’Tis the season for eating all of the things, followed by feeling bad about eating all of the things, followed by vowing to get your shit together with the help of a trendy, hard-to-pronounce “lifestyle”—because body positivity may be brightening our feeds, but diet culture is still here to tell us we suck at food.
Let’s be very real: This whole new year, new you mess isn’t entirely about getting clearer skin or improving your gut health (although if those are your true goals, then, obvi, fine). Most people attempt super-restrictive diets to become smaller versions of themselves. And honestly, “I’m going keto” is now a more socially acceptable phrase than “I’m trying to lose weight.”
Eating according to a hyperspecific plan is stressful and makes you miss things like noodles, wine, and fruit. FRUIT! So then when you inevitably cave and eat a bag of Cheez-Its, you feel shitty, hate yourself, and swear on your Lululemons that on Monday you’ll start “being good” again. Can we all just…not anymore? Even science is over it—hard-core dieting for anything but medical necessity “negatively impacts people’s mental health,” says clinical psychologist Sari Chait, PhD. Here, more reasons to sit out the restrictive food crazes this year (and maybe, like, forever).
Every January, curious Googlers search for this elimination diet every January, which puts a 30-day ban on added sugar, soy, beans, peanuts, sweeteners, grains, dairy, almost all processed foods, and booze. (If you consume one of said substances, even on day 25, you have to start all over). The theory is that these things cause inflammation in your body, and skipping them will curb cravings and boost your metabolism.
But while slashing processed foods and alcohol is definitely not not good for you, there’s no evidence that following this plan will squash your chip cravings or spike the amount of cals you burn, says Jessica Cording, RD, author of The Little Book of Game Changers. As for the suggestion that this or any diet can “reset” your body…well, take that claim with a big grain of pink Himalayan salt, says Cording.
Created in 2014 by Mark Hyman, MD, this bb is a mashup of paleo (no processed foods, dairy, alcohol, added sugar, or grains) and veganism (no animal products). Yet some sustainably raised, grass-fed animal protein and fish and eggs are allowed, as are gluten-free grains and beans. So…? “It’s just a more restrictive version of the Mediterranean diet,” says Scott Keatley, RDN. “It’s heavy on fish and healthy fat, but it demonizes dairy and gluten, which are fine for most people.” FWIW, telling the average person that nutrient-rich foods are bad for them just encourages a shame-y relationship with eating. (Not the healthiest news, considering Pinterest searches for “eating pegan” skyrocketed 337 percent last year.)
Okay, so this emotional roller coaster of a diet involves eating whatever you want—but only during certain hours or on certain days of the week. Then you go long periods (like, up to 16 hours) without ingesting anything. Google searches for this fad hit an all-time high last January and show no signs of stopping. But science is way less enthusiastic. Studies suggest that calorie restriction can increase life span in animals—but not, so far, in humans. And fasting does def cause some people to go HAM when they do eat. “We’re wired to consume more after restricting,” says Cording. So to repeat: This. Is. Pointless.
“I stopped giving so many fucks and it changed my life.”
I’ve done Atkins and South Beach. I once dabbled in calorie counting before going raw vegan. When that left me exhausted, I tried paleo. For 10 years, I micromanaged everything I ate to the point of obsession. But no matter how diligent I was (or how long I lurked on diet message boards), all I thought about were cookies. I started dreaming of being a food writer because I was so passionate about bougie food—but turns out, I was just hungry. My new lifestyle: less effs, more carbs. Now, my appetite issues are healed. I sleep better, have more energy, and no longer obsess over pasta—I just eat it. And I finally feel like a human again.
Devin is Prevention.com’s executive editor and her writing has been nominated for a Hearst Excellence Award three years in a row.