A Masochist’s Guide To Fad Diets

The celebs do it. The question is, should you? And do these four trending diets actually work? Davelle Lee breaks them down so you can decide if the torture is worth it.

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The celebs do it. The question is, should you? And do these four trending diets actually work? Davelle Lee breaks them down so you can decide if the torture is worth it.

"Most fad diets carry risks, including nutrient deficiencies, low blood sugar, increased risk of certain cancers, and eating disorders. If you insist on trying one, talk to a doctor to ensure you’re equipped to deal with downfalls and mitigate them as much as possible – whether by taking multivitamins on fasting days or ensuring that you have adequate protein intake to prevent muscle wasting,” cautions Bonnie."

Torture level: 5 out of 5

At first you feel great because of that free pass to eat meat and fatty foods. But the absence of carbs will haunt you – like when all you want is a big cheeseburger with lots of fries.

Ketogenic Diet

What it is: This diet – developed in the 1920s – practically eliminates carbs, allowing them to make up just 5 per cent of your daily calorie intake. That translates to between 90 and 100 calories from carbs. For perspective, a bowl of white rice is 200 calories.

If you’re new to this, dietitian Bonnie Lau of digital health company Holmusk suggests taking it slow and cutting your carb intake to about a quarter of what you usually eat. That means skipping starches like potatoes, bread, grains, and even fruit. Load up on meat and lots of healthy fat.

How it works: Because you’re consuming fewer carbs to burn as energy, your body burns fat instead. When you’re on this diet, fat gets converted into a compound known as ketones to be used as fuel, says Bonnie.

Be warned, though: This diet could backfire on you. You might have trouble concentrating, or suffer from constipation. Without grains and fruit, you might not get enough nutrients and fibre in your diet. To prevent this, Bonnie suggests “carb cycling”, which means altering your carb intake according to your needs. So if you’re working out that day, up your carbs.

Even though the type of meat you can eat isn’t restricted, go for lean meat. Fatty meat has saturated fat that increases your risk of heart disease.

Skip this if: You have chronic conditions like diabetes or you’re on medication, says Bonnie. Check with your doctor first.


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Torture level: 3 out of 5

Basically, you need a great memory for the laundry list of things you can’t eat.

The Lectinfree Diet

What it is: Lectin is the protein said to be responsible for causing gut problems. It’s found in just about everything. We’re talking beans, legumes, quinoa and nuts, spices like peppermint and nutmeg, fruits and vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, berries, watermelons, corn (including corn-fed meat) and even coffee. Legumes and wholegrain foods contain the highest amount of lectin,” says Bonnie. This diet was popularised by American heart surgeon Dr Steven Gundry.

How it works: The theory is that lectin binds to the cells in your gut and blocks the absorption of nutrients. This can affect your immune system and make you sick. But Bonnie says there’s no proof that a lectin-free diet helps with weight loss. In fact, soaking legumes and grains and cooking them thoroughly reduces the lectin significantly and prevents potential digestive problems. The diet is easy for people who hate vegetables, but isn’t particularly healthy. You don’t get much fibre, and have to make up for the lack of nutrients with expensive vitamin supplements.

Skip this if: You enjoy your food. Despite the hype, Bonnie doesn’t encourage anybody to try this diet.
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Torture level: 4 out of 5

You’ve not known true “hanger” (that’s hunger-fuelled rage in millennial-speak) until you’ve tried fasting.

Intermittent Fasting

What it is: This has three variations: the 5:2 diet, the 16:8 diet and the 36-hour fast. Fasting to improve health dates back thousands of years, but gained popularity in recent years after being adopted by Hollywood celebs like Hugh Jackman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jimmy Kimmel.

For the 5:2 diet, you eat what you want five days a week, but fast on two days 161 dpi Upon approval Please sign: Name and Date: during which you consume 500-600 calories a day, says Bonnie. For the 16:8 diet, you cram all your calories into eight hours of the day. For the 36-hour fast, you don’t eat at all during this time, and you can do this two to three times a week.

The upside? For all three fasts, you can eat what you like, and even drink. But stick to water, black coffee, and herbal tea. On the 36-hour fast, you can have unsweetened vegetable and fruit juices to give your body some nutrition.

How it works: “Any diet that restricts calories enough will cause weight loss,” explains Bonnie. The idea is that if you have less time to eat, you’ll eat less. But longer fasts, like the 36-hour one, could slow down your metabolism as your body moves into energy-saving mode – so you might want to stick to the shorter fasts. Time your meals to coincide with your waking hours – your body processes food better when it’s awake.

Skip this if: You have chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
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Torture level: 2 out of 5

If you like your veggies, you’ll be all right.

The Pegan Diet

What it is: This one’s the new kid on the block, having emerged only in 2014. It’s the brainchild of Dr Mark Hyman, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. Think of the Pegan diet as a mash-up of the Paleo (eating what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did – which means no high-fat, sugary and processed foods) and vegan philosophies. This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s essentially a vegan diet that lets you eat meat. Plant-based food should make up most of your intake, and you should think of meat as a side dish. You’ll also have to skip processed foods as well as dairy, whole grains, legumes, and some fruit (like dates and grapes) – all of which are believed to be “harmful to the body”, says Bonnie.

How it works: Your “staple” food group is vegetables. This keeps the calorie count low. You’re also encouraged to have healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds. These fatty foods help you stay full for longer. Apart from offering possible weight loss, the diet also cuts out high-sugar and highly processed foods that can lead to diabetes and other diseases.

However, you’re at risk of nutritional deficiencies. You might not be getting enough protein. And without dairy, you may not get enough calcium and vitamin D either. Fewer carbs (since gluten and grains are out) might also mean that you end up with low blood sugar, which can cause you to feel dizzy or nauseated.

Skip this if: You are super active or athletic, and need a protein-rich diet to keep going.

Depriving yourself isn’t your thing? Try having a better relationship with food. It might just stick forever.

What it is: Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. “It’s about learning to distinguish between biological hunger and emotional hunger,” says Bonnie. Like not reaching for a tub of ice cream because you had a horrible day. Ask yourself before you eat something: “Do I really want to eat this? Will I really taste the food?”

Choose food that makes you feel good – not just what you feel like having. For example, a healthy meal of vegetables and lean meat is likely to invigorate you, whereas a high-fat one will make you feel sluggish.

How it works: Studies show that intuitive eating is more effective than conventional dieting, resulting in weight loss and better mental health. There is no guilt about eating unhealthy foods, so you don’t have a craving for them.

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Two days a week, Beyonce eats less than 500 calories.
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Jessica Biel says skipping gluten, wheat and dairy gives her more energy.
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Kourtney Kardashian drinks water and apple cider vinegar – not soda.