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Celebrity “Diets” that Don’t Work

Flip through any magazine, and chances are there is some version of “celebrity diet tips” or “how she lost the baby weight!” in each one. Celebrities have been known to try some unusual foods (recall the “baby food diet”?). Some fads disappear quickly, but others have a tendency to stick around. Here is my list of the six celebrity food trends that need to go away.

Juicing

I can’t tell you how many people I see making this mistake. They swing by a juice bar and pick up a 16oz fresh juice, convinced that it’s “healthy” because it’s full of fruits and vegetables. While you are getting a lot of vitamins and minerals, you are also getting a huge dose of sugar. And since the juicing process removes all the fiber from the produce, there is nothing to slow down the digestion of these sugars. You end up with a similar blood sugar rise as you’d get from drinking soda, with a subsequent crash an hour or two later. A better choice is to eat the whole fruit or vegetables and pair with some protein and fat to help keep you full for longer.

Alkaline diet

The alkaline diet is based on the idea that the foods you eat can alter the acidity or alkalinity (the pH value) of your body. It promotes eating a variety of alkaline foods, and skipping foods that cause the body to produce acid. While its proponents claim that the diet can help maintain the pH of your blood, thereby preventing certain diseases and promoting weight loss, the fact is that our body very carefully regulates the pH of our blood, and the foods you eat aren’t going to change it substantially. Unlike many fad diets, the foods the alkaline diet promotes are good for you, including lots of vegetables and fruit, nuts, legumes, plenty of water and decreased sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. These nutrition principles could benefit most people, but not because it is going to alkalinize their blood.

Apple cider vinegar

Adding a few spoonfuls a day of vinegar to sounds like an easy way to lose weight. Unfortunately, this falls into the realm of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The basis of this “diet” revolves around research that showed how apple cider vinegar slowed digestion, leading people to conclude that it keeps you full for longer. While one small research study showed it resulted in weight loss, people lost just one to two pounds of weight over 12 weeks (and then gained it back after). While adding apple cider vinegar isn’t likely to cause harm, if you want to lose weight, you still need to practice portion control and exercise.

Activated Charcoal

This is one of the latest in a long line of supplements marketed as “detox” agents (remember raspberry ketones?). Proponents claim that it rids your body of toxins, promotes better digestion, improves your skin, is anti-aging, and can help with your mood. None of these claims stack up. While doctors do use charcoal to treat poisoning, but it works by binding with the poison or drug while it is in your stomach, before it gets absorbed by your body. So the idea that activated charcoal will cleanse your body from toxins doesn’t make sense, as it will only bind to things in your stomach and small intestine. This could be a problem, as charcoal doesn’t discriminate between “good” or “bad” nutrients, so you could end up absorbing fewer vitamins and minerals.

Bone broth

Over the past few years, celebrities have been touting the benefits of bone broth more and more. Bone broth is the liquid that remains after animal bones are boiled in water. There is nothing new about bone broth, chefs and home cooks have been using animal parts to make broth for ages. While bone broth is a good source of fluid, protein, vitamins, and minerals, it isn’t the miracle food that many make it out to be. While it is fine as part of a well-balanced diet, there is no evidence that it can cure aches, pains, diseases, or wrinkles.

Clean eating

As a dietitian, I am thrilled that more and more people are focused on eating whole foods, and are cutting back on highly processed foodstuff. I also love that people are reading labels and ingredient lists, and cooking from scratch more often. This trend has been referred to as “clean eating”, which drives me a little nuts. Clean eating implies that other foods are “dirty,” making you sick, causing diseases, contributing to weight gain. This label assigns a moral value to your food where none exists. Plus, since there is no objective definition, everyone has a different idea of what is “clean.” While whole, minimally processed foods is the way to go, it can be taken to the extreme with the clean eating trend.

What’s the problem with celebrity food trends?

I get it – celebrities look good. So when they tout a diet, it’s understandable to want to try it out. The problem is, dieting doesn’t work. No diet is sustainable for the long-term, and what happens when you get tired of the diet and go back to eating normally? You regain the weight you lost. Your best bet is to balance out your diet, following the 80/20 strategy. Eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods 80% of the time, allowing for indulgences for the remaining 20%.

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