Nutrition and Diet Trends 2024: Time to Ditch These

With each passing year, the nutrition world witnesses the rise and fall of diet trends…although some last for way too long *ahem* food combining and alkaline diets *ahem*

In the spirit of fostering a healthier, more balanced approach to nutrition, here are 5 diet trends to leave behind in 2023.

Water Fasting 

What is water fasting? It’s essentially fasting for prolonged periods while consuming only water. 

It’s actively promoted through popular social media platforms, particularly Instagram and TikTok. The claims associated with water fasting are varied and include a ‘reset metabolism,’ increased energy, ‘rested’ organs, clearer skin, reduced inflammation, and improved digestion. 

Just to clear things up, our organs don’t need to ‘rest,’ and the body does its own detox without you actively fasting, especially for days on end.

Influencers and non-healthcare professionals often advocate for this trend, but Mindy Pelz, author of Fast Like a Girl, also promotes it.

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Just the use of the phrase ‘reset your metabolism’ is a huge red flag – metabolism can’t be reset. Anyone suggesting that you forgo food for days on end isn’t someone you need to be taking health advice from.

For this 2021 water fasting study, participants fasted in a medically supervised environment for 10-30 days straight. Yes, this is messed up. I actually don’t know how researchers got ethics approval for this, but here we are. Only 26 out of the 48 enrolled actually finished the study.

The study’s primary endpoint was HOMA-IR, a measure of insulin resistance. The study results included a rise in this metric, indicating lowered insulin sensitivity (this is probably not the result they were going for, FYI).

Regardless, although participants lost weight and appeared to positively impact their cardiovascular risk (likely because of that), I’m willing to bet that the stress of going without food for that long is a negative outcome that researchers haven’t yet realized.

And obviously, the same benefits can be achieved through other, less extreme, more sustainable methods.

This 2021 study looked at the safety of water fasting. It found an 8 day fast resulted in symptoms of dehydration, increased ketogenesis, hyponatremia, hypoglycaemia, and a significant reduction in body weight. The study unsurprisingly recommended discontinuing such interventions due to the drastic and unfavourable symptoms

Water fasting isn’t some sort of magic bullet, and in fact, it raises serious health concerns. 

The first concern would be that it’s resoundingly disordered. Not eating for days on end is not physically or emotionally healthy in any way. This is extreme restriction and starvation. There are absolutely no proven benefits to not eating for over 24 hours.

Not eating for days is also not the flex some people think it is; it’s just ridiculous and unnecessary.

While water fasting might induce weight loss, it’s crucial to emphasize that it’s not a healthy way to lose weight, and weight loss will not be sustainable for the long-term once you start eating.

Let’s ditch the extreme fasting and the false claims around it.

Wearing a CGM if you aren’t diabetic

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology has revolutionized diabetes management, providing real-time insights into blood sugar levels for individuals with diabetes.

While CGMs have immense benefits for this specific population, the idea of using them for weight loss and ‘health’ among the general public has become very popular in 2023. 

I put the word health in quotes because micromanaging our physiology and drilling every bodily function down to numbers isn’t my idea of health – it’s obsessive and unnecessary. How about just living your life?

You do not need a CGM if you aren’t diabetic. Period.

I talk more about this in my blog should you get a CGM for weight loss? 

We don’t need a CGM to know which foods cause our blood sugar to rise (which, by the way, is a normal response to eating food). Who gives a sh*t if an apple raises your blood glucose a fraction more than some berries? Is that really important information that’s going to make a positive difference in your health?

Probably not, especially if you don’t have diabetes.

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If you balance your meals with carbs, protein, and fat, eat lots of plants and fibre, and consume little ultra processed food (and alcohol), you’re already doing well.

Constant monitoring of blood sugar levels can encourage obsessive behaviours around food intake and exercise, contributing to an unhealthy preoccupation with numbers and unnecessary dietary restrictions.

CGMs are a very expensive tool, and need to be purchased more than once. The cost ranges from $100-$300 per month. If you are not diabetic and you are using a CGM, you may be causing people who actually need one to survive to lose access to them.

Food shaming in supermarkets 

Food shaming generally refers to the act of criticizing, judging or making negative comments about the food choices of others. It can also involve posting social media content (generally filmed in the aisle of a supermarket) around how ‘bad’ and ‘toxic’ certain foods are, with no regard to the nuance that’s involved in food choices. 

The common theme of all this content is foods that are deemed to be ‘bad’ are all safe foods that are generally more affordable and accessible than the foods the content creator is recommending we buy.

The usual suspects here (among others) are Realfoodology, Bobby Parrish FlavCity, Dr. Steven Gundry, and the Carnivore doctor (more on him in a bit).

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Dr. Gundry is a major food shaming offender

The issue? 

Besides the fact that most of these people have no nutrition training and often make a kickback on the food they tell us to buy, the very act of telling someone that their food isn’t ‘good’ can create a sense of stigma and shame. It also shows insufferable privilege, especially at a time when many people can’t afford any food at all.

A healthy diet contains ALL types of foods. Lots of plants. Some Doritos. And, it’s eaten without guilt or shame.

We all make food choices based on factors such as health conditions, socioeconomic status, culture, and preferences. Shaming individuals for that is disgusting.

Negative comments about food can contribute to feelings of guilt and anxiety and be very triggering for those who may already be struggling with body image and disordered eating behaviour. 

These people aren’t telling us how to be healthy. They’re perpetuating the shame around food and eating that’s so prevalent in our society.

Body checking videos (and body checking in general)

What is body checking?

It’s the act of sizing up your body at every opportunity – either in a mirror or in a video, in order to calm your anxiety around your weight and possible weight gain.

Body checking doesn’t only encompass one’s own body, but other peoples’ bodies, too. If you’re body checking other people and comparing yourself to them, this can be extremely detrimental to health. 

Body checking videos are often promoted on social media platforms, especially those centered around fitness, wellness and nutrition. These videos typically showcase an individual’s fitness progress or weight loss journey, or just simply showing off their body. 

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A lot of those toxic “What I Eat In A Day” videos start with a body check, as if to say, ‘eat this, and you can look like me!’ I wish that corner of the internet would vaporize.

Some people would argue that these videos can serve as motivation for people on their fitness journeys, but I think these types of videos are more negative than positive.

Body checking videos can contribute to unrealistic beauty standards and compassion, body dysmorphic issues, poor mental health, and negative self perception. Numerous studies have linked social media engagement with negative body image and increased body dissatisfaction. 

There is also research that suggest that exposure to idealized body images on social media may contribute to poor mental health outcomes, especially for women. 

The emphasis on physical appearance may overshadow the importance of overall health and wellbeing. A random person’s appearance online gives you no indication of their actual health status and their habits behind the scenes (which may be totally disordered).

If you find yourself body checking your image or other people, especially if you’re disparaging yourself or the other person, one thing you can do is to pause, then find something positive to say.

The carnivore diet

At the risk of being attacked by rapid carnivore dieters, I’ll say it once again:

The carnivore diet is not a healthy way to eat.

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This guy. Is wrong. About everything.

First off, it’s extremely restrictive. Eating only meat can help you lose weight, but it can completely take out your social life, raise your cholesterol (yes, that still matters), and cause bacteria die-off in the gut.

There’s a few reasons why so many people who are on the carnivore diet claim to ‘feel better.’

Gut bacteria die-off can lead to bad (and good) bacteria being eliminated, which initially may cause the resolution of gastrointestinal symptoms. But because we can’t selectively eliminate one bacteria type on its own, we potentially end up with a lack of good bacteria in our guts. 

This is only compounded by the fact that the carnivore diet contains no fibre. 

The carnivore diet is essentially an elimination diet. People who have had gut issues may find that they’ve inadvertently eliminated some of the foods that were causing them symptoms, but the issue with that is that they’re stuck eating only meat forever.

There isn’t a lot of research on the effects of the carnivore diet, with the exception of this exceptionally poor 2021 study. But everything we know about eating – from the emotional and physical effects of restrictive diets to gut health to cholesterol 

The worst part of the carnivore diet?

All of the unproven claims surrounding it, and their potential to lead people down a path that’s potentially lethal. Suggesting that eating only meat can ‘cure 90% of health problems,’ including depression, is reckless and dangerous. 

If you’re looking for nutrition and diet advice, please consult an RD, not social media.

And remember: if someone’s claims seem suspicious or too good to be true, they probably are…even if they call themselves ‘doctor.’

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