My LEAST FAVORITE Fad Diets // Feed That Nation: The Podcast


The following podcast episode will
contain discussion about diets and calories and body weight. If that makes
you uncomfortable, I won’t be offended if you choose to skip and choose to watch
some of my other or listen to some of my other material instead. Hello, my name is Natalie Nation and
you’re watching or listening to Feed That Nation. In today’s episode, I’m going
to be talking about something that I think might be a little bit
controversial. I’m going to be talking about my least favorite fad diets. Now a
fad diet is a diet usually made popular through social media or by popular
culture and usually it’s claiming to do a fantastical thing for your body. It’s
claiming to be the magic answer or the quick fix that I know I’ve talked about
in previous episodes. These diets have a whole range of ideas that support them,
they have a whole bunch of different science that might or might not be legit
that people use to support the use of these diets. And more importantly these
diets can range from okay to pretty harmful. And so I wanted to talk about a
couple of my really least favorite fad diets that I think when done incorrectly
or used by the wrong people can be really harmful or detrimental to health.
If I mention a fad diet or a diet pattern that you in particular use and
that you found it to be really helpful and that you enjoy it: I’m not attacking
you or your personal lifestyle, I’m just giving my academic opinion, based on my
undergraduate degree in Dietetics and now some of the classes I’ve had is a
master’s in public health nutrition student. So I’m going to start right off
and say that one of my absolute least favorite fad diets is any version of a
detox or a cleanse. And these come in a lot of different forms, way varied
eating patterns, way different foods that they say are toxic. And basically the
idea is you follow this diet to get rid of the toxins in your body, you’re
cleaning out your body, you’re detoxifying it from all the harmful
things that you’ve apparently been eating. And the science behind this is so
so not supported, because we have a liver and kidneys that already do that job for
us., regardless of the foods we consume. The foods we consume don’t really have
an impact on how clean our bodies are and the foods we eat can’t really do
anything to clean our system. Our digestive system is
already very good at what it does, our liver and kidneys are already very good
at what they do, and these diets really don’t do the detoxing or the cleansing
that they claim to. And generally the cleansing or the detoxing puts certain
foods into these categories of “good” and “bad” or “toxic” and “clean” that are really
arbitrary a lot of the time, and a lot of the time they sort of …I don’t want to say they
penalize, but they put foods into a toxic category that aren’t really all
that toxic at all, and they say that you shouldn’t ever eat certain foods when
really any food, unless you’re genuinely allergic to it, can be consumed in
moderation. Another fad diet and this one might not even be considered really a
fad diet, but I think there can be issues with this particular eating pattern if
it’s not executed correctly and that is veganism. Now veganism as a lifestyle, as
a ethical and moral decision I think that’s fantastic. I actually really love
eating vegan food even though I haven’t personally made the decision to be vegan
myself, and I think that there’s a lot to be said for taking responsibility for
the environmental impact that your dietary choices might have. And vegan as
a lifestyle I mean it excludes animal proteins and animal products so meat and
dairy and fish and generally it recommends that you include fruits
vegetables whole grains lean plant-based proteins, but the vegan lifestyle doesn’t
actually have a specific dietary pattern attached to it, or there’s 18 million
different lists of vegan approved foods, you know, this is more of a lifestyle
choice than a particular diet most of the time. Really because of this there
are a lot of ways to do vegan super correctly and include tons of nutritious
foods and really live a healthful lifestyle on a vegan eating pattern. And
there are a lot of ways to do veganism less correctly and eat a vegan diet that
actually can to be deficient in a lot of nutrients.
and one of the some of the biggest examples of this are iron. Iron is really
abundant in animal products and not consuming animal products might decrease
your iron consumption if you aren’t replacing those animal product iron
sources with plant-based sources or a multivitamin with iron or an iron
supplement, you could actually become anemic, which obviously isn’t ideal.
Anemia is one of the more common deficiencies that people face but
definitely can have some detrimental health effects. Another one might be
vitamin D, we see a lot of vitamin D deficiency when people aren’t consuming
dairy products, simply because a lot of dairy products to make them more
nutritious and to get people that vitamin D have been fortified or
enriched with extra vitamin D. And I will say this, and this is probably my
favorite example as to why a vegan diet can either be great or it can be pretty
darn on the healthful, is that Oreos are vegan. There are a lot of energy dense
but not nutrient dense I’d call them junkier foods whose higher in added
sugar added salt and added fat that are vegan, but don’t have a lot of
nutritional value to them. So even if a product is labeled certified vegan, is it
actually nutritious? well you’re gonna have to read the nutrition, the nutrition
label to figure that one out. And so I’d say to wrap that one up,
veganism as a lifestyle super admirable I support people who are doing it, but if
you’re not executing your nutrition correctly, you’re at risk for some
nutritional deficiencies which could impact your health negatively, so vegans
all around the world definitely think about those micronutrients. So this one, outside of the fact that I get asked all the time, you know I want to be
healthy, where do I start, I did an entire episode on that not too long ago, but one
of the other most common things that people want to ask me about when they
find out that I have studied nutrition is, they want to know all about the keto
diet or the ketogenic diet. And it’s become super popular in the
media lately, a lot of people are trying out the keto diet, athletes are making it
pretty popular, celebrities are making it pretty popular and there’s kind of a
mixed understanding all across the board of what the keto diet is, what
you eat when you’re on it, what it does for your body and so forth and so on. So
I’ll start by giving just a medical background. So the keto diet was actually
or the ketogenic diet, the idea of it is to induce ketosis in your body, so
instead of using carbohydrates for energy your body is turning fats into
ketones which are then being used for energy instead. This diet was actually
begun as a medical diet and really in the clinical world it’s only prescribed
for generally pediatric patients who have really unmanaged poorly managed
severe epilepsy, so we call this intractable epilepsy. so epilespy,
seizures, severe seizures that are happening so often that they’re
impacting quality of life, and that they have been unable to control by trying at
least two different medications. And so at this point generally a patient who
has epilepsy in order to start the ketogenic diet, after all these
medications have failed, they’ll be admitted to the hospital for at least a
week and monitored super closely to make sure that them consuming the ketogenic
diet isn’t going to impact their health more negatively than it is going to
benefit their seizures or their neurological condition more positively.
And the reason I say this is because that generally the basis of what a
medical ketogenic diet is it is incredibly high in fat moderately low in
protein and with a very very very few carbohydrates, so generally less than I
want to say 30 or 40 grams of carbohydrates a day, I’d have to brush up
on my [medical nutrition therapy] to know that for sure. A sample diet for a child who is on a
ketogenic diet would probably be a lot of butter and heavy cream some
chicken maybe a little lettuce, but you know scrambled eggs possibly cheese
maybe a little, but so few carbohydrates that really it’s just all fat with a
couple of little vegetables and some protein thrown in there so it’s really
not a very fun diet to consume, just because a lot of the things that make
food taste good, sugar, carbohydrates aren’t consumed in this diet. On top of
that, because a person on a ketogenic diet medically would be consuming such a
high amount of fat, that puts them at risk for certain health problems so
hyperlipidemia so too many lipids in their blood, it can raise their
cholesterol levels, they can develop some heart issues based around that, there are
some cognitive functional issues because your brain prefers carbohydrates, the
carbohydrates are the brain’s preferred source of energy, so switching out of
carbohydrate produce energy into ketone energy can cause a lack of function and
a brain fog other issues like that. Digestively, consuming tons of fat, very
little protein and basically no carbohydrates or fiber, that’s gonna make
your entire digestive system generally feel pretty crappy. So the most common
symptoms for that are vomiting, constipation, on the other side of
constipation we have diarrhea or even steatorrea which is diarrhea that is
just full of fat excrement it’s very uncomfortable, not fun at all on top of
just eating a diet that’s not very fun for so long when a child is already
having such severe neurological issues, so there’s gonna be a huge quality of
life impact, and I’m talking about you know a clinical patient here but people
out in the real world who are consuming some version of a keto diet or a keto
diet pattern, we’re likely gonna have some of these issues, you know we
generally would not recommend the keto diet for anyone who has any kind of
heart issue, would be a contraindication just because generally with people with
heart issues were recommending a lower fat higher fiber diet which is pretty
much the opposite of the keto diet pattern. I think also the
sort of a misunderstanding because people are one of the reasons I think
athletes or people whose goal is weight loss want to try the keto diet because
they think that they’ll be burning fat so they think they’ll be burning their
body fat, and while this isn’t untrue necessarily, really the fat you’re
burning to turn into ketones in ketosis is the dietary fat that you’re consuming
and I’d say also the reason that we admit pediatric patients to start them
on a ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment is because it’s actually
really challenging to get the body into ketosis. There’s also just a really big
lack of scientific research and clinical research around the ketogenic diet
outside of its use in patients with medical conditions so there’s not a lot
of research to support the ketogenic diet being beneficial for the generally
healthy population, or specifically for the athletic population, the research in
these fields is really lacking so far so anything, that you’re seeing where
athletes might be talking about how they’re using it or websites might be
talking about how it’s beneficial, the real good clinical research to support
all this just really hasn’t been developed, hasn’t been studied yet. So I’d
say definitely if you are either currently pursuing the keto diet in your
own life or you’ve been considering starting it, I would say there’s not a
lot of science to support it so far and there are a whole lot of side effects
and adverse health effects that might make it not a great idea for you. Sort of
along the same vein with the keto diet in terms of lack of research is
intermittent fasting, and the idea behind intermittent fasting is that a person
will consume foods but only within certain times of the day within a
certain period of hours or they might consume food only on certain days of the
week and not other days of the week. And the science behind this really is kind
of similar to the keto diet because it supports this idea of burning fat
because if you’re not eating, your body is not using the food that you haven’t
given it (a triple negative there I guess) and then it’s burning the fat stores
that you already have instead. There’s also research to support it
start restarts your metabolism or resets your metabolism or makes your metabolism
more efficient. Which most of the research I’m aware of in this field of
intermittent fasting has been in people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic
disorders, and not as much research in the generally healthy population. And
it’s funny because with the intermittent fasting and also with the ketogenic diet
going back to that people think that it’s super good for weight loss, and and
there’s actually not a lot of clinical research to support that it actually is
good for weight loss, outside of the fact that both with the intermittent fasting
and the keto diet pattern you’re generally just going to be consuming
fewer calories than you would otherwise. and with the keto diet that’s because
it’s pretty self-limiting most of the foods that you can eat with that diet
pattern are pretty unfun and fat fills you up pretty quickly so you’re just
gonna eat fewer foods than normal fewer calories than normal. And with the
intermittent fasting if you’re only consuming foods within a small period of
time you’re generally just gonna be eating fewer foods than normal. so that’s
a lot of times where this weight loss comes in. And I’ll also add here that
when a person eats carbohydrates, their body also stores a few grams of water
per gram of carbohydrates just for digesting and absorbing and all these
metabolic processes that would take 20 minutes to explain if I did that right
now, but when you are consuming fewer carbohydrates or you’re consuming really
really low levels of carbohydrates like in the ketogenic diet, you’re gonna drop
the water weight you know your body’s gonna flush that extra water out because
it’s no longer needed. So you might see when you first start a diet pattern like
this, that you lose weight right away and then your weight stays pretty stuck.
well the reason for that is you just basically flushed out water, you didn’t
lose fat mass you didn’t lose muscle mass you just flushed water out of your
body, which i think is sort of funny. I think the thing that gets me about in a
minute fasting, and why I am really looking forward to seeing the science
behind it being beneficial for the general population, is because when
you’re restricting your food consumption to a certain period of hours in the day
or certain days of the week you’re essentially teaching your body to ignore
its natural hunger cues, and you’re teaching yourself to ignore what your
body is telling you, and this could look like if your intermittent fasting
pattern is eating two days and then not eating one day and then eating two days
and not eating one day, you’re teaching yourself to ignore your body telling you
on that day that you’re fasting ‘hey I’m hungry I need food’ you know the hormonal
signals in your body are meant to tell you
to tell your brain when your stomach when your system is missing something.
And ignoring those can really…a lot of, I guess, issues can develop with this.
There’s kind of two sides of it so the first side of it is ignoring your hunger
cues, can really set up a scenario in which you’re eating when you’re not
hungry, or you’re overeating because you’re not listening to your body
telling you it’s full. And this could result in overeating to the point of
weight gain and the clinical medical issues that result in that. And on the
other side we have ignoring your hunger cues to the point where you’re not
eating even when your body is telling you “hey we’re hungry hey we really need
nutrients” which can support the development of disordered eating
patterns, or even eating disorders, which is something I definitely want to get
into but will definitely save for a different podcast so I can give it the
attention it deserves. The way I tend to think about food, and certainly the way I
try to talk to other people about food is more along the lines of intuitive
eating, in which you’re paying attention to your body and what
it’s telling you and you’re feeding it while being mindful and really just
thinking about it and developing positivity around eating and developing
awareness around what your body needs. And this is, I want to say it’s
pretty much the complete opposite of intermittent fasting, because the idea of
intermittent fasting is eating within a certain period of time whether you’re
hungry or not, so you know you’re gonna eat all this food within a couple of
hours that you have maybe past the point of being full, or you’re gonna ignore
your body’s natural hunger cues telling you “hey I’m hungry” because your
fasting pattern says you can’t eat for another few hours or until tomorrow so
that’s maybe a reason I just take intermittent fasting I take it pretty
seriously, I generally wouldn’t really recommend it to anybody, although if
somebody like I said at the beginning, if you’re having a lot of success and
finding a lot of positivity for yourself and your body by eating this way, that’s
amazing that is so amazing, but I definitely want to wait for more
clinical research to come out before I support its use in the generally healthy
population. Another fad diet that I really dislike is something I actually
see on Pinterest a lot and it really bothers me actually all these
infographics on Pinterest that talk about health, that talk about diets that
give you meal plans, that give you ideas, they link to websites and there’s not
really any good way to fact-check this, and until you click on it you know and
there’s not really a good way to you know remove pins that are harmful or to
promote pins that are actually legitimate, supported by science. And I
think in general with Pinterest and this is a totally side tangent
a lot of things on there aren’t necessarily harmful, but they’re not
necessarily correct so I’m just gonna focus on the specific things I’ve seen
on Pinterest that can be harmful and that I think are pretty negative and
most of them fall along the lines of this idea of the “single food diet” so
whether that’s the cabbage soup diet or the boiled egg diet or whatever version
of that that you see. Generally these follow the same pattern of, it’ll give
you about a week’s worth of “meal planning” and it’ll say with the boiled
egg diet you know, you’ll have two boiled eggs for breakfast and then you’ll have
a boiled egg and a whole wheat tortilla and some hummus for lunch, and for dinner
you’ll have a boiled egg and some chicken and broccoli and these diets
usually also promise some version of “lose ten pounds in two weeks” or you know
“lose that tummy fat” or whatever and these diets are so incorrect, and can be
super super harmful because they are not only recommending restricting your
energy intake to unhealthy, unsafe amounts but they’re also recommending
that you consume a really really limited selection of foods, and by consuming a
limited selection of foods, you’re almost guaranteeing that you’re not going to be
getting the nutrients you need. On top of both of those things, who wants to eat
cabbage soup for a week? or who wants to eat boiled eggs you know at every single
meal? these diets have sort of an emotional or psychological component
where they’re forcing you to do things that aren’t very fun for the sake of
this supposed benefit, of an aesthetic change which probably isn’t going to
actually happen the way you want it to. My general rule of thumb is if a diet
has a single food in the name, and is on Pinterest, it’s probably a bad idea.
And if any diet pattern or supplement even or exercise program
promises you extravagant weight loss or changes in your body that don’t seem
very realistic, it’s probably A) not going to work and B) is probably going to be
harmful for your health, harmful for your either physical health or your mental
health, maybe even both. And that’s why I dislike these pinterest fad diets so
much. So the final diet on, I guess my list of my least favourite fad diets, is
the Whole30. and the Whole30 is pretty popular I’d say. The basis behind it is you take 30 days, and you don’t consume sugar, you
don’t consume gluten, you don’t consume dairy, and you don’t consume alcohol, and
at the end of the 30 days you’re supposed to, I guess go back to the way
you were eating before, or make a change? I think it’s pretty unclear actually, but
I think the Whole30 isn’t all negative. I actually think the idea of
taking that time to be mindful about just what foods you are consuming can be
really positive for health in general. But I think that some people take the
Whole30, kind of the way people understand the detox or cleanse, which I
already talked about, these don’t work. But they’re thinking, if I don’t eat
these foods for a whole month, I’m gonna get rid of all the bad stuff that these
foods are bringing into my body. And that’s not true, I already talked about
why that’s not true, we’ve got a liver and kidneys, super great.
But I think the idea of a Whole30 as sort of a mindset reset could be a
positive thing actually, you know if we’re taking a month to not consume
foods that were regularly a staple in our diet, we’re probably going to be
consuming other things instead and generally we like to think that these
things are going to be more nutritious. So if you’re not drinking
alcohol you’re drinking water, or if you’re not consuming sugar maybe you’re
eating fruits and vegetables, and at the end of the month you might realize wow I
was consuming a lot of foods that were not bringing me health, I was consuming a
lot of foods that were energy dense but not nutrient dense, maybe I was drinking
a lot of alcohol or you know being unreasonable with my consumption of
those things. And as a mindset reset at the end of those 30 days, maybe
you’re gonna return to eating foods with gluten and dairy and sugar and alcohol,
but you’re gonna be thinking a lot more about moderation or a lot more about
what your body truly needs rather than just the foods that you want because
they taste good. So I think the Whole30, I’m kind of on the fence about it
I think, also the Whole30 definitely is just meant to be a thirty day thing,
and then after those thirty days if you decide that you want to reintroduce
those foods, great but the idea of prohibiting foods from your diet
permanently for no other reason than they’re perceived to be unhealthy, I
think that kind of mindset can be pretty harmful. I’m a firm believer in anything
absolutely anything in moderation unless you’re genuinely allergic to or
intolerant of it, so if you’re you know cutting out dairy and gluten for just
this idea that it is bad for you, I think that could start to foster these
feelings of guilt around anytime that you do consume it because you feel like
you’re not supposed to. And also this sort of, overeating so the few times that
you do consume these foods you’re going to over consume to the point of you know
maybe being sick or over consuming even when you’re not hungry because you know
you’re never allowed to have these foods, so if you’re gonna indulge you’re gonna
really indulge. And I think that sort of mindset around eating that these foods I
can’t ever have, and then developing guilt around eating them or overeating
the few times you do choose to eat them. I think that’s just a really
negative mindset to have around food. And if the Whole30 is gonna promote that
mindset in people, then I think it’s definitely going to be a negative thing.
Reflecting on this list of I guess fad diets that I’ve been critiquing I think
I’m finding some common themes. I think one of the biggest themes that I’m
finding is that a lot of these fad diets either aren’t supported by science or
misconstrue construe existing science. ORthey promote this idea of excluding
major food groups and putting food into categories of yes/no, good/bad, clean/toxic, and this really binary black and white way of thinking, which is really
negative. And I’d say I guess some of this science and other diets that I
haven’t mentioned, I think the acid alkaline diet which is totally
unsupported by science but it puts foods into categories of good/bad based on
this idea that the food you eat have a direct impact on the acidity or alkaline
level of your blood, which is which is so completely untrue. I guess I’ll go on
this tangent with the acid alkaline diet. So your body is very very good at
maintaining your blood pH, which I believe is supposed to be somewhere
around 7.35, so just a tiny bit alkaline for the very idea that if your blood
becomes too acidic you will die. And if the foods you ate and especially if the
food you ate according to the list of the acid alkaline diet foods, if the food
you ate directly impacted your blood pH level so dramatically, people would
already be dead you know your body regulates your blood pH so well most of
the time, unless you’re sick then you might go into like acidosis, which I
won’t go into that because that’s a pretty specific medical condition. But
the acid alkaline diet kind of uses scare-tactics and incorrect science and this idea of the binary foods, the good and
bad foods and I really dislike that. And that’s, it’s another one of those diets
that’s super popular on Pinterest, and super trendy in popular culture and its
really negative because it has both of these ideas of the good and bad binary
food lists and the incorrect application of science. So when you are out there and
you’re thinking about maybe you want to make a change in your eating pattern,
maybe you want to try something that you are reading about, I’d say I feel like I
end every podcast and every video with this recently, but do your research.
Really find good evidence-based science to support whatever you want to try, and
if you can’t find any good scientific research from you know institutions that
are valid, maybe this diet isn’t supported by
science and maybe you shouldn’t try it for that very reason. I’d also say if you
have a medical condition and you want to make a change, always talk to your health
care provider first. And even if you don’t have a medical condition, if you’re
a generally healthy person, I’d say also don’t make any really big changes in
your eating pattern without speaking to a health care professional. Just because
for example, if you are wanting to try the keto diet, your doctor might want to
test your blood cholesterol or your blood lipids or your heart function
first to make sure that this wouldn’t be an issue for you.
And like I said at the beginning if you are finding success in using a fat diet,
or you know eating it in a fad diet and pattern and you’re finding a lot of
health and success in that, I love that and I would really love to hear about
that so please leave me a comment below, leave me a review, go comment on my most
recent Instagram posts, tell me about how you have experienced this eating pattern.
And I am so excited to hear about your experiences, if you’ve had negative
experiences with specific fad diets, I also definitely want to hear about that,
for sure. Also go ahead and follow me on Instagram I am @feedthatnation,
definitely subscribe to my youtube channel I’ve got a new video every
Wednesday. This Wednesday in particular, it’s a
podcast. every other Wednesday will be a video and the Wednesdays in between are
podcasts. Go check out my blog feedthatnation.com where I talk recipes, podcasting, photography, and other adventures about my life in graduate school. Until next time my name is Natalie Nation and you’re listening to
Feed That Nation. Have a great day and I’ll talk to you soon.

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