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 third 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 also check out Part 1 and Part 2.
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. Bulletproof Diet
This is one that I actually tried for about a month earlier this year.
I’m sure you know of at least one person who has traded in their normal breakfast for a hefty, frothing cup of butter coffee. This is probably the reason why.
Promising weight loss of up to a pound per day without counting calories or measuring, the Bulletproof Diet chooses to focus on “ridding your life of toxins and bad habits that are holding you back” and “learning to effectively fuel your brain and body”. Toxins = inflammation = weight gain. By detoxifying, you will lose weight without any effort, gain muscle with little exercise, and perfectly balance your hormones.
Like most diets, there are rules.
All food and drink is placed along a spectrum from Green Zone, Yellow Zone, or Red Zone. Green = GO! Yellow = suspect, may cause issues. Red = kryptonite, avoid.
Eliminate sugar. Replace sugar with healthy fats (grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, cocoa butter, oils developed by Bulletproof which they claim to be superior – oh, and walnut and flax are considered bad fats). Switch to grass-fed meat and wild-caught seafood. Remove grains and gluten. Eliminate all synthetic additives, coloring, and flavorings. Eliminate legumes. Remove all processed, homogenized, and pasteurized dairy (full-fat, raw dairy only). Switch to organic fruits and vegetables. Cook your food gently (under 320 degF, no microwaves or grilling). Limit fruit consumption (1-2 servings per day).
Supplements and intermittent fasting are also highly encouraged. There is even an awkward “protein fasting” day which was probably the part I personally disliked the most.
This diet actually came from someone who has no formal nutrition or medical training. Zero. Dave Asprey is tech entrepreneur who claims this diet he created helped him lose 100 pounds of fat while increasing his energy, productivity, and IQ.
After being through it and trying it myself, I can say that it really just seems like an elitist version of a low-carb, intermittent-fasting diet. And always be wary of anyone who sells their own products which they claim are better than anyone else’s products – like the coffee and oils that Bulletproof offers in their store. I did like how it forced me to view fats in a new light and made me realize that I probably do not eat enough fat if I am not making a conscious effort to do so, but this felt downright nearly ketogenic at times.
Another one that I actually have a little experience with back in Summer 2014. Although, looking back, I admittedly did it “wrong” and was definitely guilty of “sex with your pants on” (making technically compliant foods but they are imitating a food that is eliminated for the time period, such as Paleo waffles, coconut milk ice-cream, or Paleo cookies).
I had just been diagnosed with celiac disease and colitis and I wanted to do a massive overhaul to my diet in order to jump start healing in my gut. I had become aware of the Paleo/Whole30 movement leading up to my diagnosis and was interested in giving it a shot.
Many who do a Whole30 aim to “reset” their body, identify foods they may be intolerant to, and to treat or manage medical conditions. Weight loss may or may not be a goal as well.
While the Paleo diet (coming to a future Diets in Review) and Whole30 are not the same, they do have a large amount of overlap. Whole30 is essentially a more restrictive version of the Paleo and Primal diets.
Yes: “eat real food” – foods with few ingredients like meat and seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings.
No: added sugar (real or artificial – including stevia, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, etc), alcohol, tobacco, grains (including wheat, rice, oats, quinoa, and corn), legumes (including soy, peas, beans of all kinds, and peanuts), dairy (cow, goat, sheep – doesn’t matter, not allowed), carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods, junk foods, or treats. Also, no counting calories, weighing yourself, or body measurements of any sort.
30 days. No slip-ups allowed.
Such hard and fast and strict rules, unless you have a diagnosed medical condition that necessitates such restrictive eating – such as an allergy or a metabolism disorder like PKU – I think could end up doing more harm than good. Most people already feel guilt around eating, eating certain foods, and their bodies – why add stress by enforcing food rules?
I will say, if you think that you are struggling with some suspected food intolerance issues (bloating, migraines, cough, headaches, runny nose, stomach ache, irritable bowel, etc), an elimination diet can be very helpful in identifying your problem foods.
Most people would not go through the rigor of a full-blown elimination diet without being highly motivated because there are no “cheat days” or slips allows in order for you to be able to identify those symptom triggering foods.
3. 21 Day Fix
This is one of many at-home BeachBody programs – the folks responsible for producing P90X and that one Facebook friend who always seems to be trying to recruit you to their MLM team. I have been seeing this particular program explode in popularity over the past year or two. You probably have, too. It’s that “colored container thing”. This is a weight loss diet promising up to 15 lbs of weight lost in 3 weeks.
Fill each colored container with food from the corresponding food group and you’ve got yourself a portion-controlled diet in a fancy package. Green – vegetables. Purple – fruit. Red – protein. Yellow – carbohydrates. Blue – healthy fats and cheese. Orange – seeds, oils, and dressings. The number of servings you are allowed is determined by your starting body weight from an overly-simplistic and yet also somehow overly complicated equation:
Starting weight x 11 = Baseline calories
Baseline calories + 400 = Caloric need
Caloric need – 750 = Target calories
Why didn’t they just say subtract 350 from your baseline? WHY!?
So, following this, a 150-lb person would have a target calorie level of 1,300 calories per day. Then, you get roped in to one of four different container levels based on your target calories: 1200-1499, 1500-1799, 1800-2099, or 2100-2300. If your target was below 1200, you would be in the 1200 group or if your target was above 2300 you would be in the 2300 group.
Workouts are also part of the program. Daily 30-minute at-home workouts, plus double the workouts during week 3 (one session in the morning and one in the evening). The program costs about $60 from the BeachBody website.
Portion control, exercise, and caloric restriction helps you lose weight? GO FIGURE!
Why don’t I like this program (because I don’t)? It does not teach behavior change. Just like it even states in its name – it’s a quick fix. I will always advocate for lasting behavior change rather than a quick weight loss regime which will inevitably be followed by rapid weight regain, which leads in to feeding the cycle of weight loss-weight regain that plagues millions of dieters every year.
Again, if you are interested in working with a qualified coach to make sustainable changes and truly customized to you, contact me.
The Atkins Diet, named after Dr. Robert Atkins who was a cardiologist and wrote the book on this in 1972, is essentially a type of low-carbohydrate diet designed for weight loss. Atkins claimed that starchy carbohydrates cause weight gain. By limiting carbohydrates in the diet, this causes the body to switch from burning carbohydrates for energy to converting stored body fat to energy.
There are currently two plans available – Atkins 20 (if you have 40+ pounds to lose, have a large waist circumference, or are diabetic/pre-diabetic) and Atkins 40 (if you have less than 40 pounds to lose, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or want a wider variety of food). Pregnant!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? The 20 and the 40 refer to how many net carbs you are allowed per day – lower amounts for greater weight loss.
There are 4 “phases” which come with their own guidelines, from most strict to less strict:
1. Induction – under 20 grams net carbohydrates per day for 2 weeks to ‘jump start’ weight loss. Eat low-carb vegetables (such as leafy greens), high-protein, and high-fat. Net carbs = total carbs – dietary fiber
2. Balancing – Slowly incorporate more nuts, low-carb vegetables, and small amounts of fruit.
3. Fine-Tuning – Once close to your goal weight, add more carbs (+5-10 grams per week) until weight loss slows down.
4. Maintenance – eat as many carbs as your body can handle without regaining weight.
Yes/Abundant: meats, fish and seafood, eggs, low-carb veggies, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, healthy fats
No/Limited: sugar, grains, vegetable oils, trans fats, ‘diet’ and ‘low-fat’ foods, starchy vegetables, legumes, high-carb fruits
It doesn’t look too bad when you look at it like this, however, Atkins also has it’s own line of food and beverage products, which I would argue are mostly highly-processed foods like ‘low-carb’ candy, snack bars, and shakes that are more expensive and not the best sources of nutrition for the calories. This diet can already be quite expensive, as protein and fats tend to be expensive grocery items.
Technically, it is possible to be vegetarian, or even vegan, and follow the Atkins diet, but it is very difficult.
Research has shown time and again that low-carbohydrate diets can be effective for weight loss. By eating more protein and fat, both very satiating macronutrients, you may not feel hungry as often, thus consuming fewer calories overall throughout the day.
So, that is to say, that eating in a caloric deficit leads to weight loss. It does not matter if that be low-carb, high-carb, or moderate-carb. Weight loss comes from being in a caloric deficit. If you find that eating more fat and protein in your diet leads you to eat less overall, and do not find the diet to be too burdensome, then it will be effective for you as well, as far as weight loss is concerned.
For many, they find that they will have to remain fairly low-carb after the initial weight loss in order to keep the weight off, which is not sustainable or realistic for many people.
AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE PLEASE DO NOT MARKET THIS PROGRAM TO PREGNANT WOMEN!
5. Intermittent Fasting
Another one that I have dabbled with over the years.
While there is no one defined “intermittent fasting” (IF) diet – in general, it refers to a way of eating in which you restrict your feeding window to a specific length of time. There are a lot of different variations, but the most popular patterns seem to be:
- 16/8 Method (aka “Leangains” protocol) – daily fast of 16 hours followed by an 8-hour feeding window
- Eat-Stop-Eat – fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week
- 5:2 Diet – restrict calories to 500-600 on two non-consecutive days of the week and eat normally on the other five
The reported health benefits of IF are the result of cellular and hormonal changes that occur when food is not always reliably and constantly coming in and that makes more use of stored body fat for energy. Increased human growth hormone (HGH), improved insulin sensitivity, cellular repair via autophagy (“self-eating” – removing old or damaged proteins and cells), and changes in gene expression.
Some studies have shown decreased inflammation markers, improved blood markers of heart health, decreased risk of cancer (in animals), increased BDNF hormone in the brain (which may aid in brain health), and extended lifespan (in animals).
Some people also lose weight. Daily IF can almost be considered a day in which you skipped breakfast. As long as you are in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. If you are not eating more later in the day due to your fasting window, then weight loss will probably occur.
Ideally, you would exercise right before your feeding window begins. Also, since this ‘diet’ is really more about timing, there is not usually much of a guide as to what foods to eat. Although, I think that a plate filled with vegetables, healthy fats, and protein would probably be recommended over “eat whatever you want in whatever quantity you want because you’ve been fasting all day” or highly processed foods.
It should also be noted that men and women tend to react differently to IF. While I know of many women who fast and feel it to be beneficial, that has not been my personal experience – and many others share my findings. If you are a female and want to give IF a try, consider shortening the fasting window.
IF may also be dangerous for anyone with a medical condition, such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, pregnant or breastfeeding, someone who is underweight, someone taking medications, someone with a history of eating disorders, or females trying to conceive or with a history of menstrual irregularities.