Inside Scoop: Fad diets are not one size fits all. Read about the health pitfalls of following a trendy diet and the latest in the F-Factor scandal.
What is a fad Diet?
Sometimes we write about diets, but we don’t like diets, no one does. But, what is a diet anyway?
According to Merriam Webster a diet is:
- food and drink regularly provided or consumed
- habitual nourishment
- the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
- d: a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight
But really, a diet is just the type of nourishment you consistently provide your body with.
However, when most of us think of diets, we think of a period of regimented restricted eating until we shed enough pounds to reach our societally influenced “goal” weight. Most don’t think of diets as a way to consume enough nutrients to fuel our bodies or a specific healthy lifestyle.
The word “diet” has quite a reputation in our society and has become a sort of dirty word in the nutrition community. Diet culture can be detrimental to not only our physical wellness, but our mental health as well. It’s been well documented that our portrayal of skinny, lithe, fit bodies in mainstream media has impacted us by increasing the number of people suffering from bulimia, anorexia, extreme exercise and depression amongst other mental health issues.
And while exercising is absolutely necessary for both physical and mental wellbeing, it’s been shown that excessively working out for more than three hours a day was associated with worse mental health than not exercising at all.
History of Diets
If you do a quick google search, and go down the rabbit hole of searching for the first fad diet, you will see that weight has been a topic of conversation since the 1800’s, when William Banting wrote about his success in losing weight when he replaced his excessive intake of bread, sugar and potatoes with mostly meat, fish and vegetables in the “Letter on Corpulence”.
Liquid diets have a very long history and the most popular liquid diet dates back to the 1940’s. Many of you may have heard about The Master Cleanse. It’s essentially an extremely restricted diet which calls for a concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper ingested six times a day for at least 10 days. This diet does not allow for any other foods.
A few years ago the infamous “Vogue” diet also made its rounds on the internet. It was printed in Vogue in 1977 and came from Helen Gurley Brown’s classic memoir, Sex and The Single Girl. Aside from the bizarre (unrecommended!) diet, it’s a very good read. Helen documents her journey to the top of the magazine publishing world in the 1960’s and her realization that everything would be much easier if she was just thin enough. She put herself through a restricted eating plan that included wine (a full bottle a day!), 3 eggs, 5oz of steak, and coffee.
THAT WAS IT!
Why have i never heard of the wine and eggs diet.
— Heather Heat Hardy (@HeatherHardyBox) August 14, 2018
I’m sure many of you are noticing some key items missing from this diet … fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates. This diet lacks in complete nutrition by avoiding all fiber, healthy fats and consisting mostly of protein. Eating this way for a prolonged period of time can have really unhealthy effects on the gastro-intestinal tract. It’s no wonder this diet also called for a laxative.
Diane McMartin tried this diet and documented it on The Kitchn, and posed an interesting question.
“How did ’70s people survive this? Was it because everyone smoked and Quaaludes were still legal?”
She also documents how sad she was every evening for the three days that she tried this diet. Food is not just fuel for our bodies to work, but it also helps us balance our hormones like serotonin which makes us happy. The diet included wine which is a known depressant and excluded foods that contain dairy, fructose, and omega-3’s all of which are known to increase serotonin levels.
There are countless more fad diets that have been the “It” diet of the season. We’ve had the Atkins diet, which was the most popularized high protein diet of our time. It originally gained popularity because it focused on food that were “free” to consume in copious quantities versus foods that were to be restricted. The diet called for as much protein and fat as the consumer wanted and restricted only carbs.
Atkins diet stemmed from the freedom it offers to consume as much protein and fat (for example meat, fish, chicken, eggs and cheese) as the dieter wishes, while carbohydrate intake must be restricted to no more than 20g a day, initially.
Atkins diet is still around today and they’ve adjusted a lot of their lingo since their 1960 start. They’ve rebranded and now have a 3-step system for reducing carbs and then re-introducing them back into the diet after a period of time. Atkins 20®: A Low Carb Ketogenic Diet is the new name of the Atkins classic diet.
As you see it’s very similar to the newly popularized Ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets are high fat, high protein, and are extremely low in carb to the point that the body goes into ketosis, hence the name. A healthy body, where everything works as it should, will break down carbohydrates from a meal for energy first, then it will break down fat and protein. When in ketosis, the body breaks down fat first, because there were no carbs consumed, and will eventually go to the fat stores in the body to create more energy, ultimately burning fat, and helping the body to lose weight that way.
That seems like an easy trick to lose weight quickly, so why don’t we think this is a great diet to follow?
Well besides the fact that we don’t believe in fad diets because they cause disordered eating, including a slew of other health reasons, there are real health risks involved with any diet that deprives the body of certain nutrients. A ketogenic diet can cause anything from extremely low blood sugar levels to joint pain and even gout.
Low Carb Diets Today
We can go on and on forever about the myriad of fad diets that we’ve read about, heard about from celebrities, our friends, and our families. This post is not meant to be a cliffs notes version of every diet out there. We don’t necessarily want to promote them.
It’s important to shed light on a low carb lifestyle as it’s recently been resurged in another very shiny new diet touted as “The F-Factor Diet”. I feel especially compelled to write about it, as I somehow got pulled into this world.
I first learned about the diet from my cousin who was shedding for her wedding. Which in and of itself is an issue. Women for ages have been dieting before their big day…and we have to ask. Why? What is it about our culture that stigmatizes women looking like their lovely selves on their wedding day? Your shape and body got you to a meaningful and loving relationship, to a place where someone chose you to be their partner forever, why would you not be good enough to walk down the aisle to say “I do” just as you were when they first posed the question to you? This is a question we’ve been asking ourselves for a long time, and diet culture is strong enough to lure even the most confident minds.
So what is the F-Factor diet? Well, as my cousin told me, “It’s super easy. You can eat whatever you want as long as you negate the carbs you’re eating with fiber. It’s just a high fiber lifestyle.” Well, that seemed simple enough. I quickly ordered the book.
The F-Factor diet was enticing. The founder is Tanya Zuckerbrot. She is slim, with shiny hair, a great big white smile. She has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, seemingly loving children, a tall handsome husband and all the designer duds you can only dream of. When you think back to our entire existence as women and the diet culture that was imposed on us since birth, it’s easy to be mesmerized by Tanya and the promises of happiness and wealth. F-factor made it all seem attainable. The diet was easy enough and there were plenty of Instagram micro-influencers pushing the diet as well. Everyone from Healthy with Nedi, to Lashes and Lemons to Jule the Bee were pushing this diet. Somewhere Lately frequently went on IG stories to proclaim that they were “naughty” over the weekend and had to start on Step 1 of the diet on Monday. Adding extra fiber was super easy with the F-Factor 20/20 protein fiber powder. Like my cousin I was adding a scoop of the vanilla powder to my coffee every morning. It tasted great and added fiber to my diet. Two birds with one stone.
Step 1 of the diet also recommended 8 GG Crackers a day. Each cracker packs a whopping 4 grams of fiber. 8 day is 32 grams of fiber. Wow….it couldn’t be easier, right? Plus they promote drinking. It’s a diet a NYC girl can follow easily and not cramp her lifestyle.
So what is the problem with this diet?
What went wrong with F-factor?
Well, what always goes wrong with a fad diet. People eventually get the wool removed from their eyes and realize that a highly restrictive way of living comes with a price. LiLi Hayim MS, RD, of the popular account TheWellNecessities first voiced her issues with the diet. Our bodies are not meant to consume that much fiber. The American Heart Association Eating Plan suggests eating a variety of food fiber sources. Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not supplements.
The glitz and glamour took away from common sense and investigating on my own here. The diet itself purported a disordered way of eating. Tanya encouraged those who followed the diet to track every single morsel of carbohydrates and fiber that they consumed in a day. Tracking everything one consumes might work for some, but overall it can take the joy out of eating and can turn into obsessive and compulsive behavior. It turns food from fuel and sometimes pleasure to something potentially evil.
Soon after Emily Gellis, a fellow Instagram influence mentioned some adverse effects of the F-factor 20/20 powders that she heard about, she started getting an influx of messages from women reporting health issues that they’ve encountered since beginning the diet and consuming the powders and protein bars produced by f-factor. Health issues reported vary from rashes to swollen eyes and lips, to having parts of the intestines removed to even miscarriages.
Whether all of these issues can be directly related to the diet, the overconsumption of fiber and the consumption of the 20/20 powders is still to be seen.
All the influencers that helped popularize the diet over the last few years have walked away from it, some quietly, some with some mention and some have publicly apologized for promoting and perpetuating diet culture. All have course-corrected to promoting a lifestyle of eating whole foods and obtaining nutrients that way versus powders and bars.
The saga with the diet continues, and how the story ultimately plays out may depend on the lawyers Tanya’s team hires, however some conclusions can be made now.
There is no magic wand, no magic potion that can make us happy with our bodies. Years of conditioning by our parents, our peers, and the media make it incredibly hard for us to love ourselves as we are, but we have to persevere. Our bodies are our temples, and we need to treat ourselves with care, respect, and tenderness. I implore you all to do your own research and work with a medical professional when seeking to make major changes to your body, and even then please seek a second opinion. We’re all just trying our best, even doctors.
And we can all name about 100 foods that taste better than skinny feels.
Gotta go…my cauliflower crust pizza is ready!