Many people start dieting in the summer – yet many diet fads, such as the keto diet, can be super dangerous. What other diet myths can we bust?
Summertime. Easily the best time of year, especially for us New Englanders. Beach days, drinking froze on a patio, sailing on the harbor, scarfing down a lobster roll by the dock, what’s not to love??
Well, it’s no coincidence that once the weather gets warmer, all of a sudden everywhere you look, there’s a new advertisement or article telling you that now is the time to start your “summer diet” and get “summer body ready.”
“Shed 20 pounds in 2 weeks with the Keto diet!”
“Blast your fat today and lose 10 inches on the TB12 diet!”
“Intermittent Fasting – where you starve yourself for 20+ hours a day and feel great!”
Keto diet. Atkins diet. Carnivore diet. Paleo diet. Gluten-free diet. Drink nothing but water diet. Okay, you get the point…
The list goes on and on and on.
But did you know that most of these diets that are marketed to us to feel our best are actually unhealthy, bad for your body, and neglect valuable nutrients that you body needs?
Let’s crack the code on 2019’s top diet myths.
Diet Myth #1 – Carbs Make you Fat
When it comes to diet myths and misconceptions, this is the front runner.
It all started back in the early 1970s when Dr. Atkins (Atkins diet) published his book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, claiming that eating carbs was linked to weight gain and the prevention of weight loss. As this diet trend got more buzz, other diet trends appeared that followed the notion that carbs are bad; the South Beach diet, Dukan diet, and the Keto diet.
The idea that “carbs are bad” has left many people confused about carbohydrates and their importance for our health, and has created a negative viewpoint around them.
So, why do we need carbs?
Besides the fact that carbs make us feel good (and taste delicious!), our bodies need them to function properly.
Carbs are the body’s main source of energy in a healthy, balanced diet. They are broken down into glucose (sugar) which is used by the body to fuel all the body’s activities, whether that is going for a run, or just simply breathing.
Healthy sources of carbs, such as higher fiber starchy foods, vegetables, fruits and legumes, are a vitally important source of nutrients, providing calcium, iron and B vitamins (to name a few) to your body. Reducing your carb intake from your diet could result in long-term nutrient deficiencies which could lead to health problems.
Be Carb Smart
Instead of cutting out carbs from your diet when you want to be “healthier” or lose weight, make more nutrient-dense choices when selecting your carb sources. Fruits, healthy starches, legumes, and vegetables – these are all excellent carb sources that will have you feeling satisfied and energized.
Diet Myth #2 – The Keto-Diet: Where low-fat = weight loss
The Keto diet has peaked it’s popularity as it got lots of attention this past year from Instagram Influencers and celebrities preaching that this low-carb, high-fat diet is the key to weight loss.
What exactly is the keto diet?
The keto diet aims to activate the metabolic process called ketosis, when our bodies use fat for energy instead of sugar. The crazy thing about the keto diet is that individuals on this diet claim they have more energy and feel better than ever, yet they are consuming very high amounts of saturated fat (heavy creams, bacon, mass amounts of butter, etc).
But does it work?
Yes, the keto diet typically works for its users at the beginning. By practicing any form of diet restriction, whether that be limiting carbs or fat, your body will see a change. But the challenge with the keto diet is that it’s not a long-term solution, it’s a quick fix. When you want to come off the keto diet and go back to your “normal” eating routine, it’s a challenge for the body to adjust and weight that was lost is typically gained back.
Eliminating carbs from your diet, especially healthy ones, not only poses health risks, but it also encourages disordered eating and labeling certain food groups as “good” and “bad”.
Instead of following the keto approach and keeping your carb intake extremely low, look at all the different food groups as groups that are important to incorporate into your everyday diet. Use your plate as your baseline and fill up half your plate with veggies, and break up the other half between carbs, protein, and good fats.
Diet Myth #3 – Eating gluten-free is beneficial to everyone
Gluten-free has been the buzz word of 2019. And 2018, and 2017…If you weren’t voluntarily giving up gluten at some point this past decade, were you even cool?
But in all seriousness, avoiding gluten has become a food component that is to be avoided these days. Going gluten-free does have life-changing effects for those who have celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. But, if you do not test positive for celiac disease, and have no medical evidence to show you should be avoiding gluten, you should not be cutting gluten out of your diet.
Tricia Thompson, R.D., a Massachusetts-based dietitian and founder of glutenfreedietitian.com, focuses her practice on what it’s like to be gluten-free and how to follow this diet and lifestyle. She has shared on various posts throughout her site that if you don’t have a medical reason for following a gluten-free diet, “there’s probably no benefit.” When people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance go gluten-free, “they do feel better and more energetic,” says Thompson, “but that’s only because they were feeling so sick before.” If you don’t have a medical reason for not eating gluten, you shouldn’t expect such results.
Why does gluten make me feel fatigued then?
Most individual’s claim they should be going gluten-free because after eating a big bowl of pasta or a heavy sandwich, they feel tired, so it must be the gluten. This feeling of fatigue is very normal with any large consumption of carbs due to elevated insulin or blood sugar level, not because of the gluten.
Why is this diet so popular?
Influencers, celebrities, and “fitness professionals” online have made crazy claims that going gluten-free is the answer to all problems – joint pain, fatigue, gut inflammation, headaches, and more. But these claims are based off of zero scientific evidence when it comes to individuals who do not test positive for celiac disease.
Gluten-free junk food is still junk food at the end of the day, so is it really any better for you than what you’re already eating?
As you can see, these diet myths have a lot in common, especially when it comes to depriving your body from nutrients that it needs. By depriving ourselves of these various food groups, it creates continued confusion and a culture of extremism that is not healthy or sustainable for everyone.
If you want to make long-term, positive changes to your diet, you can’t rely on restriction. Making healthy choices and creating healthy habits comes with an understanding of your own lifestyle, what makes you feel good, and shifting your energy towards healthier eating habits that are developed through behavior changes that last a lifetime. -IA
Isabelle Atkinson is a fitness instructor, wellness coach, project manager, and founder of the Wildflower Project. After pursuing a career in fitness, she realized that the true passion she had for fitness and helping other women was also tied to mental health and body image; two issues she is open about struggling with throughout her life. From there, Wildflower Project was born – an initiative to bring women together to connect and share about mental health and body image, and to break the stigma of what these struggles look like. When she’s not working, she’s either spending time with her boyfriend and french bulldog, eating her way around the city, or volunteering at Unity Farm Sanctuary.