Diets in Review: Part 2

Americans spend over $60B on the diet industry every year.

Products, programs, memberships, food, appointments, procedures… it all adds up.

But do any of them actually do anything or have any merit to stand on?

Here is the second installment of Diets Review, where I will present a quick summary as well as my personal and professional evaluation of popular (and obscure) diets that are out there today. You can check out Part 1 here.

Note: These are not all weight loss diets, although you will find that this is often a common theme of many defined diets floating around out there.

1. Master Cleanse

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Also known as the Lemonade Diet, the Master Cleanse is a modified juice fast promising rapid weight loss created by Stanley Burroughs – a nudist, vegetarian, and apparently convicted in the state of California for unlawful sale of cancer treatments, practicing medicine without a license, and second-degree murder. Promising... Nevertheless, his diet is still alive and well over 70 years since it was first dreamed up.

The regimen consists of a strict 10-day protocol, as follows:

  1. Start every morning with a “salt water flush” (read: laxative – gag)
  2. Drink 6-12 glasses of the lemonade mixture throughout the day which is made up of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and purified water
  3. Optional: peppermint tea on occasion
  4. End the day with an herbal laxative tea

There is an option Ease-In phase, which mirrors the Ease-Out phase in reverse order. After not having any solid food for over a week, you might get a stomachache jumping right back in to eating actual food and they recommend moving from the Cleanse, to orange juice, to other juices, to fruits and vegetables, and then finally a “regular” diet.

I first learned of this diet when the QUEEN B – Beyonce – was following it to slim down for her role in Dreamgirls. While I may worship the very ground that she walks on, I wish that this “diet” would go back where it came from, dig itself a hole, and bury itself alive.

Any time you see the word “cleanse”… RUN. Cleanse is just a fancy word for “this will make you crap your brains out”.

You will lose weight. Mostly water, muscle, …and poo. A lot of poo.

 

2. Special K Diet

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The Special K Challenge, as it is also known, is a two week diet promising to help you drop down a jeans size and lose up to 6 pounds. It’s simple really: meal replacement and calorie restriction. Replace your breakfast and lunch with Special K products (cereals, bars, crackers, treats, chips, frozen quiche or sandwiches, and shakes) and then eat your normal dinner.

Note, that regular meal that you eat does not come with any guidelines or advice about composition or portion size. You get very little guidance in general outside of what’s available on the back of a cereal box. While I do not think the Challenge gets much marketing anymore, I think that it is still a fairly well-known diet to lose weight quickly. Exercise is not addressed.

Special K’s “protein” products are grossly mislabeled, in my opinion. Their meal bars are marked as containing 8-12 grams of protein and are primarily added sugar. The protein shakes are not much better, containing 15 grams of protein and, again, mostly added sugar and fortified with some vitamins, which you will probably be in need of if you follow this diet for any length of time.

The sample menu makes me sad:

Breakfast: 1 serving Special K cereal with 2/3 cup skim milk and fruit, Special K Shake, or Special K Protein Meal bar
Snack: Special K snack (bars, cereal, snacks) or fruits or vegetables
Lunch: same as breakfast
Snack: Special K snack (bars, cereal, snacks) or fruits or vegetables
Dinner: Eat your normal meal

This is a quick fix diet, not a long-term solution and not a lifestyle change. Also, I generally do not endorse meal replacement programs that rely so heavily on specialty products. I will say, though, at least the price point seems to be reasonable – a lone redeeming quality of an otherwise inadequate diet low in calories, fiber, produce, and protein and overloaded with carbohydrates and added sugar.

 

3. Baby Food Diet

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Credited towards celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson and reportedly followed at one point by Jennifer Aniston and Lady Gaga, the Baby Food Diet involves eating pureed fruits and vegetables up to 14 times a day – replacing your normal breakfast and lunch, plus eating a small dinner focusing of primarily vegetables (although there are other variations of the diet since it is not an “official” diet). Anderson describes the diet as ‘a cleanse where you still eat’… whatever that means.

I don’t know about you, but I like to chew my food. Not slurp it off of a spoon. But at least you’ll know, hey, it’s safe enough for my baby to eat, so at least it’s safe enough for me to eat. You are pretty limited on food choices. It seems that any food that comes in a baby food jar is fair game – so you can’t just puree a chocolate cake and call it compliant.

Pureed foods often digest much more quickly and easily than its regular counterpart, so you may find yourself feeling hungry often. Baby foods often tend to be low in fat and fiber, as they are small portions designed for, well, babies to eat and are not intended to be the sole source of nutrition in a newborn’s diet, let alone yours.

Quick fix. No lasting behavior change. Unsustainable. No nutrition education. Fail. This is an awful way to lose weight. Nothing to see here – move along.

4. Nutrisystem

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This is essential a meal delivery system combined with calorie restriction that promises weight loss – up to 13 pounds and 7 inches in the first month, if you’re a female (and most of the diet industry is marketed towards females). You completely outsource all of your food-related decisions. The programs determines your portions, prepares and delivers your meals, and tells you what to eat and when.

The program starts at about $10 per day plus additional grocery bills for things like fresh produce and dairy. If you pay for a higher price-point plan, you can select your own entrees to your liking, whereas the lower price-point plans have you locked in to pre-selected meals. They do offer over 150 different foods, and members are allowed to rate and review each meal to aid in your decision making process. Meals may be frozen, refrigerated, or shelf-stable and claim to be free of preservatives and trans fats.

Foods outside of the Nutrisystem meals fall into one of four categories: SmartCarbs, PowderFuels, Vegetables, and Extras.

SmartCarbs are determined based on Glycemic Index and are higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Examples would be fruit, whole wheat bread, starchy vegetables, and beans. PowerFuels are protein foods and include meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, shellfish, soy, protein shakes, and nuts. Vegetables include non-starchy vegetables and are allowed in unlimited amounts. Extras are low-calorie options to “satisfy a craving” and are limited to 3 servings per day. Examples would be 1/8 avocado, 1 Tbsp sugar-free jelly, 1 cup popcorn, 1 pickle, or 1 tsp seeds.

I think that this diet would, obviously, work in the short-term. Any reduced calorie diet will help you lose weight. But, as already mentioned, in general I am against meal replacement programs. They do not teach habit change and create an over-reliance on the program and their pre-packaged meals and snacks. Meal replacement programs are also usually difficult for people to follow if they normally have and enjoy family meals. I will say, however, that this may be a good option for those who are very busy as the meals are already made and the program removes a lot of the thinking you might normally have to do on your own. They do offer coaching calls for those wishing to transition off of the program (which most people do after about 2-3 months).

There are plans available for women, men, diabetics, and vegetarians. Exercise is encouraged by not required.

 

5. Blood Type Diet

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Created by naturopathic doctor, Dr. Peter J D’Adamo, this diet claims that the foods we eat react chemically with our blood type. Therefore, by avoiding and emphasizing certain foods, your body will utilize food more efficiently, helping you lose weight, giving you more energy and helping prevent disease.

D’Adamo not only makes diet recommendations, but also supplement and exercise recommendations and describes certain conditions and diseases that each blood type may be more prone towards.

Type O: Yes – lean meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, brisk regular exercise; No – beans, dairy, grains
Type A: Yes – fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fresh and organic, deep breathing and tai chi; No – meat, skipping meals
Type B: Yes – low-fat dairy, green vegetables, eggs, lamb; No – corn, wheat, buckwheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts, chicken, sesame
Type AB: Yes – tofu, seafood, dairy, green vegetables, food combining; No – caffeine, alcohol, smoked and cured meats

Sure, there is a book on it. It also is written by a Doctor and claims to be based on science. I call BS on that. While the blood type diet says that it is individualized, is it really if every person on the planet can be categorized into one of four groups and everyone within that group is prescribed the same diet? No.

And how handy is it that you can order all of your needed test kits and supplements through his website!  I consider it a red flag if a diet says that you have to take certain supplements in addition to following a very specific diet that makes certain foods “off limits”.

While his original book may be over 20 years old, I am still having people approach me in my practice about this diet. If it worked, we would all be following it.

 

Do you have experience with any of the above diets?
What diet(s) would you like to see in the next “Diets in Review”?

 

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