Miles of Bullshit: Explaining Fad Diets

There’s a reason I focus a lot on nutrition here. One reason is that it’s a big part of my background, and as far as how issues affect people, one of the most important ones. The other, which pertains to a lot of what I put out here, is that I hate misinformation with a passion, since unlike most charity and government groups, I actually care about helping people. With that in mind, I though it would help if I pointed out some of the fraudulent diets out there today; that’s more coming out faster than they can be debunked, but there’s a trend here to pay attention to, so keep an eye out!

Alkaline Diet: Simply put, it’s the idea that having your body be more acidic is detrimental to your health, and being more alkaline (basic, caustic, etc) is healthier. Specifically, it advocates a diet more in favor of alkaline rich foods (bananas, green veggies, other plants), vs foods that can be more acidic (basically, and animal based foods). The major flaw is that, when it comes to what they measure, it’s usually urine, which WILL change through diet. The reason being that the kidneys are a major factor in regulating blood pH; that is tightly regulated by the body, around 7.4 pH, which very bad things happen if it falls out of that range. In short: your diet may make your pee different, along with your breath (your lungs are also part of that regulatory system), but not anything else; your diet has no effect on your body’s pH levels, which means you wasted your money on that Alkaline water. This is a very brief overview: for more, go here; Joe Leech has a very god breakdown of this:

Low Fat: Oh, the original B.S. diet that was promoted, one I’d argue did the most damage to mankind as far as diets go, with millions of bodies in the ground because of it (covered in the War On Fats article written previously). Simply put, it demonized dietary fats, saturated fats specifically, in favor of other food groups such as refined carbs and added sugar, neither of which are healthy in just about any respect; in fact being the opposite in most cases. The most glaring reason this is a bad diet is that it doesn’t go with the history of our diet as a species; for hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve eaten food sources with high fat content, and it wasn’t until the past 40 years we had the problems we have today. Of note: We also didn’t have an excess of added sugar nor refined carbs along that same time period (or the cheap veggie oils now that I think of it). This isn’t exactly a randomized controlled double-blind trial here, but just look at the correlation here; it’s not that hard to figure out.

Vegan: This really isn’t that hard, it’s more of an IQ test really. The diet, if you haven’t had like a thousand vegans tell you what it is when asking for your coffee at your local Starbucks, basically excludes any animal products in favor of subsisting solely on plant based foods. The moral case could be made, as many vegans do as far as animal products go, on how plants suffer too; vegetables want to live too, but in order for you to live, something has to die. Moral argument aside, it’s frankly stupid to eschew one entire kingdom of food in favor or another (Don’t worry, I’m taking down both sides of this 😉 . In this case, veganism means cutting out the most nutrition and effective form of food for the human body, period, in terms of protein, trace vitamins and minerals, the basic building blocks of your body. Your body isn’t made of green beans, it’s made out of longpig; you repair it with what is the best material to do so. That does not mean go the other way and eschew veggie either, which leads me to…

Keto: I have to be honest with my opinion here: if I had to pick between Veganism and the Keto crowd, I’d pick the Keto crowd. That said, they have a lot of their own B.S. in their own movement, which is a very important thing to notice in that they are starting to act a lot like their vegan opponents, in that it is now being practiced akin to a religion. As far as B.S. goes, the first thing that comes to mind is the Bulletproof Coffee fad, where you basically add butter to your coffee. Now if you really need to be on ketosis, this may help, but to your average person, this is damaging, as excess butter, unlike other forms of fat, increases LDL choesterol, if I remember correctly (I’m doing this blind right now).  The other problem with the Keto crowd I cna see is demonizing all carbs, not just the unhealthy ones. In their defense, my diet alone advocates eating mostly fats and protein as a base, and increasing amounts of carbs the more activity I get into. That said, many foods that are highly nutritious, not to mention delicious, are also carb heavy, without being bad for you; potatoes being chief among them. It’s not just the carbs you eat, but what you do with them that matters.

Raw Diet: Basically, eating things that haven’t been cooked or processed. Again, this is another IQ test: there’s a reason humans learned to cook and process food, mainly that it made the nutrients in whatever you were eating far more accessible to your body afterward. I do get that some things are better eaten raw than processed, especially when you take the Western version of adding lots of unhealthy yet cheap ingredients into an otherwise healthy dish, like a hamburger or pizza. Nuts, for example, or berries, are fantastic eaten raw. It doesn’t mean cooking your food is a bad thing, and in fact some things you don’t cook before eating (like red beans) are toxic if uncooked. Furthermore, most plant foods have compounds called lectins, phytonutrients, and other compounds that act as anti-nutrients; eaten with other foods might offset this problem so much this wouldn’t make much of a difference, but just eating raw veggies would mean they might actually take nutrients out of your body moreso than they would add to it. That’s right: the raw diet is very much an antinutrient diet!

One more to pick on, any Cleansing Diet: Not even going to bother getting into any specific ones, because they pretty much follow the same path: your body has toxins, and this diet will help get rid of them. Here’s the problem: your body has organs specifically to get rid of excess nutrients and minerals in your body, let alone toxins; that’s what your liver and kidneys are there for. To be clear, there are foods and compounds that help your body dietarily, such as turmeric. But any diet that promises to cleanse you is likely bullshit.

So why is this a problem? Simple: the cost of time. There’s a saying that goes something like this: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” There’s a lot of truth in that, in so far as that you only make progress taking steps in the right direction. And it can be very rewarding: continuing on that path diligently, and looking back and seeing all of the progress you’ve made. Now imagine, starting the journey of progress with the first step, going several miles in that direction, only to find out you’ve been going south when you should’ve been going north. Now not only do you have to go in the right direction, but you also have to recross the course you’ve already crossed, with the sheer mental disappointment of having to do so. This, underlining every other problem with any fad diet, is what I see as the true danger of these kinds of diets, in that they send you in the wrong direction while convincing you that you’re doing everything right, often wreaking havoc on your body in the progress.

So a couple of things to look out for in avoiding fad diets:

1. If it demonizes foods humans have been consuming throughout history, or entire groups of macronutrients, chances are it’s a fad diet, whether it’s that one weird old tip that says bananas are evil, or it’s an extreme one like veganism or ketogenic.

2. It forces you to follow a strict regimen or consume certain foods. This can be helpful if you’re training for something specific, like a triathalon or a bodybuilding competition. Following it as a lifestyle, however, is nearly impossible for the average person, even the above average ones.

3. It costs money to follow it. Yes, you have to spend money on food. And yes, some personal trainers do offer meal programs that can be helpful. Jenny Craig is not one of them.

There’s a lot more to cover here that’s not coming to mind at the time of this writing, but the word count is already getting up there. Not to worry, there’s plenty of articles coming on this subject; don’t you have enough to chew on?


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