New Year, new diet? By February for many people, willpower has expired and it's back to square one. Especially if you've been following one of these approaches! Nutritionist Emma Brown gives her verdict on some of the stranger diets that have been hitting the headlines so far this year:
“Deciding to lead a healthier lifestyle is a great decision – but picking one of the many fad diets isn’t a long-term solution. Naturally, everyone wants a ‘quick fix’, but it is important to look at what the consequences of any new diet might be: can you stick to it, is it expensive, and will it actually work?
“I have a simple rule: if it cuts anything out, or costs lots of money, it’s probably not much good.”
“This is pure meal replacement dieting with little variety or imagination. The supplements are expensive, and come in large quantities so you’re making a big commitment. The range isn’t offering anything unique or extra, simply using ‘personality’ to sell an expensive product.”
“Pioppi is headlined as ‘changing everything you think you know about nutrition’, but it’s really just another take on the Mediterranean diet. The authors are both advocates of low carb, high fat diets, which, in isolation, I don’t support. It will also be more expensive than just following a traditional Med diet of lean meats, fruit and veg, oily fish, nuts.” The authors use the ‘romance’ of a small Italian village to sell a diet; in reality following the Mediterranean way of life is, in general a positive step.
“For me this is just unnecessary. There is no need to just eat raw food to be healthy. You will lose weight because you are limiting variety and taste, and therefore you may find you will want to eat less. It could be difficult to stick to long term, and even if you did, you could end up with some nutritional deficiencies.”
“My concern with this one is that you can eat what you want, as long as it’s within 8 hours (and you fast for 16 hours). If you tell people they can eat what they like, without any guidance and education, then they will! Some guidelines on eating healthier options would make this diet more acceptable. People who are very active and exercise a lot may find this difficult to stick to. It’s a faddy way of getting people to change their eating habits but without any sound nutritional basis.”
“Telling people its OK to eat dessert before breakfast gives them free license to start the day eating badly. Surely it’s better to offer sound nutritional advice that helps people plan to eat better throughout the day? For many people, starting off with a pud before the day has even begun could be a recipe for disaster!”
“This can be a very restrictive and hard to follow diet; it can be expensive and needs lots of prep. It may result in weight loss due to calorie restriction, but long-term there have been no studies looking at the effect it may have on the body. Side effects can be unpleasant.”
“Similar to the 8-hour diet, this is just a different way of eating your calories in a window of opportunity. If no advice is given about what to eat during the ‘eating’ hours then it’s not going to offer people much support.”
“Having a patch fixed to your tongue to make eating painful is totally crazy. This would make eating healthy food painful too, and could result in severe malnutrition issues.”
“Over claiming on weight loss makes me skeptical about this one: losing 23 pounds in 21 days sounds like a very large amount to lose, suggesting that this is a very low calorie diet, which might be OK for kick-starting weight loss, but it’s not sustainable in the long term.”
“These are diet pills: they may be herbal but they are still diet pills with little or no evidence to support their use. My view is that these would be a waste of money, and not the miracle cure they report.”
Said Emma: “Of course everyone wants the magic bullet! But sadly it doesn’t exist. The phrase ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ certainly applies when looking at claims of instant weight loss.
“To me, a diet is simply an approach to eating which is sustainable and easy to follow, focusing on balance and variety. Total elimination of any foods or food groups can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s simply unnecessary to ban foods, and my goal is to help people learn more about nutrients, portion size and how to balance calorie intake so they can make better food decisions.
“Diets don’t have to be expensive either – it’s about finding a way of eating you enjoy, and most importantly, that you can stick with in the long term.”
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.