The watermelon diet may be 2022’s version of the 1970s trendy grapefruit diet. A lot of fad diets can thank a celebrity connection for their popularity — for the grapefruit diet, that was reportedly Brooke Shields. And for the watermelon diet, it’s Gabi Butler, who explained to her mom on an episode of the hit Netflix series Cheer that she and a teammate were going on the watermelon diet as a cleanse for a few days.
Asked about the diet by Katie Krause on Extra in January, Butler said, “It’s basically a watermelon fast. You’re not actually fasting, because you’re getting something in your stomach.” She added, “I will do it every once in a while when I feel like I’ve just been eating really bad, not only for my physical appearance but for my mental state, too … It’s not something that is unhealthy. It actually is very good for you at removing all that toxic stuff. What watermelon does is it basically clears everything because it is mostly water.”
But do dietitians agree with Butler? Here’s an in-depth look at the diet, along with what they had to say.
What Is the Watermelon Diet?
Different versions of the watermelon diet have been making their way around the internet. At its core, the diet involves eating nothing but watermelon for a set time period. Common variations run from three to seven days, and after that, you add in some or all of the foods you normally eat, with or without watermelon. Since watermelon is a low-calorie food — one cup of diced watermelon has about 46 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — this diet is very low in calories. It’s considered a cleanse or detox diet.
YouTubers who try it brag about losing lots of weight — 13 pounds in seven days, for example, and say they stop craving junk food, clear their skin, have more mental clarity and energy, and feel lighter and less bloated.
But the dietitians we spoke with aren’t fans. “[Gabi Butler’s] advice about the watermelon diet is more toxic than the toxins that she’s trying to get rid of with this cleanse,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the creator of BetterThanDieting.com and the author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table. “It’s a shame that she doesn’t understand her importance as a role model.” Unfortunately, people like Butler who are in the public eye can influence fans to try fad diets like this one.
“I’m a huge fan of watermelon and fruit in general, but this diet is not helpful,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD, the New York City–based coauthor of Sugar Shock. “Watermelon happens to be a very healthy food, but there’s no evidence that eating it exclusively is a healthy thing to do. In fact, it’s the opposite.”
Both Cassetty and Taub-Dix are skeptical of cleanses in general. “There’s no scientific validity to doing a cleanse,” Cassetty says. “The idea that you could eliminate toxins by just eating watermelon is totally untrue.”
Taub-Dix points out that you don’t need a restrictive diet to cleanse your body — your liver and kidneys do that for you.