This article is an Op-ed. The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Evie Magazine.
Food has been villainized, and people are finding it harder than ever to strike a proper, healthy balance with diet and exercise. Women - who are often the targets of fad diets - should be especially wary of pursuing health in such a fashion. Let’s explore some of today’s top diet trends and why they should be avoided.
Intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of eating and fasting (typically 12- or 24- hour periods). This can be harmful to someone who is already in a low weight range, is pregnant or breastfeeding, or is susceptible to eating disorders (as it has a strong association with bulimia). Intermittent fasting can also lead to increased cortisol levels, which can throw your hormones off balance. It may also have a negative impact on your mood and anxiety levels, as fasting affects the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Fasting has been done since the beginning of time, so it can definitely be effective for some. But if you are underweight, pregnant, or breastfeeding I would avoid this diet.
This can be harmful to someone who is already in a low weight range, is pregnant or breastfeeding, or is susceptible to eating disorders.
1,200 Calories Diet
Many claim that tracking calories and remaining at or below 1,200 a day is the ticket to weight loss. Apps, such as MyFitnessPal, enable people to easily record their daily calories. Robyn Nohling, a dietitian and nurse practitioner, explains how this diet starves the body of energy and nutrients, thereby slowing the metabolism and shutting down basic functioning (such as the menstrual cycle). She also addresses the mental and social aspect of such a strict diet, noting that it severely impacts our relationships with food, others, and ourselves. She writes, “Enjoying a slice of banana bread your neighbor baked or a accepting spontaneous lunch invite is hard to do when you’ve only got 1,200 calories to budget.”
The premise of the Paleo diet is that we should eat in the manner of our ancient ancestors, the cavemen. All foods that cannot be hunted or gathered should be avoided. Thus, the diet is severely low in carbohydrates. As Lara Briden, a doctor of naturopathic medicine who specializes in women’s health, explains, carbs are crucial for women. They support our immune system, thyroid function, and nervous system.
Carbs also provide necessary fiber and energy we need to get through the day. Furthermore, without adequate carbohydrates, women cannot ovulate. A low-carb diet puts women at risk for amenorrhea, hypothyroidism, and high cortisol levels (among other things).
Carbs are crucial for women. They support our immune system, thyroid function, and nervous system.
The Ketogenic diet - which is high in proteins and fats and avoids carbs - poses many of the same issues as Paleo. It forces the body into a state of ketosis (burning fat for energy). Several female experts have slammed this diet because it eliminates extremely necessary food groups and nutrients. Due to its emphasis on fats, it may also increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Finally, this highly restrictive diet is simply not sustainable, and typically ends up in weight gain, despite initial weight loss.
It should go without saying, then, that a “low-carb” diet - such as J. Lo and A-Rod’s No-Sugar-No-Carbs Challenge - is detrimental to one’s health. J. Lo’s diet does not allow nutritious foods such as bananas, apples, and yogurt. One should be immediately skeptical of any diet that excludes healthy whole foods. The main problem with this diet, like paleo and keto, is the carbohydrate restriction and the imposed strictness that is not only unsustainable, but also leads to a bad relationship with food.
One should be immediately skeptical of any diet that excludes healthy whole foods.
The idea of a juice cleanse is to rid the body of toxins. However, according to Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis, the body does not need assistance in this task. Cleanses can do more harm than good. They are low in protein, which leads to weakened bones, brittle hair and nails, and muscle loss. They are also very low in calories, quickly sending one into starvation mode if done for too long. If that isn’t enough, juice cleanses end up costing a pretty penny. Many plans end up being around 70 dollars a day. They’ll leave you feeling weak, and your wallet feeling empty.
Restricting one’s intake, cutting out entire food groups, and elevating diet to a religion generally reaps only negative physical and mental health consequences. Women need a balanced diet that encompasses all nutrients for optimal functioning. Most of today’s fad diets leave us lacking in one or more departments. They also are not feasible long-term and often lead to rebound weight gain. The mental consequences can be just as severe, leaving dieters obsessed with - or even scared of - food, unable to engage in social activities, and far too concerned with following arbitrary food rules. Your worth is not found in your diet, but that can be difficult to remember in the midst of a strict regimen.
Your worth is not found in your diet, but that can be difficult to remember in the midst of a strict regimen.
Ultimately, what works is mindful eating, intuitive eating, or simply following the 80/20 rule. All of these focus on finding balance without imposing hard and fast rules, eating a variety of healthful foods, and remembering that life is more than “perfection” on your plate. Women’s bodies can do amazing things if we treat them properly - that is, as living, changing beings rather than robots designed solely to achieve and maintain a toned abdomen.