The world's top ten best (worst) fad diets

Cabbage soup, tapeworms and imaginary food - all healthy and effective ways to lose weight, if you believe the women's magazines.

Being as you are a bunch of keyboard-pestering internet potatoes, you will all undoubtedly know how notoriously difficult it is to lose weight. Oh, would that becoming your lithe, slimmer self were as simple as the mere task of burning off more calories through exercise than you take in through cheese snaffling! Unfortunately, and despite what mendacious vegetable-eating tosspot Jamie Oliver would have you believe, combining a healthy diet with regular physical activity barely makes any difference to your flabby, gelatinous arse, which is why you should accept that chowing down on your five-a-day and frantically zumba-ing your way to a slimmer, sexier you whose thighs don't rub agonisingly together as you walk is a fool's errand. Instead, why not try one of those totally non-mental faddy diets, brought to you courtesy of Every Women's Magazine Ever?

The Cabbage Soup Diet

This classic diet is a must-try for every slimming masochist. Everyone knows that cabbage smells like arse, but not only does this diet make you shit molten cabbage-lava, it also makes your house (wherein you have been preparing the devilish concoction) extremely unpalatable to gentleman callers. If you've been craving celibacy as well as IBS, and are prepared to eat unparalleled quantities of boiled cabbage (perhaps you are Russian?), then this is the diet for you.

The French Women Don't Get Fat Diet

Hear that, ladies? No French woman has ever experienced the indignity of portliness, despite the fact that this is a nation that eats cake and cheese for breakfast and whose lunchboxes contain pig's head fried in butter. Apparently, this is because these women are able to enjoy the country's gourmande delicacies, such as baked camembert, in moderation, while spending every weekend subsisting on leek water (a mild diaretic) until they poo themselves thin. How the French have managed to combine faecal incontinence with a reputation for chicness remains one of life's great mysteries.

The Lemon Detox Diet

Starvation is the name of the game, with dieters replacing food with a lemon juice and maple syrup mixture that can ultimately rot your teeth and constipate you. This diet will not only make you unpopular when you visit restaurants with friends and order hot water for your "mater cleanse lemonade", but is also based on what Dr Ben Goldacre probably calls "unadulterated detox bollocks". You're unlikely to lose anything except water-weight before your body kicks into starvation mode and starts clinging onto every last molecule of fat like a toddler to a shinbone on the first day of school.

The Dukan Diet

Offer someone on the Dukan Diet a sausage sandwich and they will probably reply "No. I'm on phase two of the Dukan Diet and can only eat pork on every second Wednesday providing it's a full moon." The reason for this is that the vagaries of the Dukan Diet and its various phases are harder to grasp than the most complex branches of theoretical physics. Even the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment (which, let's face it, most people only pretend to understand because - SPOLIER ALERT- barely anyone's brain can comprehend a cat in a box that is simultaneously both dead and alive) is liable to become as unchallenging as an episode of Button Moon when compared with a Dukan dieter trying to work out whether they're allowed yoghurt on Tuesday. From what we have been able to glean from the esoteric mumblings of the Daily Mail website, the Dukan Diet is based mainly around cottage cheese and allowed Suzanne Southall from Birmingham to lose seven stone, which, considering the fact that cottage cheese is composed entirely of the cellulite waste removed through liposuction, deserves a famous paradox all to itself.

The Tapeworm Diet

If you're one of those women with a big event coming up and are praying for a spot of slimming Norovirus to help you on your way (hot tip: try the oysters at the Lord Stanley), you could do a lot worse than a tapeworm. How exactly you're supposed to go about 'catching' a tapeworm doesn't really bear thinking about (although according to our research on the internet it invariably involves giving a Mexican $1,500 - a bit dear considering pig shit costs nothing), but once you've got the bugger in it can apparently lead to a weightloss of 1-2 lbs per week. Side effects may or may not include the tapeworm bursting out of your stomach while you lie on a spaceship breakfast table after an artificially induced deep sleep. Speaking of.

The Sleeping Beauty Diet

This crackpot diet has been being peddled for over fifty years, on the basis that your body is forced to use up extra reserves of fat while you sleep. Perfect for the ultimate lazy dieter, it involves the bare minimum of effort and crops up regularly in newspapers and women's magazines. When taken to an extreme conclusion, however, this diet involves 24/7 sleeping following medically- assisted sedation, in order to get your abs fairytale firm. Yeah. Expect to awake from your three day Temazepam snooze to discover that you are not only 12lb lighter, but that a homosexual in a cape is leaning over you, clutching an engagement ring as he wet-breathes on your face.

The Hallelujah Diet

The regime of choice for Bible-bashers, this diet is based on something God apparently said in Genesis about how 85 per cent of your food should be raw and plant-based, or something (it's essentially veganism with added sanctimony). It's not the most balanced of diets, revolving as it does mostly around mung beans, and flagrantly ignores the fact that cooking kills off some of the bacteria that lives in food. God also later renegs on the veggie-deal by saying: "every living thing that moveth shall be meat for you", which basically means that you can go ahead and eat that tapeworm mentioned earlier.

The Air Diet

Perhaps tiring of their daily leek juice, a couple of years ago French Grazia featured the Air Diet, an eating plan which involves.not-eating. Basically, you hold your food up to your mouth but instead of consuming it, you just pretend (to yourself and others) to be. It's a regime that sounds even less satisfying than the well-publicised Mastication Diet, involving involves chewing food before spitting it out. Whether or not the magazine were engaging in self-referential post-modern irony by covering this remains something of an unanswered question, but considering that the same article featured a recipe for "water soup" which apparently helps you "lose four dress sizes before the summer", we can only conclude the answer to be no.

The Purple Diet

This diet involves the unique consumption of only purple food (can you tell that we're losing the will to live?)

The Liquid Diet

This is the part where, after exhausting all dieting options, you drink two bottles of Pinot and four tequila shots, while weeping to your best friend about how your life is so miserable and devoid of joy and chocolate mousse that you have become an empty husk of a person. In a sense, you have become a human Shrodinger's cat- alive, yet dead, and in a box filled with cyanide.

Which brings us to The Serious Bit - while we may have been flippant earlier on, a very important point lies at the very heart of this poor excuse for an article. Which is this: next time you think of embarking on a fad diet, you need to ask yourself why so many of them exist in the first place. Surely if such a diet worked then the pseudoscience diet fascists would have stopped their evil schemes long ago? Aside from their vested interest in keeping you fat, these diet gurus (and the magazines that publish them) care little for your health and wellbeing. This is less amusing than it is terrifying once you realise that health is really all you have.

There's probably a diet where you only eat this stuff. Photograph: Getty Images

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

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What’s it like to be a human rights activist in post-Pussy Riot Russia?

It is five years since the feminist punk collective crashed Moscow’s Cathedral in a performance that got some of them jailed.

On 21 February 2012, five brightly-dressed members of Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot took to the alter of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to protest links between the Russian Orthodox Church and its “chief saint” Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Virgin birth-giver of God, drive away Putin!” they shouted from beneath now-iconic balaclavas.

The “Punk Prayer” was both a political statement and a powerful feminist message. Six months later, a judge sentenced three of the girls to two years in prison (one was rapidly released) on a conspicuously apolitical conviction of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

These past five years, Russia’s involvement in crises in Syria and Ukraine has cast a dark shadow over relations with an increasingly cleaved-off West. The year 2015 saw opposition politician Boris Nemtsov murdered some 500 metres from the Kremlin walls.

Domestically, society has constricted people challenging the political status quo. However, low-key initiatives retain traction.

“Artists are simply silent,” says Russian curator and gallerist Marat Guelman, who left for Montenegro in early 2015. “It is better not to say anything about politics, it is better to bypass these issues.”

This is a major difference from five years ago. “Despite persecution against Pussy Riot, people were not afraid to defend them,” he says. “It was a better time.”

There are three topics artists and curators now avoid, says artist and feminist activist Mikaela. One is “homosexuality . . . especially if it involves adolescents”, she says, citing a 2015 exhibit about LGBT teens called “Be Yourself”. Authorities closed it and interrogated the galley owner. “Then the war in Ukraine,” she says. “Russian Orthodoxy is the third topic you cannot tackle.”

Marianna Muravyeva, a law professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that aside from the government completely discarding human rights rhetoric, the most significant legal change is the “gay propaganda” law and “legislation against those who insult the feelings of believers”.

The latter came into force in July 2013. Since then, the Orthodox Church has made deeper societal incursions. Muravyeva says that the secular nature of the Soviet Union led to residual feelings of guilt towards the Church – and now it uses that “capital”.

Mikaela observes a “cultural expansion”, citing a new TV channel, radio station and three new churches in her neighbourhood alone.

Orthodox activist attacks on exhibits have increased. In August 2015, they targeted an exhibit at one of Moscow’s most prominent art galleries. Its perpetrators were found guilty of “petty hooliganism” and handed a 1,000 rouble fine (£14 by today’s rates).

“Any word written in Old Slavonic lettering is spirituality,” says Guelman. “Any work of art by a modern artist . . . depravity, sin, the impact of the West.”

Similar groups are active across Russia, and galleries err on the side of caution. Perpetrators, while self-organised, believe their actions to be state-sanctioned, says Muravyeva. They are influenced by “the kinds of messages” conveyed by the government. 

Nowadays, self-organisation is integral to artistic expression. Mikaela witnessed educational institutions and foreign foundations telling artists “we are with you”, “we know you are smart” but they cannot host political works for fear of closure. Not knowing where the “invisible line” lies foments uncertainty. “It’s self-censorship,” she says.

Dissident artist Petr Pavlensky, notorious for nailing his scrotum to the Red Square in late 2013 (“Fixation”) and setting fire to the doors of the FSB in 2015, advocates personal agency.

“Fixation” was about a sense of helplessness in Russia that must be overcome; he tried to convey the amount of power the castrated have. “Pavlensky says, ‘Look, I have even less than you’,” says Guelman. The artist and his partner Oksana Shalygina are now in France intending to seek asylum after sexual assault accusations.

Some rise to the opportunity, such as Daria Serenko. She rides the Moscow Metro carrying political posters as part of Tikhy Piket or “Silent Protest”. Her 12 February sign depicted a girl with her head in her arms inundated by the comments received if a women alleges rape (“she was probably drunk”, “what was she wearing?”).

However, as a lone individual in a public space, she experienced hostility. “Men, as always, laughed,” she posted on Facebook afterwards. Earlier this month an anonymous group pasted painted plants accompanied by anti-domestic violence messages around Omsk, southwestern Siberia.

Their appearance corresponded with Putin signing legislation on 7 February decriminalising domestic abuse that causes “minor harm”. While it doesn’t specifically mention women, Muravyeva says that the message “women can manage on their own” is a “disaster”.

On 27 January, after Russia’s parliament passed the final draft, pro-Kremlin tabloid Life released a video (“He Beats You Because He Loves You”) showing how to inflict pain without leaving a mark.

Heightened social awareness is aided by online networks. Since “Punk Prayer”, the proportion of people using the internet in Russia has exploded. In 2011, it was 33 per cent, while in 2016 it was 73 per cent, according annual Freedom House reports. Authorities have concurrently exerted stronger controls over it, eg. targeting individual social media users through broadly-worded laws against “extremism”.

Last July, the hashtag #ЯНеБоюсьСказать (“#IamNotAfraidtoSay”) went viral. Women documented experiences of sexual violence. Russian organisation Сёстры (“Sisters”), which helps survivors receive psychological support, receives “250-350” crisis calls annually.

“Over the past year, the number of applications increased,” because of the hashtag, it says. New media platforms Meduza and Wonderzine also emerged as more “socially aware” outlets. Previously “all we had was LiveJournal communities,” Mikaela says.

Bottom-up challenges are partially due to a generational shift. “Nobody bothered before,” says Muravyeva. “Those children who were born after ‘95 . . . they were already born in a very free society – they don’t know what it is to be afraid, they don’t know what it is to be self-censoring, what it is to be really scared of the state.”

Aliide Naylor is a British journalist and former Arts and Ideas Editor of The Moscow Times.

> Now read Anoosh Chakelian’s interview with Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot