The List

The all-Twinkie diet and 9 more single-item weight-loss plans

An Iowa journalist reveals that an all-beer diet helped him lose 15 pounds. Here, a look at the various one-food or drink diets that show unusually good results

First it was the all-Twinkie diet. Now, Iowa-based journalist J. Wilson has revealed a diet that will have beer drinkers salivating — a 40-day all-beer-and-water plan that has already allowed him to shed 15 pounds. The beer blogger got the idea from German monks who would complete a Lenten fast drinking only beer and water. So Wilson commissioned a local brewer to make him a high-calorie ale, and has consumed nothing else since March 9. "I was hungry the first couple of days, but after that, the hunger is gone. I'm not hungry," he said. Here are nine more examples of unlikely one-food diets: 

A nutritionist made headlines around the world last year with the announcement that he shed 27 pounds in just over two months while eating mostly Twinkies. Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, also reports that his cholesterol went down on the plan. What was he trying to prove? That calorie count — he kept to a strict limit of 1,800 a day — and not nutritional value is the decisive factor when it comes to losing weight. Yes, says Pamela Peake at Web MD, Haub lost weight by creating a calorific deficit. But it won't last. "One year from now, he'll either have gained all of the weight back and then some," or he'll have kept the weight off by eating healthily and exercising. This "short term experiment" proved nothing.

San Diego resident Mark Nelson went on an all-bacon diet back in February 2009, chowing down just over a pound a day for a month. Nelson took on the stunt diet purely because he loves eating the salty pork product, but found that he lost weight, and his blood pressure went down. An all-bacon diet "could be tasty," says Lindsay William-Ross at LAist, "but it could also get a little boring." Hopefully Nelson spiced up his diet with bacon-wrapped hot dogs or "bacon-studded donuts."

Charles Saatchi, the British advertising guru, lost 56 pounds by eating nothing but eggs for ten straight months. If that doesn't sound hard enough, consider that Saatchi's wife is celebrity chef and self-styled "domestic goddess" Nigella Lawson. "I am still not much to look at," said Saatchi after his diet ended, "but I have become cringingly vain and hold the world record for the highest level of cholesterol ever seen in anyone still with a pulse." Others doubted anyone could survive for 10 months on nothing but eggs. "If he's insisting it's just eggs, I'd get him a psychiatrist," British chef John Burton Race told The Sunday Times (U.K.). "And some laxatives."

The executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission loves the humble spud so much, he pledged to eat nothing else for two months. Chris Voight isn't undertaking his diet purely to lose weight — his aim is to prove that the potato is a healthy food. It's true, says Christopher Wanjek at LiveScience, that potatoes have "vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium and, with the skin left on, dietary fiber," but they're hardly the ideal basis for a one-food diet. Still, Voight reports that midway through his experiement his previously elevated blood-sugar levels have tapered off a bit — news that's sure to make his physician happy. 

Earlier this year, food blogger Nick Sherman ate nothing but pizza for an entire month. "I eat a lot of pizza anyway," he explained. "It isn't uncommon for me to eat pizza every day for a week at a time." He lost a total of 2 pounds in weight, but may have lost more if he had given up sugary drinks, too. "The real question is: Is he eating all the crusts?" asked Daniel Maurer at New York. "We're dehydrated just thinking about this." 

Baked beans
Neil King, a mechanic from the U.K, claimed in 2008 to have lost a total of 140 pounds after eating nothing but six cans of baked beans every day for nine months. After eating 1,500 cans of beans, King's weight dropped from 420 pounds to 280 pounds. "When people first heard I think they were scared to light a match nearby," the slimmer told Brit tabloid The Daily Mirror. "But I think my body has just got used to it."

The fast-food restaurant based an entire advertising campaign around Jared Fogle, a student who lost an amazing 245 pounds eating nothing but a 6-inch Subway sandwich for every meal. That was ten years ago, but Fogle is still merrily shilling for Subway — this year, the company sponsored him to run the New York Marathon. "The Subway Guy" has also published books and is available for public speaking.

If you thought Subway had the monopoly on weight loss, think again: Merab Morgan ate nothing but McDonald's for 90 days and dropped 37 pounds. The construction worker chose her menu carefully, eating only 1,400 calories a day and forsaking fries in favor of simply burgers and salads. After 90 days, she had dropped from 227 to 190 pounds. "The problem with a McDonald's-only diet isn’t what’s on the menu, but the choices made from it," the mother of two told MSNBC.

Sardine and avocado sandwiches
Celebrity chef Alton Brown credited his weight loss earlier this year to an obsession with sardine and avocado sandwiches. The "Good Eats" host lost over 50 pounds last winter — though he reportedly snacked on fruits, wholegrains, nuts, and root vegetables at the same time. "This sandwich actually doesn't sound like skinny-person food," says Erin Zimmer at Serious Eats. "In fact, it sounds pretty satisfying and, um, delicious?"

This article was originally published on November 9, 2010, and updated on April 4, 2011.


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