You could always listen to science, sure, but the private principles governing food, exercise, and weight often rely on something more like oral tradition. Or superstition. What advice did we get one time from someone who seemed like she knew what she was talking about? What self-invented rules have come to feel unbreakable?
It’s annoying to look very hard at cause-effect relationships; it’s nicer just to believe. So we at the Cut have compiled our own most cherished instances of food-related magical thinking. We give you: “12 Weird Old Tips for a Flat Belly.”
Some of them might even work!
Stella Bugbee, Editorial Director:
When I cook with olive oil I feel like I can eat as much of it as I want, because I once read that it is good for your hair, skin and nails; so even if it is fattening, it will be a net beauty positive.
Allison Davis, Writer:
I can only have cheese fries in addition to a cheeseburger at Shake Shack if I walk there and back from my house. (One mile each way.)
Molly Fischer, Features Editor:
If I cook it, I feel fine eating it. That way frugality and laziness can serve as general checks on my appetite. The flip side of this is that I hate buying unenjoyable convenience meals — mediocre takeout at my desk, soggy sandwiches at the airport — which make me feel out of control and wasteful.
Veronica Gledhill, Market Editor:
Cutting out all carbs except rice and rice goods. I eat unlimited amounts of rice along with protein and lots of greens. So far, flat stomach, and I don’t have to do crunches. :D
Kathleen Hou, Beauty Editor:
I believe any amount of slothlike behavior and gluttony during your period just doesn’t register as weight. My cousin told me this when we were 16. She also told me cold water would make cramps worse.
Véronique Hyland, Fashion News Editor:
I’m convinced that every time I travel internationally, even though I mostly dine on bread and fine meats and cheeses, I magically lose weight. I like to imagine it’s because outside the U.S., food has fewer GMOs or corn oil or gluten units or whatever the bad things we’re not supposed to be eating are. It may not be cheap, but: international travel! A quick and easy weight-loss fix!
Maggie Lange, Writer:
Diet food is awful miserable edible cardboard. It will make you sad, and sadness could lead to chubbiness. Whole-fat everything. Probably you will be satisfied with less of it, because it is so wonderful and delicious, yum yum yum.
Leah Rodriguez, Producer:
A few months ago I bought an exercise ball for my living room. After eating too much, I lay on it for bridge support and a few minutes later — maybe it’s a placebo — but my food baby shrinks significantly … or at least evens out.
Erica Schwiegershausen, Editorial Assistant:
Once I read something on the internet about the fat-burning properties of citrus, and as a result I think about lemonade the way other people might think about green tea: like a cheat code for your metabolism. (Note that I am talking about the Newman’s or Snapple variety, not that thing where people mix lemon juice and cayenne pepper and maple syrup and call it “lemonade.”)
Emily Shornick, Photo Editor:
I know there is some kernel of truth to the idea that eating a colorful diet is a healthy way to ensure that you are consuming a variety of nutrients, but I am much more hung up on eating chromatically than on the actual vitamins and minerals. I’m not like, “Am I eating enough beta carotene?” It’s more like, “Did I eat enough orange this week?”
Kat Stoeffel, Writer:
I periodically briefly eliminate a single element from my diet, however arbitrary (all carbs, just muffins, beer, any kind of food delivery) — it gives me a sense of control without limiting my options. About two months ago I cut refined sugar from my diet. I was drinking a diet Red Bull and eating Peanut M&M’s when I received an unsolicited review copy of The Sugar Smart Diet in the mail: I took this as a sign from the universe. I didn’t lose weight, but after three days of severe headaches, I no longer needed a cookie at the slightest provocation, and I no longer felt like napping every day at 3 p.m. I’ve since reintroduced sugar to my diet, but it’s a much smaller quantity (mostly Fireball Whiskey) and I’m still not eating my feelings. That part’s kind of spooky, actually. Where did the cookie-feelings go?
Isabel Wilkinson, Senior Editor:
My mother’s model friend once told me that drinking a hot (boiled) cup of water with lemon before breakfast every day would help me “keep meat off the bones.” Then I read that Naomi Campbell gave the same piece of advice in an interview. She called it “the model’s secret.” I tried it a few times — diligently boiling my water and slicing my lemon — but nothing came of it. I’m unclear whether the cocktail is meant for “before” breakfast or *instead* of breakfast — a tiny but crucial detail that still, to this day, eludes me.