Every year, there’s a whole new batch of trendy diets that make it onto our radar and every year it’s the same old story. Generally these diets promote unsafe practices, such as starvation or cutting out whole food groups, in the quest for rapid weight loss. They often manage to acquire celebrity fan followers (whether real or invented), that attribute their wonderful body and air-brushed good looks to following that particular in-vogue diet. Can you tell I’m a sceptic?
What I find most disturbing about these fad diets is that there are so many unsuspecting people who are swayed by the talk up in the media, by their desire to emulate a certain high profile person, or by the lose-weight-quick promises. Most of these diets don’t have a scientific basis and are created by people with little to no nutrition training.
Here I’m going to investigate and debunk some of the latest popular diets to make headlines and give you solid advice on how you can effectively and safely lose weight, and keep it off. After all, the outcome of any diet should not be just weight loss but improving one’s overall health. In my eyes, that criteria is just as important as losing weight. Eating better could help you to boost energy, sleep better, gain better blood sugar control and stop cravings, improve health markers such as cholesterol and blood pressure, get better skin, or gain a better mindset and happiness.
Fad diet #1: Teatox
A teatox is another name for a skinny tea diet. Such skinny teas often incorporate Senna, a herb that has a laxative effect. Senna is unsafe for long term use with risks such as dehydration and diarrhoea associated with it. For those reasons alone, this diet is ridiculous and one you should definitely bypass.
Dieting should be about transforming what you eat and developing new healthy lifestyle practices. By all means, enjoy a cup of herbal brew whenever the mood strikes you. Tea drinking can be a wonderful ritual that calms and soothes our emotions and slows us down from our busy lives. Just skip the laxative variety or you’ll spend your whole time sitting on the toilet and feeling uncomfortable, not improving your health and vitality one bit.
Fad diet #2: The Whole 30
This is a 30 day diet that advocates removing all traces of sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy and legumes. The idea is to reduce inflammation, heal gut damage, re-stabilise blood sugars and reset your tastebuds to healthier foods. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? But wait, here’s the catch. What you can eat on this diet is pretty much just fruits and vegetables, lean meats and eggs, healthy fats and nuts. The diet cuts out whole food groups that are actually healthy for us, including dairy, beans and lentils. It makes it virtually impossible to stick to and to obtain the necessary nutrients we need. It’s especially hard if you’re looking for alternate protein sources if you’re not a big meat eater.
Fad diet #3: The Werewolf Diet
Ok, getting weirder now. This diet is all about eating according to the cycles of the moon. During a full moon, you fast for 24 hours, just drinking water and juices. During other moon phases, you may not eat past 6pm. This diet may have had a few celebrity fans, but there’s no science to back it up and that’s why you should give it a miss.
Fad diet #4: The Celery Juice Diet
There’s no two ways about it, celery is indeed a wonderfully nutritious vegetable. But a diet claiming to turn your health around just by adding in bucket loads of the juice? I don’t think so. A healthy diet takes into account all the food and drinks you consume, rather than believing one particular ingredient is a cure-all. This diet has no scientific basis and it can get quite pricey too, when you’re juicing an entire head of celery every day. What I will say is that including freshly juiced vegetables and fruit as part of your daily routine is a great idea. They are full of nutrients and antioxidants, and good for hydration too. But don’t overdo it. Juice will not fill you up as it offers no protein, fat or fibre, all of which are essential to a healthy body. Also fruit juices have a high sugar content.
Fad diet #5: The Five-Bite Diet
Here’s another wacky, not to mention hunger-filled and wasteful diet! This diet says you must skip breakfast, then eat just five bites of your lunch and five bites of your dinner. What do they propose you do with the rest of it? Honestly, I’ve not heard of many more ridiculous eating programs than this. For a start, there’s just no way you can get the nutrients and energy you need on 10 bites of food a day. You’ll be keeling over with fatigue and suffer muscle loss too. A diet like this is destined to fail at every point. It’s a form of starvation that’s unsustainable, will drive you to cravings and will slow your metabolism down so much that you’ll be likely to put on more weight in the aftermath. Don’t go near this diet.
Fad diet #6: The Noom diet
The Noom diet (or Australia’s version, Second Nature) is a modern approach to dieting that uses a phone app to connect you to a supportive network of dieters. The big selling point is that the community-based approach may help you lose weight and keep it off.
Ok, so here’s the first kinda sensible diet on this list! The good news is that you get the support of others to keep you on track, and as it targets longer term habit change, it’s not extreme. Unfortunately there’s a but… it’s costly ($20-70 per month depending on your plan) and requires high levels of data entry from you. It all revolves around the app, which needs you to create plans, log food and exercise, and check your progress. Quite frankly I’m not a fan of anything that keeps us more attached to our devices! I’d rather you invest that same amount of time in getting outside for a technology-free walk, that costs you nothing.
9 tips to design your own diet that’s sustainable + gets results
- Enjoy what you eat. A healthy diet is one you enjoy and can stick to for the long term – it should not make you feel deprived.
- Aim for diversity. Healthy eating means eating a wide variety of fresh foods from all the food and macronutrient groups. We shouldn’t focus on one ingredient, or cut out whole food groups. Diversity is crucial for the effective and healthy functioning of our gut microbiome.
- Cut out processed foods. Limit the amount of processed foods you eat and opt for natural wholefoods instead. The more processed the food is, the more additives, preservatives or synthetic ingredients it typically contains. These aren’t nutritious and can cause imbalance in your body.
- Include protein. At every meal try to incorporate lean healthy protein sources as this will help you curb hunger, reduce cravings and fire up your metabolism.
- Plan ahead. We’re all so busy which is why meal planning is vital to establish a healthy eating pattern and prevent last minute poor choices.
- Enjoy more home-cooked meals. Preparing your own food is associated with a healthier diet and better portion sizes.
- Don’t forget to move. Physical activity is a key component of managing your weight and improving your health. Thankfully it doesn’t need to be extreme, just 20-30 minutes of walking a day is fine.
- Strive for balance and avoid anything extreme. I’m not saying that rapid weight loss isn’t possible to do. It is and safely. But you do need a minimum number of calories per day, otherwise your body will switch over to starvation mode, slowing your metabolism, and making weight loss impossible. Try the Fast 800 diet for example – it’s been developed with scientific research to kick-start fast weight loss in a safe way.
- Adopt mindfulness. Eat slowly and think about your food in the context of your appetite, your emotions, your body and your overall health. Then you are more likely to make the right choices.
If you want to learn more about food and nutrition, how to make sensible healthy choices, or change your lifestyle habits and approach to food for life, why not join the Body Reset with Zoe Bingley-Pullin? It’s a holistic four week program that can help you get back on track. Or if you’re just after an effective diet food plan, you could try Dietlicious’ 1200 calorie plan which is tried and tested. If you’re male or have higher activity levels, the 1500 calorie plan or 1800 calorie plan may be more suitable.