Somewhat akin to their annual analysis of the nation's best institutes of higher learning, the venerable (magazine? Newspaper? Trade publication for professional rankers? What ARE you, strange traveler!?) U.S. News and World Report has released a list ranking this year's best ways to deprive yourself of stuff you like in order to conform to paternalistic western beauty standards! Huzzah! I mean, JK, JK, there's nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthy foods for the sake of your body and mind (I'm currently on a "diet" called Dr. Ugh's Can You Please TRY to Not Just Eat EVERYTHING You Feel Like Eating for Like FIVE SECONDS Cleanse), and if gimmicky sets of pseudo-scientific rules are helpful for keeping you disciplined and honest—they sometimes are!—then go. Go do your thing!
Anyway, "Top-Rated Diets of 2013." It's like a popularity contest or a yearbook poll, only instead of that bitchy girl from chemistry winning "Most Inspirational Hair" (I'M SO SURE, FRANCINE), it's, like, kale and shit winning "Most Likely to Give You Runner's Diarrhea." So let's take a look at the best and the worst diets, weigh the pros and cons, and see how U.S. News and World Report's rankings hold up!
#1. DASH Diet
The belle of the ball! This is USNAWRARWR's #1 overall best diet of the year ever, because it gets 5 stars in both nutrition and "safety." (Sidenote: Ummmmmm, I'm not a doctor, but can "safety" be a pass/fail, plz? Or...does the skinny kind of "health" matter more than the not-dying kind of health?) The DASH diet was developed with the help of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the idea is that you just eat all the stuff you already knew you should be eating—like fruits and veggies and lean proteins—and cut out the shit you know is ridiculous, like Dorito-nachos. So basically this is the Don't Be a Fucking Idiot Diet. Endorsed.
#2. TLC Diet
This is where you just replace all your food with reruns of Hoarding: Buried Alive and I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. On your cheat day you get to snuggle with a body pillow stuffed with Michelle Duggar's hair.
Wait, that was a typo. It's actually something about cholesterol. Also, they specifically say "no salami," so if you have a salami issue, this might be the diet for you.
#3. Mayo Clinic Diet
The Mayo Clinic redesigned our corn-worshipping food pyramid so that it's 500% less bonkers and 900% more vegetabley. This is basically codified common sense, like the first two diets (above). Develop healthy patterns and such. Eat less ham. All the usual stuff that you'd probably already be doing if you were capable of doing it. But tomorrow's a new day, little ham-monster! The future is in your ham-slick hands! (Caveat: A subsidiary of the powerful mayonnaise lobby, the Mayo Clinic Diet does encourage participants to eat as much mayonnaise as they want—as long as it's out of the jar with a spoon and unadulterated by any other foods.)
This is the reason why European women think they're better than you. Because they would NEVER eat Dorito-ham-nachos in bed with the sun out. This diet sounds pretty sweet, if you have the time and money and willpower to make it happen: "[It] emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; and saving sweets and red meat for special occasions. Top it off with a splash of red wine (if you want), remember to stay physically active, and you're set." OH, OKAY, JUST DO THAT STUFF. I mean, basically that sounds like regular food plus a shitload of exercise and also you live inside an elegant lifestyle magazine. So, yes. Sure. Great. Or, you know, just plop your Jimmy Dean Sausage Breakfast Sandwich on a terra cotta platter and call it a day (make sure to cook the sandwich in fragrant olive oil from the Peloponnesus!).
#3. Weight Watchers
You know, the thing with the points. I remember going to Weight Watchers meetings at a depressing storefront near Northgate Mall in the mid-'90s and I found it so demoralizing that I probably stress-ate one million fake ice cream sandwiches. But I think it's cooler now. I mean, Jessica Simpson is pretty into it.
#6. Flexitarian Diet
Flexitarianism means that you're a vegetarian most of the time, except when you've had a particularly gnarly flow or something and you're like, "OM GROMPH GROMPH HAMBURGER I WILL END YOU." And then you get to totally end the hamburger! Seems like a plan! The only downside to this one is "Might be tough if you don't like fruits and veggies," which is the biggest no duh since wishing for more wishes.
The doctor who invented this diet says that "People tend to eat the same weight, or amount, of food each day, regardless of how many calories they take in," so just make sure you fill up that volume with less energy dense foods (like soil, or loam) instead of high-energy foods (like suet brittle).
[Here there's a bunch of other ones in the middle that don't make as much sense as the above diets but make more sense than the diets below. You can go look at them if you want.]
#24. Macrobiotic Diet
I always thought this was a diet where you only eat single-celled organisms like bull kelp or something. But apparently I made that up? Did I also make up that thing about bull kelp being a single-celled organism? Because I've been subconsciously hanging on to that idea since 9th grade biology, but now that I type it out I'm realizing it can't possibly be true. But I don't have time to call a scientist right now, because we're TALKIN' DIETS. Anyway, a macrobiotic diet is like being vegetarian but more smug about "whole foods" and what your body is "telling" you. Right now mine is telling me that I don't understand anything about kelp.
#24. Medifast Diet
I don't care if your diet would turn me into Cindy Crawford (that's still a good cultural reference, right?) in time for dinner tonight—I resent anyone who tries to trick me into thinking that some silty protein milk goop counts as a "milkshake." Go away.
#26. Atkins Diet
lol @ Atkins Diet. Remember a couple of years ago when everyone in America started eating bacon 23 hours per day "for their health" and turned into shambling, greasy meat-mummies leaving beef tallow slime trails where'er they trod? Or whatever? That seemed kinda dumb. But if you want to try this diet, USNAWRRAWRRRRRRRRR warns, "all that fat worries most experts."
#26. Raw Food Diet
#28. Dukan Diet
Basically it's an all-you-can-eat protein jamboree where you down 3,900 mg of salt per day. The concomitant meat-shits are known as "droppin' a Dukan." This li'l guy got 1.5 stars on "easy to follow" and 2.25 stars on "safety." So you'll have no idea what you're doing and then you'll die.
#28. Paleo Diet
Yeah, cavemen didn't wear shoes either. UNTIL THEY INVENTED SHOES.
Fundamentally, you guys, you should just do whatever works for you, as long as it's healthy and safe. There's nothing wrong with that. Don't let me goofin' on your fave diet stop you from eating and/or restricting whatever the fuck you want. I goof because I love! (Sometimes.)
Now, lest we windup in a mighty battle about "health shaming," it's important to remember that a person can simultaneously diet for their own personal reasons AND remain conscientious of the fact that the weight loss industry makes a ton of money fomenting insecurity among women until we'll buy anything to bribe our way out of shame-prison. And that obsessiveness and shame more often work against health than in the service of it. And that making yourself miserable for your entire life in an attempt to fix your misery makes kind of no sense. And that fad diets/weight loss gimmicks basically just repackage and recycle the same ideas about nutrition and health over and over and over again in circles until you're paying exorbitant amounts of money for what is essentially common sense. (Grapefruits and cottage cheese are better for you than weird synthetic protein logs? WHAT IS THIS—THE OREGON TRAIL!?) All of that said, eating good food and moving your body feels good. You can be critical of the concept and cultural implications of dieting while still wanting optimum health for yourself and your family. We are complex beings! Go us!
Image by Jim Cooke.