Every winter or so, the soup diet reappears. One winter, it was part of the infamous "Kickstart Diet" made famous by a television current affairs program. Another winter a few years ago, it was big as the "Cabbage Soup Diet" - the only difference being that the soup contained lots of shredded cabbage.
Whatever way it varies, it always comes with a promise of effortless weight loss in as short a time as you can imagine - just sip the soup instead of a meal or heat up a mug whenever a craving hits and you're bound to drop 5 or 6 kg in a week.
The Kickstart Diet promises weight loss in a flash!
Many of you will recall this one! It was a silly diet with no nutritional basis except to drive you mad! It was heavily promoted on a current affairs TV program in 2003 and gained a huge following. You were meant to follow it for a week to "kickstart" your dieting efforts and then transition to a more moderate balanced diet. Many dieters, however, only did the Kickstart part.
Can you spot the "fad" element?
If you've read my article on how to spot fads then you'll recognize this. If you haven't then click here to check it out.
See if you can follow the logic of this diet plan:
- On Day 1, all you eat is soup and fruit. You can eat any fruit except bananas (supposedly because they are "high in kilojoules"). Eat as much as you want. If you don't want soup for breakfast, have a fruit salad instead.
- On Day 2, all you're allowed is soup and vegetables, NO fruit. You can eat as much fresh, raw or lightly steamed vegies as you like. Leafy greens are great but avoid peas, corn and beans as they are "high in sugar". You can "reward yourself at night" with a jacket potato, a little butter or better still, some yoghurt.
- Day 3 is soup, vegetables and fruit - but no potatoes.
- Day 4 you can eat up to three large bananas per day. Make a banana smoothie with low-fat or skim milk - and alternate this with more of the dreaded soup.
The diet claims to be low in carbohydrate with restrictions on potato, banana, bread, peas, corn and beans. Yet you're allowed unlimited quantities of unsweetened fruit juice or cranberry juice, which would add carbohydrates in the form of fruit sugars. Fruit and fruit salad also add carbohydrate - one medium orange or apple contains 15 grams of carbohydrate.
Everyone loved it. Why?
- It seemed like a "quick fix" for your weight problem
- You only have to do it for a week
- It tells you exactly WHAT to eat, rather than you having to learn how to choose your meals according to nutrition principles
- It's simple. You eat the same food ALL DAY with the soup in between
- Your weight drops off which is very motivating (even if it is mainly fluid).
Does this silly diet work?
Yes - in the short term. But keep in mind much of the initial weight loss is water and is often regained once you start to eat normally.
If you are allowed to eat "as much as you like" of any one food, it soon becomes boring and monotonous and so you limit the total amount you take in. How many bananas can you eat in a day without getting tired of them? Or fruit? Or rice or soup? The same principle applies to the once-famous Israeli Army diet and the Eggs Only diet. Remember the monotony of any "single food" diet is the chief reason for its success.
The single biggest criticism is that this is a short-term fad diet and doesn't help you re-learn healthier eating habits. You "endure" the diet for a week or so. But what do you do once the week's over? Go back to how you ate before and watch the weight pile back on?
On the plus side, the vegetable soup itself is a winner for any diet. Filling and high in fibre, it's worth making up a big pot to have on hand when you feel hungry.
The Soup Diet is a gimmick, with the soup acting as a high-fibre low-kilojoule "meal replacement" for one, two or three meals a day as well as in-between. Overall, it's not dangerous over a few days but don't do the full soup plan for longer than a week. I give it one star (out of five) for all the fibre you consume from the soup! Just remember for sustained healthy weight loss and weight maintenance you need a healthy eating plan.
- Try my Low-fat vegetable soup recipe. Click here.
- Or for something a little more filling, go for the Hearty vegetable and barley soup. It's still low-fat but has more carbohydrate from the barley and beans. It will stick with you for longer.
- Read how soup can help your weight loss efforts without the silly Soup Diet.
It's one of my favourite published articles.
- Check out my Everyday Diet Secrets Motivator pack. It will help you to reaffirm your goals and overcome those times when your willpower drops.