Weighing In: Diet Debunking

Each week, our own fitness fanatics Leah Polakoff and Caitlyn Kronket will explore the latest workout crazes, diet fads and dish out tips for healthy living. Managing your schoolwork is tough enough- let us take care of your health.

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“I don’t know why people keep falling for these insane diet fads,” Leah, my fellow columnist, said to me the other day.

“I know,” I said. “They’re just like any other fad – temporary and not worth the investment.”

She and I talk about this all the time. We don’t like using the word “diet” as a verb. It shouldn’t be something you do…especially considering how many crazy ones are out there nowadays (people are even having gauze sutured to their tongues to make eating painful…talk about extreme).

Rather, the term “diet” should be referenced only as a noun. Your diet is an essential part of your health and should be something you strive to maintain or improve. And it should most certainly be something you enjoy!

Dieting in general is tricky (and we don’t recommend it). Nonetheless, to help provide you with more insight, we’ve broken down three of the latest diet fads so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into if you do decide to attempt one of them.

But just so you know, when it doesn’t work (and trust us, it won’t), don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet, also referred to as the Caveman Diet, essentially replicates the eating habits of our ancient ancestors. In other words, if you can’t hunt, grow or gather it, you don’t eat it. This regimen incorporates fish, meats, nuts and plenty of fruits and veggies. The downside?  It calls for completely omitting dairy and grains. Supporters of the Paleo Diet say humans simply weren’t “designed” to consume dairy products other than breast milk. As for bread and other grains, they note that such foods didn’t become a diet staple until more modernized agriculture.

While this diet is certainly healthy and provides all of the essential nutrients your body craves, it’s hard to stick to! Besides, any health professional will tell you there is absolutely nothing detrimental to eating things like Greek yogurt, whole grains, milk, even cheese. In fact, these things are good for you!

So, rather than cut out entire food groups, just stick to a well-balanced diet instead. A little pasta never hurt anybody.

The Fast Diet

The latest trend to emerge from Great Britain (other than One Direction) is The Fast Diet. This plan calls for severely restricting food intake two non-consecutive days a week, while eating freely the other five. On fasting days, women are allowed approximately 500 calories while men aim for approximately 600 calories. Supports of The Fast Diet claim it reduces appetite and increases the body’s metabolism.

However, critics argue the exact opposite, saying that such deprivation sends the body into starvation mode, which actually slows the metabolic process. The National Health System, Britain’s medical establishment, even warned on its website, “Despite its increasing popularity, there is a great deal of uncertainty about [intermittent fasting].” So, if the pros aren’t sure, it’s probably not the best idea.

Another downside to this plan is that it can be dangerous for young adults and teenagers who are still growing, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Our thoughts? Eating healthy should be a daily goal. Sure, you’ll have days where you indulge more than usual, but true dedication means working at it more than just two days a week.

The Detox Diet

Alright, here’s the truth about detox diets – they were not designed to be weight-loss programs!

Examples of such restrictive regimens include the Blueprint Cleanse, the Fruit Flush and the famous Master Cleanse (which is what Beyoncé allegedly did to lose weight for her role in “Dreamgirls”). Whether it’s for three days or 12, these diets call for eliminating solid foods altogether and replacing them with a concoction of ingredients like maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, etc. Seriously, does that sound appetizing? You’re lying if you said yes.

Not only are liquid diets unsustainable, they often result in nutrient deficiencies and dehydration (due to the use of laxatives in most programs). Other side effects include fatigue, dizziness and nausea, which result from depriving the body of adequate fuel. As if all that weren’t enough, detox regimens can actually decrease lean muscle mass and – get this – cause weight gain. Their severe calorie limitation slows down the metabolic process, which means that when you eventually go back to a more normal eating routine, your body can’t burn food as efficiently.

And as far as any weight you might have lost, sorry to disappoint but that was nothing more than water weight. Once you’re done dieting, chances are you’ll regain what little you may have lost and put on a few extra pounds. Not exactly the affect you were going for we’re assuming.

While each of these programs has their own unique flaws, they share one major problem overall: You don’t learn how to eat healthy! So instead of torturing yourself, just maintain a healthy diet the majority of the time and enjoy a treat every now and then.

Photo by Brittany Trappe

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