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Diet Trends, How to Separate Help from Hype

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Today I received a new book I ordered online, The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life. Sounds amazing right? While I don’t need to lose a pound a day right now, I do try to keep up on new diet trends. Since this book has some great reviews, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some helpful new tips and information to share with my audience.

So as soon as the book arrived I immediately tore it open and began skimming through. Pretty quickly I discovered this author’s views were extreme (a bad sign in my book) and differed extensively not only from my own, but more importantly, from the many experts whose researched-based work I closely align with.

This initial scan landed me on a page listing the only fruits the author considered healthy as berries and pineapple, both unavailable to most people throughout most of the year except from the freezer, which first caused me to take pause. Frozen fruit is actually much higher in sugar than fresh, and often ends up used in smoothies, which unless tempered with the right ingredients are essentially sugar bombs. But I moved on.  Then I hit the part where he suggests that all rice is bad except for white rice I and I stopped and raised an eyebrow, maybe both.

‘Just who is the author of this revolutionary new dieting advice?’ It belatedly occurred to me to wonder. Turns out he’s a Silicon Valley millionaire who lost a substantial amount of weight using these tactics, and who also spent some time in the Himalayas, which was listed in his bio apparently to convey further credibility. Now he’s designed his own line of supplements and special coffee that he claims will do all of the things he promotes in the title of the book, you just have to buy the products.

And herein lies the problem with diet trends. Many of them were started by people just like this author, who combine a tantalizing promise with the means to fund a large outreach and suddenly we’re all gluten-free, even though we may not be sure why. After all, anyone can all themselves an expert, including yours truly! This is why you need to know how to separate diet hype from help before you waste time or money on trendy gimmicks.

Diet fads make it seem as though good nutrition and healthy weight management are a mystery waiting to be solved, and they’ve uncovered the magic key; avoid gluten! While highly credentialed nutrition experts like Marion Nestle, Dr. Walter Willet and the 25 US News and World Reports Best Diet Rankings experts base all of their recommendations on years of sound scientific research instead of their personal experience or intuition, this information isn’t considered trendy or sexy.  So while their findings are always accessible, you have to look for them as opposed to the other way around.

Essentially, crazy restrictive, single nutrient-demonizing or other extreme dietary measures seldom work long-term. But that doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie and follow some denial-based regime to get your eating habits under control. In essence, changing eating behaviors takes a combination of physical, psychological and environmental measures into account in order to be successful long-term. None of this is a mystery, although no one diet works for everyone.

The point is there is no magic weight loss bullet, and when diets become so trendy that there are publications, specialty food products and entire aisles of the grocery store devoted to them, take note. These trends have become a multi-billion dollar business that vendors will keep promoting, because that’s what they’re in business to do.  And as long as they keep drowning out the (fact-based) naysayers, they’ll continue to get the attention and sale they’re after, regardless of how well the programs work.

In fact, I’ve seen highly credentialed experts dismiss the Paleo diet in blog posts that were then so engulfed flames by angry readers they quickly removed the article. Some of these trend-followers are downright rabid, but it’s important to remember that shouting the loudest doesn’t make someone right.

When you consider a new trend like Paleo, gluten-free or low fat, do your independent  using independent expert theory checked against findings by institutions like Harvard Institute of Public Health, Yale’s Rudd Center or Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences, it’s important to consider your source.  While you’ll find products and promotions for diet trends everywhere, including your favorite health stores and workout studios,  they’re simply responding to customer demand, which keeps them in business.  Conversely none of the independent health and nutrition institutions advocate any of the aforementioned trends. In fact the US News Best Diet Rankings listed Paleo as one of the least effective regimes all-around for the 2nd year in a row (when it’s been trendy enough to make the list).

The bottom line is, in this day of self-pronounced experts, you need to weigh credentials and do your diligence to separate the diet trend help from the hype. It may take a little extra time, but considering you’ll save money and possibly health problems in the long term, it’s well worth it.

One Response to “Diet Trends, How to Separate Help from Hype”

  1. Jan says:

    Wow..how refreshing your post was today! Thank you for being willing to stand up against the tide and say the truth!

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