Stuff I Hate–Fad Diets


By fad diets, I’m referring to any eating plan that eliminates whole types of food, uses pseudoscience, sells you stuff that you can only get from them and is not something you could be happy sticking to for the rest of your life.  I’m an advocate of Michael Pollan’s advice to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

I’ve always been interested in nutrition and have followed the rise and fall of different fads.  I’ve even tried a few myself.  I’ve seen foods condemned as deadly, then embraced as healthy, and vice versa.  My basic ideas of what a healthy diet is has not changed very much, though.  Yeah, I have added more olive oil over the years, more fish and more nuts and I’ve cut down on simple carbs like white bread and white rice, but it’s basically the same.

I’m lucky that I developed a love for vegetables early on.  When I was growing up in Florida there was a man with a truck full of veggies who would come around once a week.  Yes, in addition to the milk man, we had a veggie man.  I’ve enjoyed growing my own vegetables for the last 28 years or so. I am also lucky that I didn’t develop a taste for some things that aren’t so healthy, like steaks, ice cream (unless it’s homemade or in a milkshake) and soft drinks. 

I do understand why people want a quick fix and why they are eager to jump on the bandwagon of the newest fads.  I think people are confused by the conflicting information, even from experts, and rely a lot on anecdotal evidence and wishful thinking.  Of course if you restrict your calories and eat less than you usually do, you will lose weight.  Feeling good while you do it and keeping it off is entirely different. 

I wish people would give up on the idea that there is some magic solution to obesity.  There aren’t certain foods that are “evil.”  (Of course if you are lactose intolerant, allergic to shellfish or can’t eat gluten there are foods you should avoid.  But they’re still not deliberately trying to kill you.)  White flour is not poison.   Your body doesn’t care if you eat green food and blue food together, or never eat after 6 pm or drink 12 glasses of water a day.   And, sorry, but any diet that prohibits carrots, potatoes or bananas is just fucked up.  

Everyone needs to figure out for themselves what works best.  It’s a lot of hard work, with research and experimentation involved, and I understand the appeal of the fast food restaurant when you’re hungry and tired.   For me, what works best is eating six times a day, having a calorie goal for each meal, eating lots of fruits and veggies, eating high fiber foods like beans, having a lot of variety and limiting sugar to 2 tsp a day.  Now if I could only stick to that every day and avoid those indulgent restaurant meals….

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