It seems like our friends are trying a new “miracle diet” every week (especially leading up to swimsuit season) and it got us thinking… which of these fad diets will actually get the job done? We talked to a professional — dietitian Aaron Chacon with Evolve Medical Associates — to find out which diet bandwagon we should jump on, and which we should let pass us by.
“There are so many new diets and workouts popping up, each coupled with incredible testimonials promising amazing results. The fad diets and ridiculous pieces of exercise equipment never last long, yet people will always fall for the hype,” Aaron says. “Those that work however, while being introduced as something new and breakthrough, are really just built on a foundation that is proven to work.”
Here’s what Aaron had to say about 2016’s most popular diets:
The gist: This short-term diet is often used as an “emergency measure” in the three or so days leading up to an event like a wedding, beach trip, etc. If you’re doing the Military Diet, you’ll be eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day (think one slice of cheddar, an apple and five saltines for breakfast) for three days, and then increase to 1,500 calories a day for the next four days. The website promises you’ll lose up to 10 pounds a week if you follow it.
Aaron says: This is one of the new trends that I’ve had some patients bring up. I really didn’t know much about it until recently. So does the Military Diet work? That depends on the goal. If your goal is to see the scale go down, then maybe so. But this is what supplement companies and any form of weight loss gimmicks count on — your attachment to the scale … that arbitrary number which essentially measures the amount of pressure you apply to it. That’s all. We tend to view fat loss and that number on the scale as the same thing. If your goal is fat loss, health, toning up, or more energy, then no, the Military Diet would not be the best approach. I would consider any diet plan based off weak science to be a gimmick. Going long periods without eating or dropping the calorie count too low (without the help of HCG of course) will not speed up your metabolism. In fact, a hormone called Galanin will shunt the metabolism, slowing it down dramtically. It’s a safety mechanism for when you are in a starved or deprived state. Galanin becomes active, slows the metabolism down, and your body goes into storage mode (not good for when you’re trying to shed fat). If you are using this diet as a ‘quick fix’, just know you probably aren’t losing much body fat — if any at all. Any weight loss you will see will more than likely be water weight. If your goal is to tighten up for an event, losing water weight is actually a very effective strategy. Just know that there is a much better way to approach it than these quick fix diets.
The verdict: THUMBS DOWN
The Gist: This year the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was named best diet for the sixth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report. It focuses on fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, etc. While on DASH, you’ll have to limit foods that are high in saturated fat, like fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils like coconut oil.
Aaron says: I first learned about the DASH diet in college in a (very hard) course called Medical Nutrition Therapy. There’s not much to scrutinize about it — it’s a well-balanced diet focusing on healthy whole foods, and it’s research-based. I just want to point out that eating healthy does not need to be labeled as a specific diet. Focusing on nutrient-dense foods will always lead to a beneficial outcome. The DASH diet may have some benefits for someone looking to lose weight, but that isn’t necessarily the goal of the diet. By eating healthier, you may (and probably) will see weight loss. Feeding the body the nutrients it needs from whole food sources is absolutely essential, whether you want to lose weight or not. This concept should a part of all diet plans by default. At a certain point, the weight loss will probably slow down, and that’s when it’s time to build a diet specific to your goals (and of course Aaron and the folks at Evolve can help you with that).
The verdict: THUMBS UP
The Gist: Focus on uncooked, unprocessed foods like raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and sprouted grains. Some dieters also eat unpasteurized dairy foods, raw eggs, meat and fish. Your food can be cold or slightly warm, as long as it never goes above 118 degrees. The idea behind the Raw Food Diet is that nutrients are destroyed in the process of heating the food, and some proponents take it as far as saying that cooking food will make it “toxic.”
Aaron says: This is an interesting one. I am curious where this all got started. This, like the DASH diet, is based off nutrient-dense foods and whole food sources, so that’s a big plus already. But there is some controversy behind this one. There was a paper published by a group of dietitians about how this approach is not good long-term, and their reasoning is pretty interesting. They compare humans to other species: most other animals are able to eat food (including meat) entirely raw, and suffer no harmful effects. Humans are unable to do this because the digestive tract of a human and other species are very different. Humans have a very weak digestive system, relatively speaking. Our bodies tend to emphasize the importance of other organs (namely the brain) while other species do not. For other species, it’s all about quick, efficient digestion. Basically, energy can be allotted only so many ways, and for us as humans, the brain gets preference. Also, protein and the micronutrients that tend to come from protein sources (like iron, calcium and B vitamins) are inadequate on this diet. The bottom line is it’s fine to have from time to time (we all love Luna’s Living Kitchen), but to rely on this diet entirely, probably not the best idea.
The verdict: UNSURE
BulletProof Diet (and similar diets such as Paleo and Whole 30)
The Gist: The Bulletproof Diet is based on high amounts of healthy fats, moderate amounts of high quality protein, and tons of organic vegetables eaten at the “right time.” For all three of the above diets, you’ll need to eliminate sugar, gluten, pasteurized dairy and legumes (that means no peanut butter).
Aaron says: There are pros and cons to this diet, but frankly, the entire diet is just weird to me. It emphasizes nutrient-dense foods as per usual, but sets restrictions. For example, bok choy, coconut, raw foods, and grassfed butter is perfectly fine, but foods such as onions, kale, and almonds should be avoided if possible. There should not be a need for these types of restrictions and yet again, we see this pattern emerging. Change the name, tweak a few things, and bam, a new diet plan is formed. By learning about the foods and why they are ‘healthy’ would be a much better approach than blindly following a plan.
This is a high-fat diet, which I am all for. There is a huge misconception behind dietary fats, so it is good to see diets like these emphasize the needs for healthy fats — they are essential and the benefits are tremendous. This diet in particular tends to emphasize foods high in saturated fats. The term ‘saturated fat’ is instantly thought of as something bad but again, some basic nutrition education would prove otherwise. Everyone has heard of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, and it is without a doubt one of the best supplements to take. Well, saturated fats help retain omega-3 better and utilize them more effectively. Moreover, saturated fats help improve your cholesterol profile and the type of fat found in coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter have liver-strengthening properties. Certain saturated fats even have immune-boosting properties. Diets like BulletProof and Paleo have their pros but still deserve the scrutiny they are receiving. The foundation of healthy fats is a definite “pro”, but I can see the potential for problems. A high fat diet is NOT for everyone and I can see how it would be a little too easy to go overboard with the fat intake, healthy or not. In addition, it is restrictive, which is unnecessary. So it’s tough to give this one a rating.
The verdict: A THUMBS UP for some, and a THUMBS DOWN for others.
The Gist: Some believe the only way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more to balance calories. The belief is that a pound of fat is 3,500 calories, so if you eat 500 fewer calories than you burn every day, you can lose a pound of fat in a week (7 days x 500 calories = 3,500 calories). Nowadays, lots of people try to track their calories in vs. calories out using wearable fitness equipment like Fitbits and calorie-counting apps.
Aaron says: This is probably my least favorite approach when dieting. First off, this simply isn’t true and has led to much confusion and horrible (even harmful) dietary advice. Weight loss (or gain) is not a game of calories — to label it as such is to completely diminish the work and efforts of nutritional science. To tackle this topic isn’t too difficult, it just takes a bit of basic nutrition education. It is important to first understand what exactly a calorie really is. When regarding nutrition, we are using this term incorrectly – we say ‘calorie’, but it’s really a kilocalorie (kcal) we are referring to. Nutrition labels will capitalize the word calorie rather than changing it to its proper term, kilocalorie (in the U.S. at least) A gram of:
• protein is equivalent to 4 kcals
• carbohydrates is equivalent to 4 kcals
• fat is equivalent to 9 kcals
• alcohol is equivalent to 7 kcals
So already you can see that the saying, “Calories in vs. Calories out” isn’t the full picture. In fact, thinking in terms of just Calories gives us very little information of what we are eating – we want to know what those Calories are comprised of. Does 250 grams of protein have the the same effect on the body as 250 grams of carbohydrates? They both are equivalent to 1,000 kcals. Obviously they don’t. The most important lesson to learn from this example and every other diet approach (whether a gimmick or tried and true) is that food, once consumed, elicits a hormonal effect on the body. By eating a certain way, you are sending your body a signal; telling it do something. The question is, are you telling it the right thing?
The verdict: THUMBS DOWN
Important Dieting tips from Aaron:
— Avoid yo-yo dieting: Let’s define this as being inconsistent with diet and exercise or jumping from diet to diet. Even if you temporarily lose weight, it will come right back unless you’ve made a permanent change to your lifestyle habits. That is why I advocate lifestyle changes rather than dieting. Dieting, by its very nature, is a temporary thing and is best used when trying to reach a short-term goal. For most people, small lifestyle changes will go a much longer way. By yo-yo dieting, a vicious cycle begins where body weight changes drastically and frequently. Metabolic damage is increasing with each change, and it progressively becomes harder and harder to keep the weight off. It’s best to avoid that realm from the start. Come up with a game plan and stick to it, making small changes as needed. It’s a learning experience that will keep on developing.
– Choose cooking oils carefully: Aaron says coconut oil is an extremely versatile oil and a great source of saturated fat. In general, the more saturated a fat is the better it is for cooking because saturated fats remain stable even in high temperatures. So, coconut oil would be a good choice to use when cooking (it’s about 91% saturated) versus something like extra virgin olive oil. Avoid any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and look for extra-virgin coconut oil, preferably organic if you can.
While the acceptance of dietary fat has come a long way in the past decade, there are still some incorrect ideas floating around. While I hope this article has shed some light on the subject, I’m not recommending huge consumptions of coconut oil and butter. But when reading a nutrition label, don’t let that word saturated turn you away. As always, the key to being successful in any diet strategy is moderation.
— Educate yourself, and question everything. This is a lesson I try to teach all my clients. I emphasize how food, sleep, stress, and exercise is merely eliciting a hormonal effect. I then follow up by asking them, “do you know what a hormone is?” to which they all reply with a confident “yes.” Then I ask them to explain to me what a hormone is. I have yet to have a patient tell me what a hormone is. This is fascinating to me — people are so quick to nod yes and follow whatever it is I tell them without understanding a word I just spoke. I just have to throw in a few fancy, scientific words and instantly I become the authority. This is the reason people are so quick to follow a fad diet. Someone without the best intentions will take some scientific article out of context, use some impressive language, and people will flock to it. They could promise anything and people will fall victim to it because no one questions anything. I feel that if this article is about busting myths, we need to send people home with a take-home message. That message should be to question everything — by doing this, a person will be more educated, somewhat skeptical (which unfortunately is much needed in the ‘health’ world today) and will not fall victim to the much too common yo-yo dieting trend.
Want more info or need Aaron to help you figure out a diet plan for your lifestyle? Email Aaron for more info or to schedule an appointment HERE or visit Evolvemetoday.com.
Evolve Medical Associates is a wellness, med spa and cosmetic dermatology center located at 5821 Fairview Road in South Park, near Barclay Downs Drive. You can find them on Facebook HERE . Drs. Sudy and Youssuf offer a wide range of cosmetic, body contouring, vein, laser and wellness procedures, in addition to their “HCG Diet Done Right” program and these Core Restore Cleanse and Detox programs.