Diet seems like a very unfortunate word to many. In the very simplest and truest sense, it is a word used to describe the daily food we eat. And yet.
A fad diet is another thing altogether and the thorny issue of these ‘fad diets’ never really goes away. These fictional, often extreme, and frequently money-making fad diets just keep going round in circles year after year. Most people assume the meaning of diet to be exactly this and not just what we eat on the daily.
There is currently a super interesting series on Netflix called Wellmania., starring Celeste Barber. This show is based on a book written by Bridget Delaney and her insights into diets and the wellness game are fascinating. You can and should listen to an interview with Bridget here on the No Filter podcast.
But Why The Ever Present Diet?
Across the past two decades as a Dietitian, ‘diets’ have easily been one of my most frequently raised questions. It is a rare day that I am NOT asked about some type of diet. Most being short-term at best but with some serious long lasting consequences for others. As a result, I was surprised to learn that the last time I wrote about diets on this blog, was nine years ago.
Fad diets are always around because our human nature is to look for a quick fix. Eating healthy food, exercising and being consistent with these and many other factors is just not as appealing as the promise of fast weight loss.
The cohort of second year nutrition students that I teach at university, have just completed their first assessment. This assessment was centred around fad diets and the students could choose any that piqued their interest and this ranged from The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Ketogenic Diet, The Carnivore Diet, The Lemon Detox Diet and many more. Many of these were around when I was at university, just with different names. Sigh.
The Fat Calf
Over my career I have been asked many diverse questions. One such question came from AJ who wanted to ask about his ‘fat calf’.’ After a moments confusion, I realised that he wasn’t referring to the four-legged bovine variety. His masseuse had advised him that his right calf was fatter than the other and as a result AJ was asking if I had any spot reducing tips. Alas, I did not. However, it did give me an opportunity to remind him that sadly it is not possible to nominate a pesky body area as a fat loss target.
Pick up any magazine or click on a myriad of internet sites and you will find a reference to a ‘diet’ somewhere. The term ‘diet’ is viewed as very negative and makes people do all sorts of bizarre things. This may mean eating a block of chocolate instead of one piece or absolutely no carbohydrate. The expression “going on a diet,” implies that one day you will come off the diet. Healthy eating is about changing your habits and enjoying food, not making your life (and everyone else’s) a misery. I think it is easy to forget that a diet is simply the food we eat. There will always be many wonder ‘diets’ out there in fantasyland, so how can you pick an eating plan that works?
Does it claim to have ‘magic’ ingredients e.g., grapefruit, seaweed, or vinegar? Not a good sign, as there is no such thing as magic in the world of food, unless you count Santa eating all those cake and cookies on Christmas Eve.
Does it promise rapid weight loss – like the diet that guarantees a loss of 13 inches around one leg? That would look odd, wouldn’t it?
Do you have to exercise, or do you just have to lie on a vibrating machine that ‘shakes’ the fat off? No such luck.
Who is selling the program – are they qualified, and do they hold a recognized degree in nutrition, or does it seem like the ‘diet’ is a quick way for them to make some cash?
Do you have to buy expensive powders; potions, pills or creams that claim to miraculously melt away fat?
Are you guaranteed weight loss in specific areas of your body? Not possible I ‘m afraid.
Do you have to eat a small range of foods that are not familiar to you and perhaps you have never heard of before?
Does the diet teach you new and improved eating habits or a crash course in how to count calories?
We need to be savvy when considering changing our eating habits. If you need some help, I’m here.
On the other hand, be aware if you discover an eating plan that promises the world. If it allegedly does everything except wash your clothes, either run it through the checklist or run away as fast as you can.