On any given day, 20 percent of Americans will say they’re on a diet. I’ve rarely been the exception. In the past, I’ve tried them all based on trending suggestions: I’ve eliminated adult foods via the baby food diet. I’ve turned to cabbage soup for a miracle. I’ve ditched food completely and mixed cayenne pepper, lemon juice, maple syrup and water for a “10-day Master Cleanse.” I’ve tried everything short of mindfully ingesting a tapeworm (yes, people really do this). Almost every one of my efforts yielded the same result. I’d find myself curled up in bed hungrily singing the lyrics, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Then, the next day I’d be eating an entire pizza…just for breakfast.
Through each of these cycles, I lacked a sense of how the diet du jour was intended to positively affect my body and didn’t bother asking questions like “how does this work?” I only knew I wanted to feel “healthy,” and turned to magazines, TV personalities, friends and the like for quick fixes. So, it didn’t come as a surprise when Jimmy Kimmel recently interviewed some health-conscious Los Angeles pedestrians and found they knew little about their own gluten-free diets.
If they don’t know what gluten is, then why are they eliminating it from their diet? As Kimmel aptly pointed out, “Everybody has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t be putting into your body.” Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded with insights into what ingredients should be added or removed to live the healthiest lifestyle. What’s more, many times these tips lack scientific rationale, and similar to trends in fashion and entertainment, spread quicker than wild fire. Gluten is just one of endless examples.
Fad diets and nutrition trends are often delivered via traditional media, and further fueled through word of mouth and social platforms. Consider the low-fat diet craze that swept the nation. A few years ago perhaps your neighbor read in her favorite publication that fat was the ultimate dietary enemy. She shared the insight with others on the train, and they each posted about their favorite low-fat foods on their Facebook page. Before long, health-minded folks outright banned full-fat foods because they “heard they were bad.” Fast forward to present day, and consumers are now learning research does not fully support this theory of fat elimination. In fact, elimination of any food group rarely proves a successful tactic.
Through collaboration with a network of registered dietitians as part of our daily work at Allidura, I’ve learned that hyper focus on any one ingredient is never a good thing. The best way to a healthy lifestyle is to track calorie consumption, establish a consistent exercise routine, and pay close attention to relevant, meaningful nutrition research. Of course, those who have certain health ailments – such as celiac disease – have specific dietary needs. But for the mass population of us simply trying to achieve the healthiest body possible, it’s important to remember that you can’t blame one ingredient, food or drink for your jeans being snug, despite what the trending diets say.
We as consumers can feel most empowered by asking the question, “why?” when receiving dietary advice and then following up with a healthcare professional for additional and necessary insight. When it comes to your body, more than anything, knowledge is power.
Erica Florentine is a member of CCC’s Allidura team. This post originally appeared on Allidura’s blog, All’s Well.