Today I want to talk about diets.
I don’t mean what you eat on a daily basis, but fad diets. There are a billion of them out there, everyone knows someone that’s on one, and they get you because they tell you how easy it is to lose weight. The difference between a diet and a lifestyle is that when you’re on a diet, it’s short term. There’s often a period of restriction and elimination of certain foods. There may be special shakes or meals you need to buy. There may be a “detox” period.
Here’s a quick rule of thumb about fad diets:
If you need to buy something in order to participate (book/shakes/special containers for food/mail order dinners), it’s a fad.
Do you need to read a book that explains the “philosophy” of the diet? Does it come with a separately purchased cookbook? Fad.
Do you need to eliminate large food groups in order to “detox” your body? Fad.
Do you need to stick your food in little color coordinated containers? Fad.
Look. Yes, some of these diets work. They do! But can you live with them for the rest of your life? Some people may be able to. Some diets may even work for specific people with specific medical conditions.
But do you know anyone who watched a documentary and suddenly decided that a juice diet was the solution to all their problems? Or someone who decided, without a doctor’s advice, that cutting gluten out of their diet was a good idea, because “wheat is evil”?
I’m all for eating as many whole foods that I cook at home as possible. I try to limit my processed foods. But I don’t totally avoid entire food groups like grains or dairy. Why? Because I have no reason to. I don’t have any food allergies. If you DO have food allergies, than by ALL MEANS eliminate those foods. A good friend of mine has Celiac Disease, and eaten gluten is a major no no, because it causes inflammation and vilious atrophy, and is a serious condition. The ONLY treatment for this is a lifelong gluten-free diet. But not everyone has Celiac. True wheat allergy is thought to be even more rare than Celiac, and gluten sensitivity is thought to be grossly overdiagnosed. If you believe you have any of these, you should see a doctor and be tested. Don’t just read some website on the internet and follow a trend. Remember what happened in the story of the lemmings? Here are some links about Celiac:
A lot of websites I won’t name here provide long manifesto-like articles on why one food or another is bad for us, or is “killing us” but then doesn’t provide a single scientific reference to a study. Other sites claim to be able to fix all your problems for the low low price of 19.99/month, and you have to pay before they’ll reveal their secrets.
I actually witnessed a discussion on Facebook this morning where a woman describes her CHIROPRACTOR advising against eating grains. She then linked to an article he wrote about leaky gut syndrome. Which includes NO REFERENCES. I checked his credentials. Oh, he’s not a Registered Dietitian or even a Nutritionist. (Don’t know the difference? Read this.) Last time I checked, a chiropractor specializes in the neuromusculoskeletal system, not nutrition. Unless a doctor specializes in nutrition, they are probably deficient in nutrition training (hey LOOK, a REFERENCE). Hey look, another reference, with its own references: should you avoid grains?
So how do you prevent yourself from falling into the trendy trap?
- If you know more than 5 people talking about a diet, it’s probably a fad.
- If you read an article that tells you a food is bad, but provides no references, move along.
- If someone tells you you cut a complete food group out of your diet, and that person is not a Registered Dietitian, get a second opinion.
- If you think you have a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance, check with a doctor and get tested.
- DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. It’s not any more complicated than Googling a topic and reading up on it, preferably articles from medical journals, scientific studies or anything with ACTUAL REFERENCES. It’s your life, your body, and your health you’re holding in your hands. Don’t let someone else tell you what to put in it or not put in it unless they’re adequately qualified.
And yes, I even mean don’t take my word on it.