Do Liquid Diets Work?

To paraphrase a line from citizen Kane, there’s no secret to losing a lot of weight if all you want to do is lose a lot of weight. Liquid diets, provided you stick to them, come as close to a fool-proof guarantee as someone is likely to receive. If it matters little what kind of weight, for how long, or what else you lose along with it, knock yourself out.

In recent decades, this sloshy alternative to eating has become inexplicably popular. Perhaps the appeal is in the quick action. Or can it be the wide variety of berries you get to toss into the blender to mask the taste of the powder?

Fitness expert Stefan Pinto theorizes on his website, “… the convenience of consuming only liquids four to six times a day is undeniably alluring.” Say what? Yes, Stefan, drinking your meals is probably a big time-saver, but so is opening a can of cat food, and only a tad more digestible.

This extreme but “alluring” method of weight loss has practical short-term applications for pre- or post-op scenarios or for detoxification, but is woefully deficient in nourishing the body to the same degree as a diet that includes solids. Calorie ingestion is cut significantly, as are essential nutrients, and with them, energy levels. Drinking for sustenance also increases one’s susceptibility to infection (fewer pounds = more colds).

Homeopathic specialist Dr. Brian Kaplan predicts intestinal problems for some fluid enthusiasts and suggests an irrigation of the colon after completion of the regimen to restore the body’s natural process of peristalsis. (This idea just sounds better and better.) Oh, yes, and when the whole thing is over, the weight usually returns.

Liquid Diet: A Fad Diet


Despite the longevity of the overall phenomenon, the liquid diet comes in fads. Among the trendiest examples is the master cleanse, embraced by many celebs (who, of course, know so much more than the rest of us). The 14-day plan mixes water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and something called cayenne pepper, with daily calorie ranges between 600 and 1,300.

Beyonce Knowles took it up to play a dreamgirl, but later observed no difference in her appearance. What more proof, however, does a sane person need than Ashton Kucher’s ringing endorsement?

Grapefruit juice and its slice-able source contain much more fiber than other recommended fluids, as well as vitamin C and—in the pink variety—beta-carotene. The ongoing trust placed in Cagney’s weapon of choice is based on the decades-long mythology, still unproven, that the citrus absorbs fat molecules.

Evidence is stronger that exclusive consumption of grapefruit can lead to chemical disruption in the bloodstream, as well as everybody’s favorite Scourge, diarrhea.

The most dramatic results, needless to say, have been recorded with the water-only diet. Advocates have noticed as many as 15 pounds shed in one week, and not just from urination. But with no calories, vitamins, or minerals to its credit, serious consequences can arise from the sustained habit of water as an entrée.

The take-out … excuse me … take-home message is that the joy is gone. Pardon me, but God gave us teeth and taste buds for a reason. As an unabashed foodie, I recognize the dangers of overeating, but boring meals can be even deadlier.

With the exception of Gandhi-like intentions, there is no earthly reason to abandon one of life’s greatest pleasures—and necessities—for raw beet juice, not even for a little while.

All right, all right. If you absolutely insist on going the liquid route, seek advice from your doctor first. If he okays it, get a second opinion.

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