Keeping a healthy lifestyle is important, of course, but quick fixes and flashy diets that you hear of online aren't the way to go. These trend diets, advertised to work wonders, can actually bring more hassle and danger than benefits to your health.
With flashy food shots and pictures of fitness gurus posted on social media pretty much every second of the day, it’s no surprise so many of us are scrambling to keep up with appearances through strategic self-branding and unhealthy diets.
“People are willing to try and pay anything in the hopes of losing weight. There are many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the internet providing health advice that may not be safe or even science-based,” says Andrea D’Ambrosio, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada. “It’s crucial to be critical of information that we find on the internet to avoid being misled by false, unsubstantiated claims.”
D’Ambrosio says she reminds her clients that despite what personalities like Dr. Oz say, there’s no magical food or diet for weight loss.
Here are five popular diets to be wary of.
Juicing encourages dieters to juice their plant-based meals. It’s based on the idea that nutrients from foods such as fruits and vegetables can be absorbed quicker, and fresh juice gives our systems a rest from digesting fibre. While some claim this helps in weight loss and the removal of toxins, the truth is that the amount of sugar from the fruit you eat to maintain a feeling of fullness can equal more calories, which contributes to weight gain.
“Diets that remove entire food groups run the high risk of leading to nutritional deficiencies unless you make up the lost nutrients in other foods or supplements,” D’Ambrosio says.
2. Low-carb diet.
A low-carb diet requires the restriction of foods high in carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and certain fruits and vegetables. Although dieters don’t need to cut high-carb foods from their meals entirely, the suggested limit being advocated on social media, is 60 to 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s less than three plain bagels.
3. No fat diet.
A fat-free diet sounds tempting, but is it really? When we think of fat, we often think of the bad kind that’s found in junk food, but we can also find it in nuts and seeds, fish and fruits like avocado. According to a publication by the Harvard Medical School, unsaturated fats (the good kind!) supply the body with energy and can even help prevent heart disease.
A positive note, D’Ambrosio says, is that these types of diets encourage people to eat less processed foods, which is healthier and helps weight management.
4. 5:2 diet.
For those familiar with diets, fasting is no stranger. The 5:2 diet is one of many regimens floating around the internet that has dieters eating normally (read: unrestrained) for five days and reducing food intake to 500 calories a day for the other two.
“Eating less than 500 to 600 calories a day on fasting days is very difficult for many people and challenging to sustain,” she says. “Many who attempt fasting or severe restriction also find a corresponding increase in cravings or binging after their day of restriction.”
5. Activated charcoal “diet”.
Touted by both health junkies and beauty enthusiasts on social media, charcoal can be consumed via tablets or used in cooking. Aficionados of activated charcoal claim it soaks up surface fat so that calories are not absorbed into the body, plus they say it removes unpleasant gases and toxins and reduces appetite.
The short-term effects may be tempting for those hoping to quickly shed a few pounds or to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but D’Ambrosio says there needs to be more research conducted for diets that boast impressive results. “If you want to lose weight fast, remember that you did not gain that quickly.” she says.
D’Ambrosio says working with a professional dietitian to ensure nutritional needs are met and healthy weight-loss strategies are implemented is a good plan for those who need a helping hand losing weight. “Forming a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image—regardless of weight—is also important during any weight-loss journey,” she says.
Tip from D’Ambrosio:
Food-tracking apps, such as eaTracker, give you a better idea of what (unhealthy) foods you’re eating and what swaps you can make to increase the nutrition and healthfulness of your diet.
Andrea D’Ambrosio is also the owner of Dietetic Directions a nutritional counselling and education company based in Kitchener, Waterloo.