In recent years, social media has erupted with posts about fitness, wellness and #selfcare. Some influencers, including many of your favorite ex-Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants, make a lofty living posting advertisements for diet and hair pills.
It’s no surprise that in an image- and wellness-obsessed culture, people are crazy over diets. Social media makes it seem like trendy diets can result in quick solutions for shedding weight. But have we gone too far in cutting corners to attain the body image that is so strongly pushed through our Instagram? And how can we tell what’s safe and what’s not in a market saturated with conflicting information and “truths”?
We spoke with Dr. Victoria Vieira-Potter, an associate professor at MU who studies how human behavior and biology influence metabolic function, about the real effects of three fad diets on the body despite what social media might make you think.
How it works: The bottom line of going ketogenic is that you eat a high-fat and low carb diet. You're allowed less than 50 carbs per day, which is equivalent to about one cup of rice. This means lots of bacon, bun-less burgers, black coffee and unlimited cheese. Being on this diet also means that some high-carb fruits and veggies, such as corns and bananas, are a no go. (Mayo clinic)
The appeal: As much meat and cheese as you want doesn't sound too bad, does it? This meal plan forces your body to enter ketosis, which means the body uses ketones instead of carbs for energy. So people are attracted to the diet because it tends to burn fat quickly.
The reality: As with all of these fad diets, it's too soon to know the complete effects it has on the body. But Vieira-Potter notes that while the keto diet can be beneficial for weight loss, it isn't realistic for most people to sustain for long periods of time. “It is a drastic change because our bodies are designed to burn carbohydrates,” she says. “It’s too early to say whether or not there are negative health effect.” But, Vieira-Potter notes, it's safe to say that for people with certain health problems, such as heart or lipid conditions, there are better options than keto.
How it works: This diet consists of surviving on only what the early humans ate during the Paleolithic era, which was about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The paleo meal plan includes lean meats, fish, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.
The appeal: People believe this diet is valuable because it's closer to what humans are "meant" to eat. It cuts out the processed ingredients that are harmful to the body, and is therefore a healthier lifestyle.
The reality: Like keto, the paleo diet is difficult to maintain in the long term. It's well-rounded nature means it isn't necessarily a bad option, however. “At the end of the day, our bodies just need a certain amount of calories, vitamins and minerals and proteins,” she says. “Our bodies are very adaptive and most people can probably adapt to this.”
How it works: For 30 days, you get no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy or sweets. You can eat moderate amounts of meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruits and natural fats such as avocado and nuts.
The appeal: Some people believe this is a way to cleanse the body and reset eating habits by eliminating unhealthy vices. Some also believe that this diet helps treat ailments such as skin problems, digestive issues, low energy and chronic pain, all of which are made worse by the foods this diet cuts out.
The reality: Vieira-Potter notes that this plan is one that can be beneficial for people looking to develop a healthier relationship with food. “It’s not all nutrition-based in terms of how it was designed,” she says. “It really focuses on the mind and our relationship with food.” For example, you can’t have pancakes on Whole30. Therefore, even if you replace all the ingredients with Whole30-approved ones, it still wouldn’t be allowed because the point of the diet is that you get used to not having pancakes. “You’re giving up comfort food,” she says. “It sort of jump starts a healthy relationship with food.”
The cycle of gaining and losing weight is proven to be an unhealthy pattern, Vieira-Potter notes, and should be taken into account when making a dramatic lifestyle change. Of course, each person is different and should talk to their doctor about a plan before starting any trendy diet.
Vieira-Potter notes that any person who begins a diet should talk to their doctor and remain under medical supervision during the duration of it.