While December tends to be the time we splurge on chocolate for breakfast and wine for dinner, January is the time when we bemoan the festivities and try to get back on track
But with every one trying to get back on the wagon (and money to be made in the process by the weight loss industry), the sheer volume of mixed messages about diets can be deafening.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has released its annual list of fad diets to avoid.
The 2017 year’s list features everything from clean eating to teatoxing, highlighting the potential dangers of adopting a “quick fix” weight loss plan.
Sian Porter, consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA, said: “It seems that as a nation we are constantly on the search for that magic bullet approach to losing weight, wanting a quick fix, taking things on face value and trusting anyone when it comes to nutrition, food and diet.”
“The truth is, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ask for evidence and get your advice from someone properly qualified and regulated with nothing to sell or promote.”
Instead she suggests making small, sustainable changes:
“Enjoy a rich variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes – moderation is key as well as being physically active. Losing weight is challenging and keeping it off is too, but it’s not impossible. Don’t make it even harder for yourself by following a fad.”
Here are the BDA’s five celebrity fad diets to avoid in 2017.
1. Clean Eating
What’s it all about? The idea is to avoid all processed foods and eat only ‘clean’ foods, by eliminating refined sugar, cooking from scratch, and choosing foods in their natural state. However some extreme versions of clean eating will exclude gluten, grains, dairy, and even in some cases encourage a raw-food diet.
BDA Verdict: Leave the cleaning for your kitchen work surface, not your food! Whilst it is beneficial to reduce refined sugar and limit processed food intake, the idea of foods being ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ is concerning. In some circumstances this way of thinking is a prelude to ‘Orthorexia Nervosa’ – an obsession with foods that the individual considers to be healthy, and elimination of any food that is deemed unhealthy.
In many cases, foods that are actually nutritionally beneficial are deemed as unhealthy such as those containing wholegrains, fruit and dairy, with no basis in scientific evidence. Unless you have a medically diagnosed intolerance or allergy to these foods, there is no need to eliminate them and doing so could lead to deficiencies in your diet.
Moreover, often clean eating substitute products – such as coconut oil, and various syrups to sweeten foods – are as high in calories, no better nutritionally and more expensive too.
2. Diet pills*
What’s it all about? Many of these pills claim to keep fat from being absorbed by your body, or ‘melt’ fat, whilst others claim to suppress appetite or boost metabolism.
BDA Verdict: Warning: danger! Diet pills should never be taken without first consulting your GP, pharmacist or dietitian as even regulated weight loss medicines on prescription can have nasty side effects including diarrhoea.
Alarmingly, there has been a rise in the number of diet pills for sale online – these products are often unregulated and can contain substances not licensed for human consumption like pesticides and have proven to be fatal.
*Those not prescribed by a medical professional.
What’s it all about? Teatoxing is short for ‘tea detoxing’ – these tea products have varying claims from detoxing the body, improving skin, reducing bloating and losing weight.
BDA Verdict: Tea-toxic! These teas often contain extra caffeine in the form of guarana or yerba mate, diuretic ingredients such as dandelion and nettle and the laxative, senna, which is not safe to take for longer than a week without medical supervision.
They might create the impression of weight loss and detoxification but this is usually water-weight loss. Any further weight loss would most likely be due to substituting these teas in the place of high calorie drinks or food or as part of fasting plan.
With the risk of the accompanying side effects such a diarrhoea, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, gut damage and a lack of scientific evidence, go “tea-total” on teatoxing.
4. The 6:1 diet
What’s it all about? The 6:1 diet involves eating like you usually do for six days and then for one day a week, some followers of this diet completely fast, meaning they don’t consume any food for 24 hours.
BDA Verdict: Hungry for attention or just plain hungry? Completely fasting unless properly managed is likely to lead to a lack of concentration, tiredness and low mood, which isn’t going to make you more productive.
There is no evidence that a diet like this would make you more creative either, and depending on your age, health and lifestyle, fasting could be dangerous.
If you want to go down the fasting route, it is important to choose an evidence-based plan and consult a medical professional to ensure that this is done in a healthy and safe way.
5. Green juices
What’s it all about? Another means of ‘detoxing’ and weight management, green juices are essentially juices or smoothies made up of various fruits, vegetables, powders etc. Fans claim benefits ranging from detoxing to rejuvenation and weight loss.
BDA Verdict: Juice-less! The body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself without the aid of these green liquid concoctions. Adding a green juice to an unhealthy diet is never going to make up for poor choices when it comes to food.
In addition, people add in ingredients like nuts, coconut oil and whole avocados to their green breakfast juices too – meaning these juices can add up to as much as 400 kcal per glass. If you are still eating your normal breakfast on top of this, you are more likely to gain weight from consuming more calories, rather than lose weight.
A green juice is not a magic fix! Keep your veg and fruit whole and limit juice/smoothies to 150ml per day.