Why Hello there, and welcome once more the Culinary Compendium of Cooking Cant, a segment we were forced to abbreviate in the title because….well, look at it. That title is more unwieldy (less wieldy?) than a drunken Jedi’s Lightsaber next to the beer fridge.


The Coors Be With You.

Months ago, I started to talk to you good people and filthy degenerates alike, about the topic of Diets. I covered the more technical, medical or systemic diets and their definitions. Today, we’re going to have a little more fun. Today, we’re talking about commercial or “fad” diets: A conversation that will certainly not get me dozens of pissed-off emails, because I mocked your specific methodology for getting thinner by eating food in a manner containing temporal or material limitations. 

Let’s get this boat a’rockin’, with some diet definitions. And let’s ride right into the swell with the definition that’s going to set the foundation for all of the ensuing point.

Fad Diet

1. (n) A diet that promises reduced weight, and other health benefits, off of a specific, often proprietary formula for determining a “healthy” diet. Called “fad” diets because their results are not universally applicable, their goals and methods can be based off of incomplete or misrepresented scientific results (or NO scientific evidence), and because over the last 40 years, there have been distinct ‘waves’ of them: a given diet will be highly popular and discussed for several years, then fade into relative obscurity as a new one emerges.

2.(n) a new diet I have just created where you can only eat foods that are hip and trendy currently. “Hip and trendy” is defined as “having been mentioned in the news, on non-Food Network tv, or in magazines at least 5 times in the last month”.  Given the constantly changing and mentally exhausting updating list of approved foods, most people end up eating nothing.

As a small aside before we get into the thick of it, and as an attempt to alleviate my impending hate-mail: Most diets start as fad diets, as their creation and adoption tends to outpace scientific investigation into their claims. Further, labeling something as a ‘fad diet’ does not mean it is invalid as a dietary goal or method. Research may show (and does), for example, that Atkins dieters on average don’t lose appreciably more weight than people adopting any other diet. But a specific diet may work better for your situation, and produce significant results in your life. And that’s great. It’s worth noting, however, that whether or not a given diet works for a given person is, to an extent, a matter of luck. Most diets are equally valid and invalid.


Atkins Diet

1. (n) a diet founded by Robert Atkins that focused on a ‘low-carb’ dieting strategy. Dieters were encouraged to eliminate carb-heavy foods like bread, pasta, rice, and sugars, and instead consuming meals rich with proteins and fats.

2. (n) The reason you can get sandwiches and burgers served in lettuce instead of buns.

3. (n) A diet that took off, weirdly, right around the Iraq War, and that put its founder’s company into bankruptcy by 2005, no matter how much Rob Lowe talks about protein shakes.  

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If you’re wondering how they can go bankrupt and still afford Rob Lowe: it’s because they got bought by a bigger corporation, and now make $400 million a year. Because Corporations going bankrupt only matters if they say it does.

Cleanse, Juice

1. (n) Also called a Juice Fast, a Juice cleanse is a system whereby a person just outright stops eating food, instead relying on blended fruit or vegetable-based beverages for sustenance, either as a recurring or brief component of their diet (see INTERMITTENT FASTING) or for prolonged periods as a way to detoxify their body and ‘restart’ their metabolism.

2. (n) tied to impressive weight loss gains, because it turns out not eating solid food for a week makes you thinner. WHO KNEW?


Cottonball Diet

1. (n) a precursor/modified version of the Juice Fast, where the juices are soaked into cottonballs before being swallowed, creating a lasting sense of ‘fullness’ to make the fast easier.

2.   Remember when I said “most diets are equally valid”? This one isn’t. Don’t fucking do this. Cotton isn’t digestible, so it doesn’t break down in the stomach. This can block up your intestines, or you can choke on it, OR you might not check the packaging, and be eating “cotton balls” made out of polyester.

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I’m sorry, I’ve just been informed this is actually Cotton Candy. Which is perfectly fine to eat.


1.  (n) a Government-investigated and scientifically proven diet…for lowering blood pressure. Yeah, the DASH Diet definitely works at what it’s designed to do. And since DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, what it does is lower blood pressure. (Hypertension is the medical term for ‘high blood pressure’.)

2.  Has limited weight loss potential, though, of course, combining it with exercise and healthy choices will produce results.



1. (n) Another heavily investigated and analyzed diet…that has nothing to do with weight-loss. The FODMAP Diet is a misnomer for the ‘low FODMAP diet’, a diet built on reducing FODMAPS, duh. FODMAPs are…ugh… “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”. Basically, a bunch of different carbs that can piss off your guts. They’re very small molecules that can agitate and inflate your intestinal lining, causing bloating and other discomfort. The diet is for short-term use only, and is used to help diagnose various intestinal illnesses. It should only be undertaken after a comprehensive medical evaluation, and only at the behest or supervision of a specialist.

2. Something my mother keeps suggesting I should try, because my recent high-stress life events have produced some intestinal issues.

Intermittent Fasting

1.(n) A dieting process whereby a person has set times or days wherein they cannot eat, from the most extreme Alternate Day Fasting (Eat today, don’t eat tomorrow, repeat forever) to the 5:2 (five days of food, 2 days of fasting). An alternative pattern is that you can eat every day, but only in a specific window of time, from as extreme as eating only one meal a day, to having 16 hours per day of fasting, and an 8 hour window of consumption.

2. The process has been shown to aid weight loss roughly as much as restricting one’s overall calories would, and has shown some positive effects on a various “biomarkers” (all the shit your doctors look at to determine if you’re healthy. You know, cholesterol count, triglycerides, etc) Some fasting programs work on a “modified” fast, where you’re allowed up to 500 calories on fasting days, to prevent system shock. This has similar weight loss effects, but reduced biomarker improvement.


500 Calories a day, you say? Hmmmmmmm.

Ketogenic Diet

1.  (n) oh boy, is this about to get messy. A Ketogenic diet is a MEDICAL TREATMENT for children with severe epilepsy, whereby, by consuming a diet with low carbs, middling proteins, and high fats, the body can be forced to replace glucose with ketones as an energy source, which can reduce seizure occurrence by up to 90% in some children. The diet can also help suppress seizures in adults to a lesser extent.  

2.  (n) a general term for high-fat, low-carb diets, essentially evolving as a revival/modification of the Atkins diet. (Which, it should be noted, can also help treat seizures, to a lesser degree)


1.(n) Despite the science-y sounding name, this is basically the alchemy of diets. Foods are relatively more “yin” or “yang” and a ratio of 5:1 yin to yang is sought. Ignoring that specific rule, macrobiotics endorses eating locally produced organic foods, reducing animal products, and limiting the size of your meals. All of which are valid and useful dieting ideas, which is what makes the first part such a bummer.

Mediterranean Diet

1. (n) A diet focusing on a generalized (and slightly racist, since Egypt and Morocco are JUST as Mediterranean as Greece and Crete) view of Mediterranean cuisine, which has been shown to support greater heart health and relatively solid biomarker improvements, as well as mild to moderate weight loss.

2.  (n) a diet based on consuming olive oil, legumes, fruits and veggies, and moderate dairy and fish, with limited non-fish meat options.

3.  A good example of the “most diets are, at some point, fad diets” truism, since I was directly recommended this diet by my doctor, and the diet being medically recognized in the 1970’s, but not gaining popularity until after 2011.

4.  As a fun aside, the result of investigating a medical issue called the “Greece/France Paradox”, which was, at its core, “how the hell do France and Greece eat so much fatty food without getting heart attacks?”

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So you just…eat it by the brick?”
”How often would you say?”
”Pehapz, once, twice a week?”
”A whole brick?”

Paleo Diet

1. (n) a diet that says for good health, we should eat just like we did in the Paleolithic era, a supposition that ignores the fact that most of the animals we ate back then are now extinct.

2. (n) A diet that essentially recommends eating mostly meats, with some berries, nuts, fruits and veggies. Notable for excluding basically all grains, as well as dairy.

3. Also noted for creating calcium deficiencies, for reasons that are not well understood.

Slow Carb

1.  (n) what the mechanic says is gong to cost you a ‘pretty penny’

2. (n) a diet that avoids short-fuel carbohydrates (breads, rice, potatoes. Often phrased as “foods that are white, or COULD BE white”) any sugar sources, including fruit, and liquid calories for proteins, legumes, and simple, frequently repeated meals. Includes a weekly cheat day, and suggests you should eat at 4 hour intervals.

3.  A diet that, along with the Macrobiotic diet, shares a risk of scurvy, since, you know, not a lot of Vitamin C in beans.

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Did somebody call for Vitamin C?

South Beach Diet

1.  (n) Presumably just cocaine and mimosas.

2.  (n) actually a diet that divided fats and carbs into “good” and “bad”, with “bad” carbs being those found in white bread/rice/etc, while whole grain carbs were “good” Recommended a reliance on lean proteins like fish and chicken, and had a ‘phased’ system of implementation, where the first few weeks you couldn’t have any carbs, then you would gradually reintroduce carbs to your diet.

3. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s for 2 reasons: firstly, the South Beach Diet was a modification of the Atkins diet made to protect patients with cardiac issues from the lack of fat restrictions in that diet, and secondly: because there’s a spree of medically viable and scientifically sound facts about American food consumption versus ‘healthy’ consumption, and most diets at least partly lean into several of them to prevent their system from being completely denounced by medical science.


Weight Watchers

1. As of literally a week and a half ago, the FORMER name of a company devoted to a specific diet and lifestyle campaign.

2. Technically, The Company Formerly Known as Weight Watchers (now WW Inc) serves mostly as an incentive system and provider of frameworks: Weight Watchers doesn’t limit your diet to any specific foods, but rather assigns foods a “point score” based on calories, sugar, fats, and other nutritional facets, and suggests that, to reach your goal, you shouldn’t consume more than X many points in a day.

3.  Further, the program has regular weigh-in points, and suggests members attend meetings, to create support structures to help those in the program reach their weight goals, in the hopes that they might become Lifetime members by passing a series of tests.

4.  Look, I’m not saying it’s a cult, but I AM saying that “food cult” is the other name for fad diets for a reason. And Hey, not all cults are BAD.

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