Crash That Diet

Fad diets come and go. If you're wondering which one is for you, let these nutritionists show the way.
Anindita Satpathi        Print Edition: Aug 17, 2014
Crash That Diet

Weighing scales giving you grief yet again? With 'you are what you eat' becoming the mantra for thousands of hopefuls seeking to shed a few extra pounds, food has been at the receiving end of misplaced abuse and adulation. Some take it to the extreme, letting tapeworms into their bodies or chewing on cotton balls to emerge victorious in their battle against the bulge, while others just walk the traditional path and cock a snook at anything remotely calorie-laden. And then there are diet plans that get by on celebrity endorsements, outrageous as they may appear.

But hey, are we being too quick to dismiss every diet we hear about, relegating even the effective ones to the bottom of the heap? Here we feature four diets that may seem over-the-top, but have translated into success stories for many. However, think it through before you take the plunge - will you be doing your body more harm than good?

BLOOD TYPE DIET

If vampires were health-conscious and gullible, they would be highly impressed with a diet that supposedly prevents the agglutination of lectins and makes your blood purer, and well, more palatable. Agglutination what, you ask? It forms the core of naturopath James D'Adamo's theory that diverse proteins - lectins - found in food not suited to your blood type can clog micro-areas of blood flow and cause tissue damage. Agglutination refers to the propensity of lectins to stick together and accumulate over days, ultimately inducing micro-infarctions of the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs. The food you eat may contain proteins incompatible with your blood type antigen, which is why you should pick out evolutionarily appropriate food. While the concept is interesting, we think it's a little harsh on Type A blood people - who are expected to subsist solely on veggies and seafood. The ones with Type AB, who need to avoid alcohol and caffeine like the plague, have it tough too.

ExpertSpeak

Dr Anju Sood, Clinical nutritionist: Very restrictive. Asking people with Type B to avoid all nuts is a case in point. Eliminating whole groups of food makes it tough to meet nutrient needs.

Sheela Krishnaswamy, Diet and nutrition consultant: While short term weight loss may be possible through this diet, it can't be sustained in the long run. And there's always the likelihood of the lost weight bouncing back.

GLUTEN-FREE DIET

Unless you are gluten-intolerant, this diet could seem somewhat like a disciplinarian aunt who raps your knuckles every time you reach for the cookie jar. Touted as the next cool thing for the obsessive waistline-watcher, eating gluten-free is the avant garde style statement that everyone's scrambling to make their own. But while gluten is toxic to those suffering from celiac disease, wherein the small intestine has trouble digesting foods rich in the protein composite, it's certainly not the health hazard it is made out to be for the tolerant rest. A gluten-free diet prescribes cutting out wheat-based ingredients from meals and loading up on fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, beans and legumes.

But, if you're just bingeing on gluten-free products instead of focussing on clean eating and portion-control, weight loss will still be an elusive goal. However, if gastrointestinal distress is what you're worried about, by all means take the plunge.

ExpertSpeak

Dr Ishi Khosla, Clinical nutritionist: If practised prudently, this is a workable and effective strategy. But again, simply going gluten-free will not work if the diet does not control the intake of starch.

Sheela Krishnaswamy, Diet and nutrition consultant:
Gluten-free diet, as the name suggests, is meant for people who cannot tolerate gluten. Unfortunately, it's being misused as a 'weight loss' strategy.

BABY FOOD DIET

Having that occasional spoonful of baby food in an effort to inspire your toddler to swallow one more mouthful is one thing, but subsisting primarily on mulch is another. The baby food diet prescribes 14 jars of pre-packed baby foods a day to keep hunger at bay. A few jars of fruit, vegetable and meat puree are usually enough to scare enthusiasts off this diet and back to their quinoa and parsley salads, but making baby food a diet staple has some obvious benefits. It gradually notches up the calories you need without loading up on sugar, sodium and preservatives. Portion control can be your best friend when you're on a diet and this one claims to do just that. Replace your meals and snacks with baby food, which is also easier on the stomach because it's less refined. You will crave texture, becoming perpetually hungry and irritable to the point of hating the very sight of baby food, but it's worth a shot if you want to maintain your newly slimmed physique. This short-span, weight loss-maintenance diet plan, however, has one silver lining. After ploughing through jars of the icky stuff, you get to have a normal dinner that makes you appreciate the joy of masticating anew. But, resist the temptation to binge on that meal.

ExpertSpeak

Shalini Manglani, Nutritionist and weight management expert: Miniscule portion sizes with negligible amounts of fibre is a nutritionally unsound diet plan. Moreover, weight loss needs to be systematic, not drastic.

Dr Anju Sood, Clinical nutritionist: This diet isn't safe if you don't get enough calories every day; even a low calorie diet requires a minimum number of calories to meet your metabolic rate.

IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS (IIFYM)

You're on the verge of squeezing anything into your macros as long as you can fit into that grey t-shirt from your college days - the one that flattered your biceps charmingly - but are you up for relentless measuring of the food you eat? The diet that whittles science down to a candy stick prescribes a breakdown of your macronutrients combined with heavy weight training, to turn into a hunk. The carbohydrate, protein and fat component of what you eat, measured in calories, makes up your macros. The total daily energy expenditure calculator makes you a slave to weighing and measuring everything that goes on your plate. Blooming in response to the excesses of clean eating zealots who junk every pre-packaged product and carb-heavy goodies, this diet has its basics down pat. Optimising your macronutrient intake means you have the power to make a choice between pizza and sautéed veggies just as long as you meet your macro and fibre goal. Followers boast of great metabolism, a shredded physique and the energy of a puppy, but the micronutrient part of your diet - calcium, potassium, iron and antioxidants - might just be getting neglected. Then again, on the bright side, you'll be motivated to work out.

ExpertSpeak

Dr Ishi Khosla, Clinical nutritionist: Weight loss without attention to nutrition is a short-term goal achievement, wherein you might rebound and lapse into unhealthy eating habits.

Shalini Manglani, Nutritionist, weight management expert: Understand and use the plan to get shredded, but consciously stay away from junk. Pick healthy options for each macro and familiarise yourself with the phone app.

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