I don’t think dietitians should (or could) try every diet fad—much like you wouldn’t expect your doctor to try every new drug—but chances are high that we’ve tested out quite a few. I know, because my experimental list with diets is long.
I’ve created, coached, and taken part in a variety of food challenges and diets.
I’ve been a strict calorie counter, dairy free, (sort of) gluten free, and vegetarian. I’ve questioned oligosaccharides, GMOs, and how bad non-organic peppers might really be. I read It Starts With Food as if it were a PhD dissertation. (It’s not.) I’ve lightly (see: not scientifically) tested intermittent fasting, only to quickly realize how averse I am to strictly timing my meals. I subjected myself to a nutrition tracking app for the sake of research. Mindy-the-RD hated on both my salad dressing choice (because it was to high in oil) and my ice cream (for the obvious reasons, if you follow the Food Guide Pyramid, circa 1990), but that’s neither here nor there. The app was one of the more scarring experiences on this list, and that’s saying a lot.
For a long time, my experiments with the latest fads were an extension of orthorexia. I see that now, but didn’t at the time. More recently, I may have tested these things out as experiential research. I want to know the emotions my clients may be up against, the moments that will test them as they try to improve their health, and how to prepare them for those days when McDonald’s and a twelve-hour nap sounds better than cooking a simple meal and/or taking a walk.
If the N=1 studies don’t convince you, the research on diets might.
There is no shortage of studies testing what diet, if any, is really the ONE we all need to follow. I don’t think any one answer will ever suffice, but at least we do know plenty of things that seem to not lead to long-term weight loss or improved health.
Speaking from personal and professional experience, I know this to be true: challenging yourself with food, eliminating any one type or category of food (for any reason other than a food allergy), and/or relying on simple math to keep you “healthy” and at one weight will not work. And by “work,” I mean feel sustainable and realistic for the long haul.
If you’re trying out a new diet (or challenge) right now, ask yourself why.
If you’d rather find a way to sustainably change the way you eat every day, to improve your mental and physical health, chat with a dietitian (or maybe a therapist, or both). I’m here! But if you want someone local, I bet we can find that for you too. If the dietitian—or therapist, or both!—tells you to go on a diet, come back here. We’ll talk it out.
Because the diets, the challenges, and the fads won’t work.
I know, because I’ve tried a lot of them and, thankfully, not a single one stuck. And maybe it helps someone to read the “this diet is not your solution” message just one more time.