I recently attended a conference at the NYU School of Medicine, titled Dietary Strategies for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction. The objective of the conference was to educate health care providers about the importance of diet as a crucial component in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The diets that were discussed have a body of evidence behind them, (epidemiologic and clinical studies), to help support this recommendation – the Mediterranean diet and the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Overall, both diets emphasize moderate amounts of low-fat dairy, low sodium, low saturated-fat and plenty of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
To me, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH eating plans are not ‘diets’ in the popular sense that we are used to. They are lifestyles that can be sustained for the long haul because they don’t restrict, eliminate or deprive you. They don’t require countless hours of counting and subtracting or require a PhD to help read the labels. This conference made me realize that these plans backed by science have never had their real moments in the spotlight. Where are their Instagram moments? How come we never hear about a celebrity following the DASH diet?
One popular diet (ahem, fad) that has earned fame over the past few years on social media is the Whole30 program. By avoiding sugar, dairy, legumes, and all grains, this program claims to “change your life in 30 days.” That means no high protein, whole grains like freekah or quinoa or fiber rich beans. What’s left? Fruits, vegetables and meat. How boring! The Whole30 creators claim that the program will cure infertility, skin problems, diabetes, mental health issues, insomnia, and the list goes on. When I searched for evidence to back up these claims, all I could find was a few testimonials in the book.
If the evidence is not there, why are these restrictive diets so popular? My theory is that people only want to look in to the immediate future for change. Our society still values thinness over health. We want to be able to control what we eat for a short period time and don’t mind if it is restrictive – as long as the results are fast. I am sorry to say that this just doesn’t work. Research about a popular weight loss show has uncovered more evidence that supports the failure and potential dangers associated with extreme dieting. My advice is to avoid dieting at all costs and stick to a lifetime of eating what you enjoy with plenty of whole foods. Try to think of food as fuel for your body and accept your body and shape. To me, this is a fad that will never go out of style. What do you think?