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Look, if you’re in this article there’s no point playing pretend – we’ve all succumbed to the fad diet at one low point or another. You hear about someone shedding weight quicker than the dissolution of a reality TV relationship and you’re all, omg where do I sign up? I too have been this person, and at times still am (if it’s a diet that still allows me to have a hungover choccie thick shake, of course), so chill. I’m not going to get all mum-whipping-out-the-middle-name on you.
I spoke to The Nutrition Guy, Joel Feren, to tell us a little bit more about the go-to diets for quick weight loss, and how much they’re literally messing us up on the inside.
THE KETOGENIC DIET
Fondly known as the Keto diet, this one’s all about high fat and low carb intake.
Is it a quick way to shed kilos? Yep, according to Joel.
Is it sustainable AKA will it stay off? Unlikely.
Now that we’ve got your priority covered (you ain’t fooling me), let’s understand why Keto could be bad for your health.
Short term: “You might feel sluggish, after all carbs are our body’s preferred fuel source. You might even get a bit clogged up because carbohydrate-rich foods often contain a good source of fibre.”
We all know being full of it ain’t sexy.
Long term: “High protein diets are often high in saturated fat and this can lead to elevated cholesterol levels therefore increasing your risk of developing heart disease.”
THE ALKALINE DIET
This diet proclaims that the foods you eat can alter the acidity or alkalinity (the pH value) of your body – a highly restrictive diet that excludes wholesome foods like soybeans and tofu, most wholegrains, dairy, eggs and many nuts and seeds. Joel reckons it’s “perplexing” and that “the idea being that you can alter the pH of your system is hogwash!” Brb, immediately adding ‘hogwash’ to the vocab.
“It draws people in because supporters of the diet claim you can reduce chronic pain and inflammation, reduce risk of cancer and other diseases, boost bone mineral density and lower risk of heart disease. With claims like that no wonder are people are attracted to this way of eating. However, it simply lacks any scientific evidence and defies basic physiology.”
So apart from the fact it’s dumb as, here are some reasons why it’s bad for your insides.
Short-term: “One of the biggest short term health issues is finding sufficient suitable foods to eat over the day to provide you with enough fuel and nourishment.”
Long term: “Long term health issues may include osteoporosis, gut issues including constipation and lethargy. I’d also say that food shopping will also cause undue stress which has a raft of negative outcomes, too.”
Oooft, the detox diet. Do you even wanna hear this one? I’ve done the Lemon Detox (shat me to tears, literally) and 4,3,2,1 so this should be enlightening for my everyday ignorance. Other popular versions include juice diets, raw foods, herbal cleanses and meal replacement shakes.
“Detox diets promise to flush toxins from the body, shed kilos, boost energy levels and aid digestion. And they guarantee to do all that in an instant. Sounds like a dream come true, really,” Joel says.
Ask any toilet bowl, these diets ain’t as dreamy as they are steamy.
“Proponents of the diet are unable to tell you which toxins they are supposedly removing,” Joel explains. “Detoxes often involve severe energy restriction by excluding whole food groups for a period of time – often days or even weeks. And they usually promote tonics and juices made up of a variety of herbal concoctions.”
Here’s what you need to know re: effects.
Short term: “Irritability for starters. I certainly would not want to cross paths with someone on such a severe diet. Also, digestive issues may also be present as many of the ‘programs’ encourage the use of laxative containing teas and drinks. You’ll be doing a whole lot of running… to the crapper.“
Long term: “There isn’t a skerrick of evidence to support detox diets. In fact, they make it nearly impossible for you to meet your nutritional requirements and this can be especially dangerous for children, adolescents, pregnant women and the elderly. The notion that we can “cleanse” and “purify” our bodies in this way is fallacious at best.“
Does the weight stay off? Hell naw.
“You’ll simply lose water weight and deplete your glycogen stores (our body’s natural reserve of energy). As soon as you return to normal eating your body will retain the water it lost and aim to top up its glycogen stores. The only thing you’ll end up detoxing in the long term is your bank balance.”
If you really wanna detox, Joel recommends detoxing the obvi stuff: booze, sugary drinks, confectionary, heavily processed foods.
“It isn’t rocket science, but it’s the only sure-fire way to promote a healthy lifestyle and rid your body of any potential toxins.” Remember: all bodies have their own mechanisms for removing toxins (via kidneys, liver etc) and no particular diet can or will change that.
Based on a Mediterranean diet, which has loads of science behind it, the diet has found its popularity based of the fact that a cardiologist created it. It restricts carbs. Golden, right?
On the whole Joel says many of the diet’s reccommendations mirror sensible healthy eating advice. What to be wary of, though:
Short term: “Fibre helps us poop. Restrict your fibre intake and things might not flow as well as they once did.”
Long term: “Wholegrains are protective against certain cancers and regular consumption can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s hard to be too definitive re long term risks because we don’t have the studies to highlight the ramifications of long term exclusion diets.”
Your weight may stay off, might not. Joel stresses, “It’s a 21 day diet that offers “magical transformation”. This will likely promote the yo-yo affect we often see with regular dieting.“
A better option? The Mediterranean diet. “It promotes a slightly lower carbohydrate intake than our dietary guidelines, but it still encourages the regular consumption of grains and legumes. Plus, you get to eat cheese and enjoy a glass of red.”
You don’t need to tell me twice.
Now I know you’ve heard this once, twice, maybe a couple of hundred times, but a balanced diet is always gunna be where it’s at. Sorry! No quick fix for you! “It might not be a sexy approach, but it has a whole lot of science on its side.“
Damn those nutritionists and their damn logic! Maybe it’s time we just accept it?
Looking for some dietary advice that won’t land you on the toilet for hours? The best place to start is with your GP. In the meantime, head over to Medibank Live Better for hundreds of healthy meal ideas, expert advice and exercise tips.