Diets Debunked!

If you consume media often enough like myself, you’ve pretty much seen every fad diet out there. There’s always a new kid on the block. So I wanted to dissect them a bit and break them down in a way that’s hopefully a bit easier to digest. Let’s get to it!

INTERMITTENT FASTING 

  • What is it?
    • Reducing the window you’re eating during the day OR fasting completely (no to very little caloric intake) a few days a week.
    • When most say “intermittent fasting” they in fact mean time restricted eating, ie leaving a window from 6:30pm to 10:30 am or 8pm to 12pm without eating. The idea is to leave more time for your body to clean out its own cells (autophagy) rather than expending so much energy on digestion. A TRUE intermittent fasting is drastically reducing caloric intake (if any at all) for one or two days per week, sometimes even every other day!
  • Who it may be good for?
    • Intermittent fasting in obese populations: If you have a lot of weight to lose and/or the desire to improve cardiometabolic markers (blood pressure, cholesterol, A1c, triglycerides, and even certain inflammatory markers to name a few), this could be effective. Some studies show it’s just as effective as going on a “diet” and reducing overall calories. The benefit of intermittent fasting over overall decreasing caloric intake is that it did not result in changes in resting metabolic rate, whereas prolonged caloric / energy restriction did.
    • Time restricted feeding in obese populations: In overweight women, RMR, thyroid hormones (TSH, free T3 and free T4), appetite hormones (leptin, total ghrelin, acylated ghrelin, peptide YY, active glucagon-like peptide-1, and adiponectin), and glycemic response, were stable and unchanged between eating and omitting breakfast
    • Time restricted feeding in non-obese populations: Decrease in fat mass with maintenance of fat-free mass in young men who fasted 16 hours per day.
  • Who should proceed with caution / avoid?
    • Hormonal irregularities in women. Many studies feature men exclusively, so it’s important to always look WHO the population of the study is looking at before making any sweeping generalizations. Estrogen and progesterone need carbohydrates and fuel, especially in the week prior to menses. If you have baseline hormonal irregularities, fasting may lead to further abnormalities.
    • High stress: Same as above. IF you’re already high in cortisol (wake up tired, sleeping poorly, feel subjectively very stressed), restricting feeding and putting your body in another stressful state may not be best. Avoid fasting longer than 12 hours.
    • History of eating disorders / disordered eating. This one is pretty straight forward. If you have ANY history of a negative relationship with food and restrictive food habits, this is not a good option for you.
    • If you don’t have weight to lose / already underweight – Despite positive lab values, individuals who were not overweight experienced some aversive states like hunger and irritability (though this was done in zero calorie alternate day fasting, and results may be different with a more mild or modified version). There was also a significant negative effect on work performance in young, lean women who underwent two days of consecutive fasting (this study was quite short and the two days of consecutive fasting consisted of nearly no energy consumption at all – results may have varied with a more modified version of fasting). Results may have varied with a modified alternate day or consecutive 2-day fast.
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting or binge behavior.
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND IT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU! Just because you see someone on the internet try something doesn’t mean it’s right for you!

(detailed post on Intermittent Fasting here)

PALEO

  • What is it? Aimed to emulate our ancestor’s diet: well sourced protein, lots of fruits and veggies and very minimal processed foods, as well as things like dairy, gluten, and legumes.
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • For those with abnormal cardiac markers (high blood pressure, high cholesterol / triglycerides), abnormal blood sugar, or who would like to lose weight
    • If you have food sensitivities, primarily gluten, dairy, and legumes.
    • If you are looking for somewhere to start in terms of shifting into a more healthful way of eating, as this removes processed / refined foods (hello, Whole30).
    • If you have digestive issues or generally don’t feel very well and need a good place to start.
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • Those with history of disordered eating, as this removes many different foods.
    • If you get constipated easily, as Paleo removes many carbohydrates as well as fiber-rich beans and legumes.
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting.
    • If what you’re doing is already working – why fix a good thing?!
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND IT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU!

AIP (autoimmune paleo)

  • What is it?
    • Aimed to reduce inflammation and relieve other symptoms of autoimmune disorders
    • Comprised of vegetables, high quality seafood, fermented foods, meats and organ meats, small amounts of fruits, oils
    • Foods that are avoided: nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants), grains, legumes, dairy, vegetable oils, coffee, eggs, nuts and seeds, alcohol, food additives
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • Those with autoimmune diseases (graves, IBD, Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, etc)
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • Essentially everyone else. As you can see this is VERY restrictive. I think it could be beneficial as an elimination diet if you’re really feeling unwell and had tried everything else, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommended to populations outside autoimmunity.
    • If what you’re doing is already working – why fix a good thing?!
    • If you have a history of disordered eating, as it is a very restrictive diet.
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting.
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND IT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU!

KETO

  • What is it?
    • Very, very, almost no carbs diet stemming mostly from protein and fats. By eliminating carbohydrates, you enter into a state of ketosis which is when your body begins to break down ketones for fuel as there are no carbohydrates present. This has been shown to promote weight loss, increase insulin sensitivity, enhance clearer thinking, feel less fatigue, and improve blood sugar sensitivity.
    • 75% of calories from fat, 15% from protein, only about 5% from fat.
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • It was originally designed as an intervention for children with seizure disorders. So it’s an option for those with an epilepsy diagnosis.
    • A few studies have showed benefit for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as traumatic brain injuries. “plausible that neuroprotection results from enhanced neuronal energy reserves, which improve the ability of neurons to resist metabolic challenges, and possibly through other actions including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.”
    • Diabetics with very poor blood sugar control / regulation.
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • If you have low blood pressure, get constipated easily, are already nutrient depleted (aka have digestive problems)
    • Keto is also not shown to be safe for those with liver, thyroid, gallbladder, or pancreas issues.
    • If you have a history of disordered eating, as it is a very restrictive diet.
    • If what you’re doing is already working – why fix a good thing?!
    • If you have hormonal irregularities or are trying to get pregnant.
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting.
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND DIDN’T LIKE IT!

MEDITERRANEAN

  • What is it?
    • Eating whole foods – complex carbohydrates, lots of veggies, healthy fats, and protein with an emphasis on plant based foods and fresh fish. And occasional full fat dairy and cheeses.
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • For those with abnormal cardiac markers (high blood pressure, high cholesterol / triglycerides), abnormal blood sugar, or who would like to lose weight.
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • This one is pretty much good for anyone. There’s room for all foods (hello wine) and it emphasizes good sources of foods. This is probably the most studied eating plan of all time.
    • If you have food sensitivities (gluten / dairy), it may be better to limit these things within this diet.
    • If what you’re doing is already working – why fix a good thing?!
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting.
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND IT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU!

Low FODMAP

  • What is it?
    • An eating plan that eliminates FODMAPs (fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, polyols). Most have particular difficulty with onions and garlic.
    • Aimed to assist those with irritable bowel syndrome to help with bloating, distention, gas, abdominal discomfort, consistent constipation/diarrhea.
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • As above, those experiencing chronic abdominal pain / symptoms that have been resistant to other methods of intervention.
    • I like the Monash University App for low FODMAP help!
    • Trial for 3 weeks and see if it was helpful! Then reintroduce one group at a time monitoring for symptoms.
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • If you don’t have chronic/prolonged abdominal discomfort.
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting.
    • If you have a history of disordered eating, as it is a very restrictive diet.
    • If what you’re doing is already working – why fix a good thing?!
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND IT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU!

VEGAN

  • What is it?
    • An eating plan without animal products.
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • For those with abnormal cardiac markers (high blood pressure, high cholesterol / triglycerides), abnormal blood sugar, or who would like to lose weight.
    • Those who want to positive benefit animals and the environment!
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • If you have iron / B12 deficiencies at baseline (had gastric bypass surgery, have very heavy menses to name a few) – though you can certainly supplement!
    • You don’t absorb plant protein as easily, as deficiencies are common.
    • I’d recommend supplementing with iron, B12, zinc, an omega-3, and vitamin D!
    • If you have a history of disordered eating, as this is a diet that removes a lot of food groups.
    • If it’s not sustainable and leads to yo-yo dieting.
    • If what you’re doing is already working – why fix a good thing?!
    • IF YOU GAVE IT A TRY AND IT DIDN’T WORK FOR YOU!

INTUITIVE EATING

  • What is it?
    • This is all about forgoing the diet mentality, getting quiet, and LISTENING to the internal cues of your body. The goal is to break the cycle of never ending dieting. You truly honor your own body and experience, as well as learn to make peace with food. It encourages mindfulness and slowing down at each meal to make space discovering what is truly satisfying and satiating for your body and taste buds.
  • Who could it be beneficial for?
    • EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Learning to slow down, be aware of hunger/full cues, unlearning diet culture, and relearning what your own unique body needs is where the healing magic happens.
    • No foods are off limits (unless of course you have an allergy or food sensitivity).
  • Who should proceed cautiously / avoid?
    • No one!!! This is truly the only eating plan that I would recommend for anyone and everyone. And is something we should learn in high school quite honestly.
    • I would DEFINITELY recommend taking my good friend Lisa’s course Fork the Noise as well as the book Intuitive Eating. I also love the “Outweigh” podcast!

 

At the end of the day, if what you’re already doing is working for you then see if you can tune in, get quiet, and ignore all of the static chaos of diet culture that we’re absolutely inundated with. The best eating plan is one that makes you feel good and elevates you to enact your purpose. For my personal philosophy on “diets,” check out this post.

 

As always, this post is not aimed to prevent or treat! Ask your healthcare provider before making any diet, lifestyle, or supplement changes!!!

share this post

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

You might also like these...

Extra, extra!

Unlike guac, it won't cost you another $2.

Subscribe for free and receive useful integrative health tips straight to your email.