Fad Diets: They’re presented to us offering drastic results, whether it be for a better body, a sharper mind, or in many cases – a combination of the two. These silver-bullet diets are sold to us through the media, well calculated advertising campaigns, and especially by our friends who enthusiastically adopt them. Some of the diets demand strict adherence to scheduled meals, made up of pre-selected food items; sometimes from the grocery store, and sometimes from a cardboard box delivered to our homes. Other of these diets require minimal change in our regular eating habits – requiring not much more than subtracting just a single food or ingredient from our diets. Regardless of the form, they tend to lead us to a common question; Do these plans work, and are they more effective than taking a common sense approach to eating?
To begin answering this question let’s take a look at one of the most enduring fad diets of all time – the Grapefruit Diet. Also called the Hollywood Diet, it is based around the claim that grapefruits contain a powerful, fat-burning enzyme. The diet lasts twelve days and promises a weight decrease of up to ten pounds – not a bad guarantee for those looking to shed a few extra. What’s required are a few of things. One, follow each meal by eating a grapefruit. Two, you up your protein intake while cutting carbs. And last, end each dinner with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s almost hard to understand why the grapefruit is necessary, as we all know, a low carb/high protein diet leads to drastic weight loss, especially with extra water and a diuretic night-cap (the coffee or tea). What’s good about this diet is that it requires you to eat nutrient-filled grapefruits throughout the day while upping your protein intake and hydrating more. What’s bad is that it allows for very little diversity in the food you eat and also promotes caffeine consumption before bed, which begs the question: Is it the grapefruit and lack of carbs causing the weight-loss, or just late-night jitters and a restless sleep? Next, lets take a look at a popular, subtractive diet.
You’ve probably noticed this diet echoed by recently added labels on popular health-foods that read, “Gluten Free.” The gluten free diet is literally a life-saver for some, an improvement for others, and utterly unnecessary for most. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, there is no reason to cut gluten out of your diet. There are simple ways to know if you should consider a gluten free diet. For starters, if your stomach becomes upset after you eat bread, pasta, or other foods containing gluten, then you may want to see your physician to confirm a gluten sensitivity. Another frequent complaint from those with gluten sensitivity is sleepiness after ingesting gluten. So, if you find you’re dosing off half way through a pasta dinner, you may also want to consider going gluten free. But for the rest of you, don’t bother. There is no large benefit to seeking out gluten free foods if you don’t have a sensitivity towards them. Who really want’s to give up bagels, or your mom’s famous spaghetti, anyway?
The lesson: Don’t go around chasing fads. Just as you don’t have to chase the latest fashion to look stylish, you don’t have to chase the latest diet fad to be healthy. The best general option is to let common sense dictate what you eat and what you do not. That box of chocolate donuts in the grocery store – not healthy. They won’t lead you to a long comfortable life. Still, that is not to say you can’t treat yourself to the occasional chocolate donut. Generally though, follow your instincts and go after unprocessed foods, whole grain breads, and load up on anything in the produce isle to your hearts content. This is the true way to lead a healthy, long, comfortable life.