This article really should be entitled "How to spot a diet that won't actually help you" and "How to spot the warning signs that your diet is going to be miserable." But that's not quite as exciting, is it?
From Oprah to Beyonce, to Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, we take celebrity diets as the means to thinness, health, and happiness. Thinness = health = happiness. That's what we are led to believe.
Let's review a case study. Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen for example, follow a really specific, really strict diet. Brady attributes his athletic accomplishments to his diet. He follows an "80 percent alkaline, and 20 percent acidic" diet in order to "maintain balance and harmony through his metabolic system." Too bad our bodies don't auto-regulate acid-base balance (they do, they do!). Tom and Gisele eat 80 percent vegetables and whole grains, and 20 percent fish and lean meats; they stay away from sugar; white flour; and nightshades such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, potatoes and certain berries.
Now is a diet that is high in vegetables and whole grains bad? Absolutely not. Is is generally a good idea to reduce refined sugars and grains? Your body will likely thank you.
Are you going to be less healthy by eating tomatoes and certain berries that are considered nightshades? What? No! There's no scientific evidence that indicates that nightshades cause inflammation in the general population. Since nightshades are plants, many are good sources of vitamin C and other vitamins that are actually anti-inflammatory.
Brady reported that he has never eaten a strawberry. What is so wrong with strawberries? What a horrible, strawberry-free life. He also avoids iodized salt, coffee, fungi and dairy.
Now let's put this into perspective: Brady is an exceptional athlete, and this statement is coming from a Washington-raised Seahawks fan. If such a restrictive diet allows him to feel and play his best — as long as he isn't deficient in any vitamins, minerals or calories — that's fine for him.
"I don't believe you could be a 39-year-old quarterback in the NFL and eat cheeseburgers every day," Brady told nymag.com back in September. "I want to be able to do what I love to do for a long time."
It's no question that subsiding off of cheeseburgers wouldn't allow really anyone (except maybe a teenage boy) to play at their optimal capacity, but we're looking at nearly polar opposite sides of the eating spectrum. What's so wrong with a little balance and food enjoyment like the occasional cheeseburger?
In our real, noncelebrity athlete life, where our livelihoods aren't dependent on athletic feats, are diets like this (or any restrictive diet) really worth it?
First of all, there's no scientific backing to support that the acidity/alkalinity of individual foods actually affects our metabolic system, or anything else. Actually, the creator of the alkaline diet, Robert O. Young, has actually been convicted of practicing medicine without a license in the state of California. Does that sound very legitimate?
What's even worse and more significant than the bogus nature of such diets is what they lead to — tons of work and obsession with thinness and food. That's one aspect of eating that we often neglect, but it's one of the most important considerations to make.
Lots of accounts of following celebrity diets can be found across the web. The overarching theme from editorials about following such diets is that they're generally miserable (like these features from People, New York magazine, and Buzzfeed).
That's one extremely important consideration to make.
Is a diet so miserable and takes so much effort to follow that other, important aspects of life have to be let go?
For an athlete, who has a team and medical support to ensure he's being properly nourished, this diet may be OK — but for the rest of us who don't have access to laboratory testing, a personal chef, and everything else that it takes to maintain a regimented and time-consuming diet, it's not worth it.
And even more importantly, strict diets set us up for failure. We seek out such diets to feel good about ourselves, but diets like this typically end up leaving us with some regained weight, frustrated with ourselves and really disliking our bodies. None of this leads to a happy or productive life. Our time is valuable, as is our happiness.
I wish Tom and Gisele all the career success, and a healthy, happy, goiter-free life.
Happiness is not found in a diet.
Stop connecting the dots between a hot body and happiness, your body looking a certain way will not make you happy. Taking care of yourself, doing things you actually enjoy, making a positive impact on the world, that is what makes us happy. None of that has anything to do with how we look, and actually, it has everything to do with the opposite.
So to answer that question in the title — if you want to lose weight rapidly, be miserable and regain all that weight afterward, then, yes, it really may work. You'll end up right back where or worse off compared to when you started.
Or you can work to improve how you view your body and separate reality from this pretend photoshopped world.
What could you accomplish if you spend less time thinking about how you look and more time doing things you actually enjoy and improving the world around you?
You can be on your way to a fulfilling and productive life by following these simple tips to feel comfortable in your skin right here. And no they have nothing to do with how your body looks because you deserve better.
Do you feel bad about your body after looking at images on Instagram or other social media outlets? Do you have family or acquaintances who comment on your weight or body that led you to feel bad about yourself? Take note of those triggers so you know what affects how you view your body.
Take time to recognize and acknowledge what your body allows you to do. Focusing on this rather than how your body looks is important to feel better about yourself and acknowledge aspects about you that actually matter. If you can't find anything to be grateful about your body, consider listening to the "Secular Buddhism" podcast.
Find activities that you love, focus your energy on moving your body and hobbies that bring satisfaction to your life.
Stay away from certain triggers that affect how you view your own body. Back to step 1, if a certain social media account doesn't do much to empower you to love your body, stop following them. Even if they're an acquaintance or friend. It's empowering. If you have people in your life who make negative comments about your weight, body, or eating habits; find a way to let them know how such comments make you feel. Focusing on your experience is productive to changing your experiences.