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The Fad Diet Band Wagon

Mar 02, 2016 11:01AM ● Published by Dia

By Catherine Adcock

Spring Break is upon us, and soon after, the summer and all of its swimsuit-and-sun glory. If your bod isn’t quite ready, don’t sweat it. The $20 billion weight-loss industry continues to churn out products and fads to over 100 million dieters across the United States. You can even draw inspiration from another weight-loss reality show, “My Diet is Better Than Your Diet,” which premiered on ABC in January.

Surely, you would think, with all our advances in technology, human genome mapping and advanced understanding of our basic biology, we would know what diet was the best for us. The truth is there is no one good or bad diet, says Kimberly Maus, M.S.N., NP-C, a local nurse prac- titioner. “The concept of a diet that works for everybody is as ridiculous as a shirt or hairstyle that would look good on everybody,” she says.

Maus helps her clients change their nutrition habits for the better as one part of a holistic approach to healthy living. Looking to improve your nutritional health or lose a couple of extra pounds? Maus recommends first taking an honest look at your eating habits—and your motives.

“Time permitting, I ask patients to come to their first appointment with a diet log for the past week,” she says. “I look at the baseline habits, health history and motivation for change.”

For Maus, simple is better. “If somebody who needs to lose 10 to 15 pounds is drinking three to four sodas daily, I’d focus on that first. There’s no sense in making things more difficult than they need to be,” she says.

But sometimes those simple changes are not enough. “When a client hits a plateau, it’s time to make additional changes to achieve results,” she says.

Are you at a plateau yourself? Constant on and off dieting, something many of us are guilty of, is bad in the long-term. As Maus explains, “Every time we jump on and fall off the fad diet bandwagon, it costs us both physiologically and psychologically. Each failed diet makes it that much more difficult to believe that this is a battle that can be won.

“The better way is to find new lifestyle habits that we can stick to for years to come. But once you find the combination of healthy diet and exercise that works for you and your lifestyle, the results are worth it,” says Maus. “When you make reasonable changes and can actually see and feel the benefits, the process becomes self- motivating.”

Many of us know this in our hearts, but it doesn’t keep us from trying one of the many popular diets out there. Ten years ago Atkins and South Beach swept the country, but today, Paleo, gluten-free, cleansing diets, and that one with the coffee and butter are gaining steam.

Trying to wade through these diets can quicky become a confusing jumble of health terms like glycemic index, omega-3 fatty acids, saturated fats and so on. But most experts agree that the way to lose weight involves cutting calories, in- creasing exercise and maintaining a healthy diet.

We’ve done some research, and with Maus’ help, took a look at a few popular diets to see which ones might aid you on your health-kick goals. Summer might be your initial motivation, but think bigger—these diets just may transform your life. 

BULLETPROOF DIET THE GIST: This diet is the brain- child of Dave Asprey, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor who calls himself a biohack expert. He spent 15 years and $300,000 to develop what he calls a “high-performance executive diet.” Through this diet, he says he lost 100 pounds with- out excessive exercise, increased his IQ and lowered his biological age. The focus is on so-called green foods and less on tox- ic foods and a high amount of fat. It also includes something called Bulletproof coffee. 

THE COFFEE: You’ve surely heard about this Dr. Oz-touted coffee. It consists of a blend of grass- fed organic butter, coconut oil and organic low-mold coffee. These all-natural additives should help sustain you though the diet’s recommended periods of fasting—usually in the morning before lunch. “Butter is admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine, but I can’t get behind adding it to coffee to stave off hunger'' Maus says. As for the fasting, she adds, “I’m pretty committed to the small-portions-often school of thought. Skip the buttered coffee and have an egg or two.” 

THE DIET: Slightly similar to the Paleo diet, the Bulletproof version recommends cutting out fruit and wheat, and substituting lots of unprocessed vegetables, red meat and, strangely enough, white rice. The ideal Bulletproof diet consists of up to 70 percent healthy fats and 20 percent protein, with vegetables making up the rest. 

THE VERDICT: There are elements of the diet that are excellent, particularly the limiting of grains and cereals. “Nobody’s running around with a starch deficiency, and if sugar and flour were to be completely eliminated from our diets, we’d be a much leaner and infinitely healthier society,” Maus says. While the diet would certainly lead to weight loss, many caution that you should be wary of the high fat levels of the diet, which can impact your cholesterol. Also, be aware that by cutting out entire food groups—like fruit—you could be missing out on important nutrients.

 MASTER CLEANSE

THE GIST: You fast for 10 days and subsist on a sweet, peppery lemonade concoction—similar to The Juice Bar’s Hottie juice or Nekter’s Skinny Lemonade. This helps your body cleanse itself of the toxins you’ve been putting in it for years. By the time you’re done, your entire body, from your liver to your pancreas, will function at a higher level.

THE LEMONADE: Yes, this is the diet where your main intake consists of a mix of lemonade, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. Maus says, “Sounds like something I would have tricked my brother into drinking as a kid!” 

THE DIET: In addition to the concoction outlined above, cleansers are to drink a quart of salt-water in the morning and an herbal tea laxative at night. In other words, you will spend a good portion of this diet on your porcelain throne. Going into or off the cleanse, dieters are recommended to be careful to slowly adjust their food intake since their body will not be accustomed to most food.

THE VERDICT: A cleanse doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing your body any good. “Many of these cleanses include stories about intestinal sludge,” says Maus. “At no point have I ever seen a single case of this impacted colon sludge that so many of these cleanses would have us believe we’re overflowing with.” Plus, going on this diet could mean setting yourself up for losing muscle weight, then quickly gaining it back in fat. “The single biggest problem is that it is almost completely lacking in protein. If you’re not getting adequate protein from your diet, your body will catabolize mus- cle. This is definitely a quick way to take off some weight, and then put it back on.”  

GLUTEN-FREE THE GIST: Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, causes real issues in people with celiac disease and those who have gluten intolerance. For them, gluten causes a severe inflammatory response with symptoms including diarrhea, indigestion, constipation, fatigue and more. In recent years, people with and without gluten sensitivity have flocked to the gluten-free life- style—some simply because they perceive it as healthier; others because they need it. 

THE PROBLEM: Celiac disease is real and under diagnosed. The only way to find out if you suffer from the disease is to have a blood test done by a doctor. To determine if you have gluten sensitivity, you’ll have to test your diet through a careful process overseen by a doctor. Plenty of people confuse gluten intolerance with symptoms from other issues. For instance, if your diet is high in bleached, processed wheat, and you start eating gluten-free whole vegetables, such as winter squashes and sweet potatoes, you will feel better, because the food you are eating is healthier. 

THE DIET: If you truly are sensi- tive to gluten or have Celiac disease, even trace amounts of the protein will cause an issue. So it’s gluten-

free or go home. This means cut-
ting out most breads, crackers, breakfast ce- reals, conventionalpastas, pastry goods and a wide range of processed foods made with small amounts of gluten. Try reading some labels and you’ll be surprised how many times you see the word “wheat.” 

THE VERDICT: Gluten-free diets are per-ceived as healthier, but unless you’re careful, you could be eating a diet that is just as unhealthy as your diet before. “There are now rows in many grocery stores dedicated to processed gluten-free food,” says Maus. “While these options may be beneficial in terms of maintaining a gluten-free diet, they also make keeping those extra pounds in place infinitely more convenient.” These processed gluten- free foods can be higher in calories, sugar and fat than their conventional counterparts. 

 Paleo Caveman

The Gist: Our bodies are not designed to digest processed, carb-based foods or certain groups of vegetables and nuts. The logic? We began farming our food just 10,000 years ago. That might seem like an eternity, but it’s not enough time for our stomachs to have evolved mechanisms for digesting these “newer” food sources. Paleo adherents claim that if we eat a diet that only hunters and gatherers (in other words, cavemen) would eat, we’ll feel better, be healthier and lose weight.

 

The Science: There isn’t a whole lot of science backing up Paleo claims about what cavemen ate or didn’t eat. It’s hard to conclusively know what life was exactly like 10,000 years ago. And then there’s the issue where they also often didn’t live past 35, so there’s no telling what long-term impact such a diet had on their health.

 

The Diet: Dairy? Soy? Wheat? You can forget all about them and start getting used to reading labels. You’ll be surprised all the ways that these food groups sneak into your diet. Most processed food will be out of the question, and you’ll be preparing plenty of food from scratch. If you like beans or legumes, they’re also no-go for Paleo dieters—and this includes peanuts and peanut butter.

The Verdict: An excellent diet, says Maus. “I wholeheartedly believe that sugar and starch are responsible for our diabetes epidemic. The food pyramid pounded into us as kids had that great big bread/grains base—that was all wrong.” The problem is that it requires a lot of food prep—and that makes it hard to adhere to. “It becomes a part-time job. For the vast majority of people, eating this way isn’t sustainable long-term,” she says. Paleo eaters should also be certain they’re getting all the necessary nutrients, including vitamin D and calcium, normally found in dairy products. SS

 

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