The fad diet pretending not to be a fad diet…
The latest thing in the world of fad diets, is to strongly deny that you are in fact selling a fad diet!
I read a lot of books, and they are not all good. I read all sorts of books in the name of learning, including diet books. I make it my business to read lots of diet books, just so that I am aware of what’s going on in the diet industry and I am constantly looking to learn, to pick up nuggets of information. In my experience, the great majority of fad diets actually do have some kind of science or common sense at their core, there is usually a good idea at the foundation, it’s just a shame that all too often it become lost in the commercialisation, or twisted all out of shape in the excessive detail.
And so it is this week, I am reading a diet book, it’s rather well known, so I shall not name the book, as I am not in the business of speaking ill of others, but the text has amused me, and I wanted to share it with you.
Throughout the book, from the very start, the text repeatedly states that this is not a fad diet, that “unlike most fad diets, this…” is different, and that ‘they don’t work’, but what’s in this book does. The book explains that “when you are on [this system] you are not on a constant treadmill, dieting all the time” but then in the very next sentence, it explains that you have ‘diet days’ and ‘non-diet days’ and so if you want a bar of chocolate, just have the will power to resist it one day and then… “You can have it tomorrow”!
Oh my word!
Throughout this best-selling book, and I must have read statements that “this is different, this is not a fad diet” at least twenty to twenty five times. Yet here are some of the other things I have read – quoted directly from the text:
“While you are doing it” [The diet, they mean.]
“Our regime of exercises”
The book states that “…in order to be effective, the method…needs to go on holiday with you…you need to be able to do it in the office…you need to be able to cope with Christmas” and then on those same pages, they spell out strict days counting calories, strict days checking your macros, balancing proteins and carbs, and they spell out meal timings and when you should eat.
The book is even called “The [X name] Diet” – surely that’s a sign of a diet???!!!??
“Unlike deprivation diets…on this plan…tomorrow there may be pancakes for breakfast, wine with supper, apple pie with cream.”
The text instructs you to “cut your calories on [this] day”…but tomorrow “you can eat as normal.”
“Tomorrow you can eat as normal” – is the very stereotypical wording of a fad diet! Modify your behaviour X way for a few days, massively cutting calories, then eat chocolate bars and apple pie tomorrow!! If that’s not a fad diet, I don’t know what is!
The book talks constantly of weight loss as the primary goal, and of cutting and counting calories as the principle method to achieve this weight loss, of severely calorie restricted days, it spells out low calorie recipes, daily meal plans for low calorie days, and then uses phrases like “Unlike full-time fad diets, you’ll still get pleasure from food, you’ll still have treats…” They are trying to distance themselves from the world of ‘slimming clubs’ which restrict calories but award ‘sin points’ or ‘red points’ to treats, allowing you ‘a little of what you fancy’ within a system of counting numbers – calories, macros, sins, sugar, etc. Yet in effect, this diet is exactly the same – caloric restriction some days, and ‘eat your treats’ on others.
The book describes the dangers of ‘hedonic eating’ and the text claims to understand emotional or ‘comfort eating’, and then talks about how “popcorn makes a movie more of a treat” and a “tub of ice cream beats the blues”. The text guides the reader “While you should try to resist hedonic eating on [diet days], you can bask in the knowledge that, if you please, you can give in to a little temptation the following day.”
It’s as much of a fad as anything else I have seen!
Despite telling the reader to follow “our regime of exercises” the book makes no further mention of exercise, it’s all on just two pages, suggesting you do a few minutes per day, several days per week, and it describes one short, precise routine (the whole thing is about six minutes) which is highly prescriptive and likely not suitable for everyone.
Then the closing third of the book is meal plans, day plans, week plans, and recipes, all with the number of calories listed for each meal and serving. To my very experienced eyes, everything about this book smacks of a fad diet. The low calorie days they prescribe certainly could not “go on holiday with you” or “cope with Christmas” without completely interfering with your holiday. The book devotes only two pages to the subject of exercise, yet devotes three times that much space to talking about coping with hunger
and overcoming the desires/cravings to eat.
Now, to be clear, this is a well known, popular, mainstream diet book, and from what I can tell, for many people, it’s actually pretty effective. I am not naming the book because I don’t want it to sound as though I am putting it down – I’m not! It’s actually based on some pretty decent science and it’s reasonably healthy, safe and, it would seem, effective. With the exception of dumb quotes about eating chocolate bars and ice cream “tomorrow” they mostly suggest eating fresh whole foods and the recipes all look pretty good. So I am not putting down this diet – I am just amazed that a diet which has all the hallmarks of a fad (the book is called ‘The [X name] Diet’, calorie restriction, calorie counting, one-size-fits-all numbers and plans, set size meals and recipes, talk of treats and tomorrow, treat days and starving days, etc.,) can so vehemently argue that it is not a fad diet!
It all got me thinking…does Mother Nature’s Diet have the hallmarks of a fad diet too?
Well, it seems we fall at the first hurdle – we have the word ‘diet’ in the name! Oh how that pains me!! I used the word ‘diet’ with the intention that it means “the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group” not the modern connotation of “a temporary set of eating behaviours engaged for the purposes of weight loss” but it has always been a worry having the word diet in the name!
Beyond that, what other dietary pitfalls does Mother Nature’s Diet entail? Well, it’s not temporary, it’s a permanent, sustainable lifestyle. There is no calorie counting, no counting your macros, no detailed specific meal plans, meal timings or checking numbers, no points or counting or using a calculator. There are no ‘sins’, ‘syns’ or ‘treats’…just Core Principle 12, the 90/10 Rule, which says “get it right 90% of the time and don’t worry too much about the last 10%”.
I guess the biggest ‘danger sign’ of a fad diet in Mother Nature’s Diet is the removal of an entire food group – Core Principle 1, quit eating processed grains. Some would say that’s a sign of a fad diet, but I believe that most people (most, not all) are better off cutting out 95% of those bulky starchy foods, and I have heard from hundreds of people following this advice who enjoy the benefits.
I do offer some recipes, but they are not prescriptive, and you adjust the serving size depending on you and your needs. Mother Nature’s Diet is about a lot more than food – out of 12 Core Principles, only two of them actually tell you what to eat. Four tell you what not to eat (twice as many guidelines, as it’s twice as important) and four cover exercise and lifestyle. That’s a much healthier balance than a book that is just about food.
So I think Mother Nature’s Diet passes the test, it’s a healthy lifestyle, not a fed diet. But of course, I am biased, because I know I designed it all this way. What do you think?
Watch out for those fad diets out there. Research shows that fad diets rarely work long term for most people. Far too many people start on a plan that is not a sustainable way to live long term – they lose weight while they follow the plan, but as soon as they revert back to ‘normal eating’ they put the weight back on again!
Stay away from that crazy cycle! Stick with Mother Nature’s Diet, it’s a sustainable, abundant, enjoyable way to live, forever.