Weight loss is one of the buzziest topics in the United States, and something tells me it always will be. Our culture has a tumultuous relationship with food and weight, and many Americans are on a constant hunt for new diet tricks. Somehow, even though health experts agree that a clean diet and regular exercise are the ultimate keys to weight loss, we're still looking for an easier fix.
At Byrdie, it's our job to report on new weight-loss studies and trends, and as we do, we often come across some pretty outrageous ideas. (We've talked about many of them here.) Spices meant to boost your metabolism and optical illusions intended to suppress your appetite, for example. We write about these wacky weight-loss trends, but we almost never try them. Which got me thinking, How will we ever know if these zany "quick fixes" really work?
To find out, I gathered the five most absurd weight-loss tips we've ever heard and employed a group of my colleagues to try them for a week. Can adding cayenne pepper to every meal or staring at a pink wall all day really help you lose weight? Keep scrolling to find out.
The promise: Science says that we have two types of fat in our bodies: There's brown fat, which works to burn calories to keep the body warm, and there's white fat, the useless kind that we often aim to lose. Studies have shown that by icing the areas of your body that contain mostly brown fat (the neck, chest, and upper back), you can activate and accelerate the fat-burning process. It sounds unpleasant, but does it work?
The review: "Freezing my brown fat was an interesting experience, to say the least. After one week of drinking only ice water and lying with ice packs on my chest, neck, and upper back for an hour a day, I do find myself feeling a little less bloated and tighter in my stomach.
"But, truthfully, the only thing I noticed for sure was that the icing helped regulate my mood. On a couple of occasions, I noticed myself becoming less irritable after icing, but perhaps this was because I was distracted by the cold. (The ice is painful at first, but this goes away and turns into numbness after a few minutes of Netflix binging).
"They say that ice can fix a surprising number of maladies—from poison ivy to carpal tunnel syndrome—and, ultimately, I was intrigued enough by my experience to be interested in seeing what a whole month of icing on the daily would do. For weight loss and beyond." — Sarah King, entertainment editor
The promise: When we ask nutritionists to name their favorite weight-loss hacks, many recommend eating off a smaller plate to reduce portion sizes and overall calorie intake. Separately, studies also show that blue plates and bowls offer the least appealing contrast to most food, working to suppress appetite. Eat selectively off small, blue surfaces, and you've got yourself a recipe for losing weight without even trying, right?
The review: "Well, one thing's for sure: Food does look unappealing against a royal blue backdrop. I'm not sure it contributed to me to eating less over the course of the week, but I do think it made me eat slower. When food looks pretty, you just want to gobble it all up, you know? The opposite happens when it looks ugly.
"What definitely did cause me to consume less was eating off of smaller plates and bowls. Normally, I make myself these giant rice bowls and salads for dinner, and often I get full before the food is gone, but I finish it anyway because it's there. Eating off a smaller plate forced me to learn what an appropriate amount of food is for me, and I was surprisingly never hungry after finishing the smaller portion. By the end of the week I did feel thinner; in fact, a dress I hadn't worn in many years suddenly felt much roomier!" — Amanda Montell, associate features editor
The promise: Adding just a pinch of cayenne to your food has been shown to kick your metabolism into overdrive for up to three hours after your meal. The capsaicin in cayenne is also known to curb hunger and reduce cravings for sugary, fatty foods.
The review: "This actually wasn't too much of a departure from my normal routine, since I am the girl who pours hot sauce on everything. But since it seemed like I could risk severely impairing my sinuses by dumping cayenne powder on my dinner, I opted to mix it into my favorite DIY tonic: Lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, hot water, and yes, cayenne ($3). It's been my go-to drink for years for everything from soothing a sore throat to boosting my immunity and metabolism. While I can't pretend that I suddenly dropped five pounds from this small addition alone, it did round off my recent health kick quite nicely, and it helped keep bloat away.
(It also stopped the beginnings of a cold this week in less than 24 hours.)" — Victoria Hoff, news editor
The promise: Slowing down your meals instead of inhaling them sounds reasonable enough, but one study found that people who chewed every bite they ate 40 times dropped 12% more fat than those who only chewed 15 times. Is chewing yourself silly the answer to easy weight loss?
The review: "I'm all for mindful eating and taking the time to slow down and enjoy my food. It makes my meals much more satisfying. (I've actually written all about my experience with mindful eating for Byrdie.) However, chewing each bite 40 times is unrealistic. It actually took my attention away from my food, since I had to concentrate on not swallowing. Plus, over time I realized I was taking larger bites of food to compensate for the amount of time I was dedicating to chewing. For me, just setting the intention to slow down and enjoy a meal is enough.
I don't think I'll be practicing this 'super chewing' habit in the future." — Kaitlyn McLintock, editorial intern
The promise: We have Kendall Jenner to thank for this weight-loss tip, which is a special breed of ridiculous. The model recently spoke about painting a wall in her house the shade “Baker-Miller Pink," which she says, "is the only color scientifically proven to calm you AND suppress your appetite."
The review: "I was not prepared to paint a physical wall in my house, so instead, I employed this tip by changing the desktop backgrounds on all my devices to Kendall's pink (I stare at my work computer more than my walls at home anyway). The bright rosy shade was a certainly an assault on my senses, and there were a few days during my experiment when a whole workday went by without my feeling super hungry. But I'm not convinced this wasn't just because I was busy.
"To be perfectly honest, this has to be the single laziest and least effective weight-loss tip I've ever heard of or tried. Unless you genuinely like the color, don't start painting your walls." — Amanda
Looking for diet advice that's actually reasonable? Don't miss seven legitimate weight loss tips we learned from extreme diets.