh in her voice, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
Her worry was this: Because I come from a history of significant calorie restriction and weight control, and because I had recently gained the extra 15 pounds I needed to regain hormone balance and fertility, I was going to be tempted to undertake these methods. At the very least, I would be exposed to myriads of pictures of lean, stereotypically beautiful women, and I was going to feel bad about myself (which is, after all, rather what the industry is after). That didn’t happen. I ended up walking away feeling pretty damn good.
I share this experience with you to make clear the point of this post. Yes, you can use some of these techniques. Sure, some of them may be less harmful than others. But it is my firm opinion that none of these things are healthy for women. Period. I am sharing them with you today because the radical extremes celebrities and models often go to in order to achieve their “perfect” bodies are just that – radical and extreme. And unhealthy. Real sex appeal, in my opinion, is about being vibrant and strong, and having desires and needs and your own unique brilliance. Real sex appeal is not the punishment and extreme discipline and suffering entailed in these methods.
Here are some of the most incredible (and repugnant) dieting “tricks” – some surprising, and some not so much – practiced by runway models, Victoria’s Secret models, Beyonce, Gwenyth, and so many others. They vary based on profession, and they are unique to women because many men will attempt to bulk or preserve muscle, whereas women often deliberately waste muscle away. These techniques also tend towards starvation behaviors, since starvation is, well, what women in America often just plain do.
1) Consume nothing other than apples and coffee for as long as possible.
The rationale behind this diet extreme is that coffee acts as a diuretic, thinning you out, while the apples provide fiber for as much of an illusion of satiation as possible as well as vitamin C and other nutrients to keep you functioning. This woman tried it and by the fourth day was sleepless, nauseous, and in tears. Also, by that point she had only lost one pound. More success is had by models, celebrities, and women on Pro Ana (Pro Anorexia) message boards when some protein is included or if they have extraordinary, heart-breaking willpower.
2) The (ever-popular) lemon cleanse
Anyone else as addicted to Orange is the New Black as I once was? The lemon cleanse is the exact cleanse Piper Chapman and her boyfriend try… and which she fails in less than hours. The lemon cleanse works as follows:
“Cleanse” yourself on a mixture of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup, and consume nothing else throughout the duration of the cleanse. Torture yourself in this way for as long as possible. “The acid in the lemons assists the cleansing process” (how, I ask?) “and the cayenne pepper helps speed up your metabolism promoting circulation and a greater release of toxins from our bodies.” The same article cajoles you to “look at it as a challenge, rather than a chore, to get you through the rough parts. Remember, you WILL eat again. When hunger pains strike, fix yourself another glass of the lemon drink and visualize the rewards you will receive once you complete the detox.”
Beyonce apparently, according to many sources such as the one above, did the cleanse for 14 days, and was, in her own words “dying” “while everyone around me was eating,” but, on the other hand, hey, she lost 20 pounds.
For one woman’s documented insomnia, rage, anxiety, palpitations, fatigue (and complete lack of weight loss) after five days on the cleanse, click here.
3) The 22 day vegan cleanse (speaking of Beyonce)
Beyonce has long been a figurehead for unapologetically curvy women in Hollywood. Remember the incredibly fierce and shapely performance at the 2013 Superbowl? In December 0f 2013, however, Beyonce and her husband Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) undertook a 22 day vegan cleanse. Beyonce also doubled the amount of sprint based and dancing exercise she did. This cleanse entailed:
- A “plant based” breakfast
- “Plant smoothie” for lunch
- And snacks on hand, which include fresh edamame and cucumber slices. (So filling.)
Husband Jay Z described the cleanse on his Life and Times blog as “a spiritual and physical challenge.” No kidding. Beyonce dropped several dress sizes and now can boast that she has achieved the American female body flavor of the year, the thigh gap.
4) The baby food diet
Tracy Anderson (Gwenyth Paltrow’s trainer of wellness infamy) strikes again. By her recommendation, Jennifer Aniston has used baby food to lose weight. Lady Gaga and Gwenyth herself (who was, named People magazine’s most beautiful woman of 2013) have also reportedly used baby food to slim down. The rules? 14 servings of baby food plus one “adult dinner” of vegetables and lean meat each day.
Let us not forget how tiny one portion of baby food is–clocking in on average at 50 calories per jar. For Tracy’s plan that means 700 calories of baby food plus one meal each day. No wonder it works. I could eat fourteen jars of “smashed Sunday roast” for breakfast alone. Having experienced how scorned the diet is by general readers and dieters, Anderson typically, at least in public, focuses on selling her other plans.
5) Taking appetite suppressants
The amount of diet pills and supplements on shelves today is alarming. You have your pick of dozens and dozens. Do they work? Sometimes they actually do, but not in the way that you want.
Hoodia, for example, is a powerful appetite-suppressant that gained its fame from the claim that hunters in the Kalahari desert use the herb to stave off hunger on long hunts. Recently it was produced and marketed by Phytopharm, now owned by Ixico, Phytopharm claimed for a time that in a study the firm conducted a 1000 calorie reduction was adopted by study participants on Hoodia. Later it rescinded its rights as it found the pill unsatisfactory.
Pfizer also apparently purchased the rights to develop Hoodia (or rather, p57, the “miracle” molecule extracted from the plant) as a product then sold them back because it apparently has toxic effects on the liver, in addition to causing muscle wasting (from calorie deficits), adrenal overdrive, insomnia, and, over time, extreme hunger.
6) Wearing a corset to shrink your rib cage
Women here, coached by plastic surgeons based out of Los Angeles, squeeze themselves into corsets to “train” their muscles and lower rib cage bones to trend inward, creating thinner waists. They work themselves up to waering the corsets for 12 hours a day several days in a row, take an off day, then squeeze right back in. Doctors claim they can lose up to six inches off their waists. When corset-wearer Diane Lopez was asked by ABC News what she hoped to achieve with these practices, she said “a tiny waist, of course, like Barbie.”
7) The cabbage soup diet
The cabbage soup diet has been around now for decades, originating (at least according to hypotheses at the American Dietetics Association) in World War II as soldiers starved but needed enough vitamin C in order to forestall the onset of scurvy. In the 1990s, it again emerged, this time as a weight loss plan. The diet of course varies by recommendation and practitioners, yet Diet.com describes a specific menu, with the understanding that an unlimited amount of cabbage soup can be eaten each day.
- Day One: Eat only the cabbage soup (water, chicken stock, and cabbage with limited amounts of other vegetables) and all the fruit you want (except bananas). Cantaloupe and watermelon are recommended. Permissible drinks are water, black coffee, cranberry juice, or unsweetened tea.
- Day Two: No fruit. Raw or cooked vegetables can be eaten in unlimited quantity along with the soup, except for corn, peas, and beans. A baked potato with butter can be eaten at dinnertime.
- Day Three: Unlimited fruit or vegetables, but no baked potato.
- Day Four: Eat at least three and as many as eight bananas, and drink an unlimited amount of skim milk. Day Four is supposed to curb a desire for sweets.
- Day Six: Eat cabbage soup at least once during the day; otherwise, an unlimited amount of beef and vegetables can be consumed, but no baked potato.
- Day Seven: Eat an unlimited amount of brown rice and vegetables and drink an unlimited amount of unsweetened fruit juice. Cabbage soup must be eaten at least once during the day. No bread, alcohol, or carbonated beverages (including diet soda) are allowed.
On this diet, gurus promise 10-17 pounds of weight loss per week. Definitely this is largely due to water loss, but if you can manage to stick to it, serious calories sluice off as well.
8) Dose with Ipecac
Famous in the modeling industry, ipecac syrup is used to make you throw up. The syrup is intended for use when somebody has been accidentally poisoned, and leads to violent and painful vomiting after being taken. This is something models use as immediate fixes before shows, as well as in continual bulimia-type behaviors as a means by which to stay constantly lean and dehydrated. While it may help you shed some pounds, it will also cause irregular heartbeats, difficulty breathing and even heart attacks. This is the primary killer of people with eating disorders.
9) Starving yourself
This one’s obvious – we all know it happens – but the extremity is absurd enough to merit mention. Consider Steffie Soede, who is quoted here saying “Today I had a banana bread Lara Bar, a goat cheese sandwich, another sandwich with avocado…should I keep going? A red apple, some yogurt with berries, some grapes, and some water. That’s a lot, isn’t it?” No, Steffi. It isn’t.
The fashion industry in general is more extreme than many of the other “ideal” bodies we are exposed to in popular media since modeling clothing demands more thinness (for why, see here). Soedi’s restrictive habits are just the surface of the true slimdown horrors of fashion lore. Russian poser Kira Dikhtyar, for example, admitted to Fox News in 2012 that her supermodel peers have relied on “packs of cigarettes, daily colonics, laxatives, Phentermine diet pills, Adderall, prescription drugs that suppress the appetite” to refrain from eating.
“Some modeling agents encourage girls to do speed and cocaine in order to speed up metabolism and eat less,” she said. “And all kinds of injections are becoming more and more popular, from HCG injections that go with a 500-calorie diet plan to T3 thyroid injections that healthy models inject in an attempt to speed up their thyroid function, which results in a faster metabolism.”
Now, this isn’t to say that every woman aspires to be one of the bags of bones that eats cotton balls in the run-up to a runway show. Most of us prefer the “fuller” shapes of Victoria’s Secret models and celebrities. That, however, is its own unique challenge.
10) The liquid diet
Prior to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show this past year, Adriana Lima was “disarmingly frank” about what is required in order to be a lingerie model on a runway. She sees a nutritionist regularly. This is no run of the mill nutritionist, however. He measures her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements in response. She needs this high degree of attention in order to keep her energy levels up enough to live and to workout in her training periods.
For several weeks leading up to the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, Lima:
- Drinks a gallon of water every day
- Consumes a “clean diet” that consists solely of steamed veggies and lean protein. Virtually no fat, and no carbs.
- Exercises at least twice a day, cardio and muscle fitness.
- Nine days before the show Lima
- Is on a “no solids” diet. She will only drink protein shakes that include powdered egg.
- And two days before the show, will drink “normally,” ditching the gallon of water.
- Twelve hours before the show, Lima will stop drinking entirely. Lima says “No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that.”
After the interview in which Lima divulged her model bod secrets, she begged caution, pleading with ET Canada’s audience to not mimic her diet, starve themselves, or consume only liquids. Lima at this point appears stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, revealing her diet achieves what I am in some way attempting to achieve with this article — demonstrating to women how unrealistic bodies like Lima’s are — but it also has the power to trick people into thinking they can (or should) do it, too. These thoughts floated under the surface of my own mind as I was reading Lima’s story, having gained 15 pounds and 2 whole jean sizes in the last two months myself.
I know that I could. I have exercised enormous willpower and been as thin and fit as Victoria’s Secret models before. But to what end?
I was infertile. I had cystic acne. I had no sex drive. I craved food constantly and went to sleep hungry more often than not.
This is not a body or lifestyle I crave any longer.
Today, with an additional 13 body fat percentage points on my 5’2 frame, I feel at least as sexy and beautiful as I did before, if not more so. This is for aesthetic reasons, such as a curvier figure I have since learned my romantic partners go wild over; it is for practical reasons, since I am now fertile and have an astoundingly rich and relentless sex life; and it is, most important of all, for self-love and empowerment reasons, as I now give my body the love it needs in order to be healthy, to functional optimally, and to be vibrantly alive.
Lima has incredible pride in her body, but she lives according to a standard imposed by an objectifying, punitive society of unrealistic, sometimes unhealthy shapes.
I have incredible pride in my body, but I live according to love and to health.
Which is better? I know my own answer.
Dieting extremes may achieve the results women “want” – but I have experienced so much delight, health, and love in my resistance to them that I shall never go back, no matter how many thigh gaps or empty promises the media throws at me.
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Did you know that this is how models really live? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.