April 14, 2005 9:45 AM   Subscribe

It seems like there is a diet for anything. I have heard about and seen examples of diets which consist of eating one thing. What I am wondering is, what effects there are and how effective a diet would be if a person only ate popsicles for a month or two. I'm not asking for dieting advice outside this question.

So, say I ate nothing but sugar free popsicles. You know, a nice box of grape, cherry, lime and orange such as the delicious Blue Bell ones. I would also, of course, take Centrum and anything else that would ensure I got stuff that would prevent bad things. What would happen after a month or so? Would it be effective? Would my spleen explode or something?

Or, instead of popsicles, what about cookies?
posted by dios to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
Response by poster: In case people are wondering where this question comes from, it comes out of the fact that Blue Bell sugar free popsicles and cookies are my favorite deserts. And whenever I have one, I always half-jokingly say that "I love these so much, that from now on it is all I am going to eat." So, I am curious if any smart people could clue me in on what would ultimately happen if I only ate them. Not with the goal of losing weight or gaining, but just to enjoy it. But I do wonder if weight gain or loss would occur.
posted by dios at 9:52 AM on April 14, 2005

Well sugar free popsicles have about 20 calories each, so you'd need to eat 100 a day to a good number of calories (on average). That's ignoring the content of those calories.

Also, see Kwashiorkor and Marasmus.
posted by null terminated at 9:53 AM on April 14, 2005

Maybe you can extrapolate about the effects from this Straight Dope Q&A.

Along similar lines, John Malkovich claims weight loss success and no notable side effects with a Jell-o only diet.
posted by kimota at 10:18 AM on April 14, 2005

Sugar free popsicles won't much in the way of juice because that adds calories. For that reason you'll be getting almost no nutritional content out of it. Assuming you ate 100 per day based on null terminated's calculation you'd be filling yourself up on artificial sweeteners, chemicals and water. Even if you took vitamins I think that the water from the popsicles would flush the vitamins out, and most of a vitamin gets flushed out anyway.

Short term you'd probably be talking about weight loss, mid term you'd be talking about a constant run down feeling and irratibility. In the long term, if you could stick it through, you'd probably end up with scurvy.
posted by substrate at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2005

well in theory you could double up (or more) on the multivitamins if you could figure out how much of one actually manages to not get flushed out (surely some portion, however small, gets absorbed properly). this would stave off scurvy at least.
posted by juv3nal at 10:29 AM on April 14, 2005

Well, someone survived for a week on only peanut butter and frosting, and it looked mighty unpleasant (it was a MeFi link, but I can't find the discussion page).
posted by Sibrax at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2005

Back around '98 or so I lost my job and lived for about a month on a food budget of around $2 a day, with no facilities available in which to cook anything. I had about a 2-month supply of vitamins left from before I lost my job, so I figured all I needed was calories, fat, protein, and enough bulk to keep my stomach from growling too much. Donuts were sixty cents each -- I got jelly donuts on the theory that what little fruit they contained was better than none at all. Peanut butter was pretty cheap, too -- the cheapest brands are loaded with sugar, and a few even have lard as a major ingredient. A plain hamburger at McDonald's was an occasional treat. I knew which stores served free samples and on what days. That was pretty much all I had until I moved back into my mom's house. In retrospect, food stamps would have been a good idea.

The result is pretty much what odinsdream predicts -- survival, but not health. I got a little burst of energy from those jelly donuts and such, but most of the time I felt lethargic and sick. My hands shook. I wasn't getting much fiber; you can fill in the blanks on the results of that. It was really hard to focus on any sort of intellectual activity. I was also constantly depressed -- part of that was being jobless, having few friends nearby, etc., but I don't think that was all of it. My body just wasn't getting all it needed to function properly -- and my diet was a lot more varied than what you're talking about. I didn't have a scale at the time, but I'd guess I lost weight -- and I was pretty thin to begin with. Still, I didn't die, and I think I could have survived that way indefinitely if I'd needed to. Not that I'd recommend it.
posted by Acetylene at 10:34 AM on April 14, 2005

I think a big problem would be the lack of protein. If you did lose weight (say from not eating 100 popsickles a day), it would rapidly start to be muscle weight. Your body would be eating, I guess, in a way, you wouldn't really be on a popsickle only diet.

Soylent green is people.
posted by OmieWise at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2005

You wouldn't get scurvy-- vitamin C is a water-soluable vitamin and you'd get an adequate amount from a multi. What you wouldn't get are fat-soluable vitamins like the Bs and vitamin D. So you would definitely start to feel the effects of that after a couple of days.

But this is essentially a starvation diet-- no sugar, no protein, no fat. So you could get energy from your fat stores and probably live as long as they hold out. But you'd also loose a LOT of muscle mass as well. We tend to over-emphasize the need for amino acid intake in essentially sedentary people, but you're still going to need some to maintain muscle mass. And you won't get it. And your brain will become sluggish as your body tries to hold on to its fat stores.

The mental acuity will come back, but the muscle lost won't (without a months or years of work). And you might do serious, permanent harm to your internal organs from the lack of fat-soluable vitamins.

Also, keep in mind that your heart is a muscle and it's going to be damaged as well.

Consult your doctor before beginning any destructive diet.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:43 AM on April 14, 2005

also, you don't get all the vitamins out of the multivitamin you're taking. Some will get absorbed, but most of it just goes right out into your urine. You do a lot better getting your vitamins from actual food
posted by slapshot57 at 10:51 AM on April 14, 2005

The jell-o only diet probably worked because gelatin has protein in it. I would guess that if you combined a popsicle-only diet with enough skinless chicken breast and/or white fish (cod, flounder, etc.) and took vitamin supplements, that you'd be okay for a while. Not having the protein, however, will cause you to lose weight that you don't want to lose. There are online resources to tell you how much protein a healthy male needs to eat to maintain the muscle mass for your desired weight. It's likely to be in the 70 - 80 gram range, which is not that many additional calories. So you could have a couple of chicken breasts and lots of sugar-free popsicles every day, add the vitamin supplements, and there you are, only less of you.
posted by anapestic at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2005

A vote for the All Popsicle Diet is probably a vote for the scurvy diet!
posted by furtive at 11:05 AM on April 14, 2005

I would think that all the artificial sweeteners would push you along the road to various organ cancers pretty quickly.
posted by luriete at 11:51 AM on April 14, 2005

Without fat intake, your body will melt away your fat stores. For lack of protein in your popsicle diet, after a period of lethargy, your body's muscles will begin to devour themselves for protein stores. Proteins and fats are used for maintaining all kinds of cells, especially nerve cells. For lack of minerals, your bones will likely weaken as they get consumed for their calcium. Calcium and potassium are crucial ions for neural activity.

As the Mayor points out, your heart is an important organ that happens to be a muscle. It is also triggered by nerves.

Deplete your body of key nutrients and before long it will misfire, and you could well go into shock and die.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:03 PM on April 14, 2005

Asetylene's $2 a day post reminded me of an argument my husband I had a while back. I contended that if you had to, you could survive pretty well on raw carrots, potatoes (baked or boiled) and nuts (preferably pignolias) for an extended period of time without falling apart. He insisted that there'd have to be a multi-vitamin and some meat thrown in. If you HAVE to live on two dollars a day, what do you eat?
posted by maryh at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2005

A vote for the All Popsicle Diet is probably a vote for the scurvy diet!

Not so. According to NutritionData, each sugar free popsicle contains 11% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C. If anything, you'll probably be getting too much Vitamin C if you eat 100 of them a day. (Assuming that your body can still process the vitamins properly after a few weeks of eating nothing but popsicles).
posted by Gary at 3:55 PM on April 14, 2005

If you HAVE to live on two dollars a day, what do you eat?

I've done it, in college, for about four months, where our weekly food budget for myself and two roommates was basically the $10 that my Grandmother mailed me every Saturday. It helped that we had the foresight to stock up on things like toilet paper and shampoo, plus 100 lbs of flour, at the start of the term. Probably the best part of that time was that we baked (and ate) a loaf of bread every single night. The scent of hot bread is my enduring memory of that time.

Bear in mind that this was almost 20 years ago, so food was somewhat cheaper, but in retrospect we did eat pretty well. The fresh bread, plus we would by a single tomato and somehow make sauce enough for two meals for three out of it. Fried Bologna also stands out in my mind. I believe we also did a brisk trade in stolen mustard and mayo packets from the local fast food joint. It helped that one of the three of us was a food science major: she could do quite a lot with next to nothing and it still tasted good.

That experience has dulled my fears about surviving real poverty to this day.

I have a friend, also, who survived nine months in Alaska on $5 a week and a pre-existing case of ramen noodles. I'm given to understand that wasn't very pretty -- much like Acetylene's experience above.
posted by anastasiav at 4:36 PM on April 14, 2005

"What would happen after a month or so? "

You would get extremely bored.
posted by sjvilla79 at 5:06 PM on April 14, 2005

You can eat a lot of brown rice and beans or lentils for $2/day, if you shop wisely. And if your $2/day is really $14/week. It would not be pleasant, but you could survive, and perhaps even have enough to buy some cheap greens and/or onions and garlic and/or spices. The real problem with $2/day is that most people who have that much money don't have transportation or access to decent shopping, etc. With my car and my Costco membership, and lots of time to think about it, I could more easily get by on less money than someone who really doesn't have the money.
posted by anapestic at 6:42 AM on April 15, 2005

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