Why You Should Probably Skip the Latest Diet Craze
By Chris Zinn
It seems like every couple of years there is a new magical diet that surfaces and takes over the fitness landscape. If you’re connected to the internet or tuned in to the latest health news, you’ve probably seen a few come and go yourself, and you may have even tried them out.
News of a breaking approach to eating, with claims to cure every ailment in the book, appears seemingly out of nowhere. These wild claims usually come with an asterisk, though.
The Keto diet insists you can lose many pounds very quickly without slowing down. All you have to do is: eat under 50 grams of carbs a day (some people claim under 25) to prevent your body from using carbohydrates as its main source of fuel; stay away from sugar; test your pee twice a day to ensure you remain in a ketogenic state; and avoid eating too much protein that would result in gluconeogenesis, turning protein into carbohydrates to use as fuel.
The carnivore diet mandates you only eat meat. Yep… this one’s not too complicated. For some, this doesn’t even sound like a diet. Bacon every day? Count me in!
The Vegan diet has similar claims, with similar difficulty. All it asks you to do is eliminate all meats, dairy, and animal-related foods in general; stop purchasing anything with leather or fur; stop using body wash that's tested on animals; and maintain a rigid supplement schedule to ensure you aren’t becoming deficient in any vitamins usually found in meat.
Wow, a diet that limits what you can use to wash?
Anything not eaten by our ancestors 10,000 years ago is off-limits for the Paleo diet. Which means no dessert… ever.
The list goes on.
Easy right? Yeah... I don’t think so either.
Now, I’m not claiming that these diets are a bunch of bogus and no one should follow them, or follow the principles that they suggest.
Most diets actually have many benefits to them, and plenty of things we should take away from them!
For example, the Keto diet eliminates carbs, which eliminates things like chips, pizza, donuts, cookies, etc. Paleo does the same thing, just in a different way.
The Vegan diet asks us to stop eating meat, which decreases the number of animals being slaughtered or abused, helps the environment by cutting emissions, and promotes the idea that animals are not just food, but living things.
These diets have great ideas, and by no means are they bad or illegitimate.
In fact, these diets tend to work very well, simply because the extreme nature of them forces you to eliminate any unhealthy food as a byproduct of the guidelines of the diet.
But (and it’s a big but), here's where the problem comes in.
How many people do you meet that have been in Keto, or have maintained a Paleolithic lifestyle for 10 years? 5 years? Even 1 year? I’d bet it’s not a lot.
Sure, the results you see are promising, and there are plenty of advocates for each diet saying they tried everything before, and this is the only thing that worked.
A couple thoughts on that:
1. They never show how long these people were able to keep up the diet and then don’t mention whether or not they gained any weight back after they stopped the diet.
2. The “nothing else has worked before” only reinforces the idea that everyone's body responds differently to food, and one size fits all diets should be avoided.
The extreme nature of these diets makes it very hard to actually stay on track for long periods. If you can’t stay on a diet long term, then you tend to regress and end up adding the pounds back that you lost.
Another problem with these diets is that they utilize a one size fits all approach, which we know does not work. Not everyone can eat steak 3 times a day, and many people will be miserable if you cut out their ice cream.
What Should You Do Instead?
Okay, so I’ve spent enough time dismissing all these crazy diets. So now what? Give up and stick to 4 Klondike bars every night? Maybe not…
As I said, these diets have good ideas ingrained into them, with science that actually backs it up. But the approach is all wrong.
Instead of deciding to throw out anything in your kitchen that cavemen didn’t eat ten millennia ago, start small.
Take the same idea that highly processed foods aren’t built for our bodies and identify foods that are highly processed in your diet and try to skip that food for a day or eat less of it for a week. If that works, next week you can identify another food that you think isn’t the best option and do the same thing.
Not ready to eliminate anything yet? No problem. Focus on healthy foods you don’t eat enough of and add it to one of your meals throughout the day.
Getting the idea yet? Small change practiced over time adds up.
You wouldn’t go into a gym, say your goal is to bench press 400 pounds, and then try 400 pounds right away!
I’ll give you a hint - you won't be able to do it, and trying that approach will probably discourage you from ever trying to achieve it again.
You should approach eating the same way.
And hey, maybe these crazy elimination diets DO work for you. That's great! There’s nothing inherently bad about them.
But I’m encouraging you to experiment and take it slow.
Rome wasn’t built it a day!
What About Miracle Foods and Super Foods?
Now that we’ve conquered diet fads, what about specific foods? Are there foods you absolutely SHOULD eat no matter what? Kale is all-powerful, right? What about the claim that eating a whole egg is just as bad for you as smoking cigarettes? Fruit is just sugar, should you cut that out?
This is where it gets a little more complicated.
Kale is indeed very nutrient-dense, and it’s true that fruit consists of mostly sugar.
As for the claim that eggs are as bad as cigarettes… well, I think you know better than that.
Just because a food is labeled as a “superfood” does not mean you need to include it in your grocery list. Not everyone likes every vegetable. There is no sense in forcing foods that you don’t like into your diet just because they are “miracle” foods.
Whole eggs may be good for someone who is training to gain muscle mass and doesn’t have any issues with heart disease or diabetes.
They may not be good for someone who already has a lot of fat in their diet, has hypercholesterolemia, or has heart disease.
No food is always healthy, or always unhealthy. It all depends on who is eating the food. It depends on individual:
So, experiment with foods you like, and maybe some foods you aren’t sure about.
What you learn and the progress you are able to make may surprise you!
Want to find out more about how to craft an approach to eating that will fit in with your needs, goals, and lifestyle? Well, starting June 18th, you can work with Med Gym's own Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Chris Zinn, in our brand new Nutrition Coaching Program!
If you've tried diet after diet and struggled to reach your goals, nutrition coaching may be the answer you need. Working with a qualified nutrition coach to find craft and stick to the plan that is the right fit for you can be game changing!
Contact us here to learn more about the nutrition coaching program and how you can get started.