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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Justin Trudeau points the way forward for European politics

Is the charismatic Canadian Prime Minister modelling the party of the future?

Six months after Canadian election day, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party continues to bask in the glow of victory. With 44 per cent of support in the polls, the Liberals are the most popular party amongst every single demographic – men and women, young and old, and people of all educational backgrounds. 

While most European mainstream parties only dream of such approval, this is actually a small dip for the Liberals. They were enjoying almost 50 per cent support in the polls up until budget day on 21 March. Even after announcing $29.4 billion in deficit spending, Canadians overall viewed the budget favourably – only 34 per cent said they would vote to defeat it.

Progressives around the world are suddenly intrigued by Canadian politics. Why is Justin Trudeau so successful?

Of course it helps that the new Prime Minister is young, handsome and loves pandas (who doesn’t?) But it’s also true that he was leader of the Liberals for a year and half before the election. He brought with him an initial surge in support for the party. But he also oversaw its steady decline in the lead up to last year’s election – leadership is important, but clearly it isn’t the only factor behind the Liberals’ success today.

Context matters

As disappointing as it is for Europeans seeking to unpack Canadian secrets, the truth is that a large part of the Liberals’ success was also down to the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s extreme unpopularity by election time.

Throughout almost ten years in power, Harper shifted Canada markedly to the right. His Conservative government did not just alter policies; it started changing the rules of the democratic game. While centre-right governments in Europe may be implementing policies that progressives dislike, they are nonetheless operating within the constraints of democratic systems (for the most part; Hungary and Poland are exceptions).

Which is why the first weeks of the election campaign were dominated by an ‘Anybody But Harper’ sentiment, benefitting both the Liberals and the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP was even leading the polls for a while, inviting pundits to consider the possibility of a hung parliament.

But eight days before election day, the Liberals began to pull ahead.

The most important reason – and why they continue to be so popular today – is that they were able to own the mantle of ‘change’. They were the only party to promise running a (small) deficit and invest heavily in infrastructure. Notably absent was abstract discourse about tackling inequality. Trudeau’s plan was about fairness for the middle class, promoting social justice and economic growth.

Democratic reform was also a core feature of the Liberal campaign, which the party has maintained in government – Trudeau appointed a new Minister of Democratic Institutions and promised a change in the voting system before the next election.

The change has also been in style, however. Justin Trudeau is rebranding Canada as an open, progressive, plural society. Even though this was Canada’s reputation pre-Harper, it is not as simple as turning back the clock.

In a world increasingly taken by populist rhetoric on immigration – not just by politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and other right-wingers, but also increasingly by mainstream politicians of right and left – Justin Trudeau has been unashamedly proclaiming the benefits of living in a diverse, plural society. He repeatedly calls himself a feminist, in the hope that one day “it is met with a shrug” rather than a social media explosion. Live-streamed Global Town Halls are one part of a renewed openness with the media. Progressive politicians in Europe would do well to take note.

Questioning the role of political parties today

Another interesting development is that the Liberal party is implicitly questioning the point of parties today. It recently abolished fee-paying, card-carrying party members. While this has been met with some criticism regarding the party’s structure and integrity, with commentators worried that “it’s the equivalent of turning your party into one giant Facebook page: Click ‘Like’ and you’re in the club,” it seems this is the point.

Colin Horgan, one of Trudeau’s former speechwriters, explains that Facebook is “literally a treasure trove for political parties”. All kinds of information becomes available – for free; supporters become easier to contact.

It was something the Liberals were already hinting at two years ago when they introduced a ‘supporters’ category to make the party appear more open. Liberal president Anna Gainey also used the word “movement” to describe what the Liberals hope to be.

And yes, they are trying to win over millennials. Which proved to be a good strategy, as a new study shows that Canadians aged 18-25 were a key reason why the Liberals won a majority. Young voter turnout was up by 12 per cent from the last election in 2011; among this age group, 45 per cent voted for the Liberals.

Some interesting questions for European progressives to consider. Of course, some of the newer political parties in Europe have already been experimenting with looser membership structures and less hierarchical ways of engaging, like Podemos’ ‘circles’ in Spain and the Five Star Movement’s ‘liquid democracy’ in Italy.

The British centre-left may be hesitant after its recent fiasco. Labour opened up its leadership primary to ‘supporters’ and ended up with a polarising leader who is extremely popular amongst members, but unpopular amongst the British public. But it would be wrong to assume that the process was to blame.

The better comparison is perhaps to Emmanuel Macron, France’s young economy minister who recently launched his own movement ‘En Marche !’ Moving beyond the traditional party structure, he is attempting to unite ‘right’ and ‘left’ by inspiring French people with an optimistic vision of the future. Time will tell whether this works to engage people in the longer term, or at least until next year’s presidential election.

In any case, European parties could start by asking themselves: What kind of political parties are they? What is the point of them?

Most importantly: What do they want people to think is the point of them?

Ultimately, the Canadian Liberals’ model of success rests on three main pillars:

  1. They unambiguously promote and defend a progressive, open, plural vision of society.
  2. They have a coherent economic plan focused on social justice and economic growth which, most importantly, they are trusted to deliver.
  3. They understand that society has changed – people are more interconnected than ever, relationships are less hierarchical and networks exist online – and they are adapting a once rigid party structure into a looser, open movement to reflect that.

*And as a bonus, a young, charismatic leader doesn’t hurt either.

Claudia Chwalisz is a Senior Policy Researcher at Policy Network, a Crook Public Service Fellow at the University of Sheffield and author of The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy Need to Change