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Weight loss diets that can wreck your health and make you gain weight: although there are happy exceptions to nearly every rule, for most people, diets don't work.
Any reduced-calorie diet, whether you dine on cabbage or caviar, will help you lose 3-4 pounds (1.5 to 2 kilos) in as little as 48 hours. When you don't eat enough to provide your body's basic energy needs, the liver releases its emergency reserves of glucose from a form of stored energy called glycogen. The liver makes glycogen by combining one molecule of glucose sugar with four molecules of water. Releasing glucose also releases a few pounds of water that are quickly flushed away.

Just as soon as you consume a few more calories than your body needs right away, however, your liver operates in reverse, adding water weight back just as quickly as you lost it. And your fat cells will probably pack in a few extra energy stores of their own, just for added protection against your next attempt to diet!

"Water weight" goes off fast and comes back faster. Many fad diets can only help you take off water weight for a few days to a week. Some of the five worst diets known to humankind, however, can make you fatter than when you started them, or depend on the action of a parasite.

1. The Mexican Jumping Bean and Tapeworm Diets

Back in the 1950's and 1960's, five and dime stores (for those of you who weren't alive during that era, there were actually stores that sold most of their merchandise for US $0.05 to $0.10) all over the United States kept glass display cases filled with Mexican jumping beans. Infected with a tiny parasite, the beans would literally jump when heated or agitated. If you were a preschooler about the time the Russians launched Sputnik into space (that was in 1958), they made great pets.

The problem came in the 1970's when people started eating Mexican jumping beans to lose weight. If they were lucky, the diet did not have any effects at all. Then an entrepreneur had the bright idea of encapsulating tapeworm eggs to be taken as a diet aid. The resulting allergies, anemia, alternating diarrhea and constipation as the intestinal tract was blocked by the worm, and creepy crawlies emerging from "down there" did in fact help people lose weight, along with their health. It's still possible to find these capsules on line—but please don't look for them.

2. The Paleolithic Diet

Other than Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, no cavemen had problems with weight control. There aren't any cave paintings of Weight Watchers meetings. We envision our distant ancestors as fit and free hunter-gatherers who stood up to the challenges of prehistoric life with grace and ease. Dozens of diet book authors have built on the concept of a "paleolithic" diet as the key to weight loss and freedom from the diseases associated with consumption of highly processed grain-fed meats and highly-processed carbohydrate foods loaded with flour, fat, salt, and sugar.

So what's not to love about the Paleo Diet or the Primal Blueprint? For starters, a paleolithic diet was more appropriate for a paleolithic lifestyle. If you had to go out on the tundra and club your breakfast before you ate it, your body wasn't going to pack on any extra pounds in the first place, and chances are the sabertoothed tiger would get you before diabetes did.

The most prominent proponents of paleolithic diets are in fact in great shape, but it's not just their diet plan. It's also their ambitious exercise plans. If you don't exercise, you can manage to gain weight even on a paleolithic diet. If you are really dedicated to the Primal Blueprint diet and exercise, for example, it will work for you. But just take a look at what all those Brontosaurus Burgers did for Fred Flintstone.

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