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Worst diets of 2012

Date

What made these three diets the biggest lemons of the year, according to dietitians around Australia?

Biggest losers ... diets that damage.

Biggest losers ... diets that damage.

There are close to 40,000 diet and weight-loss related books available on Amazon. But, there were three diets that caught the attention of dietitians around Australia in 2012.

For all the wrong reasons.

In a newly released survey by the Dietitians Association of Australia, more than 230 members agreed that the three worst diets of the year were the Lemon Detox Diet, followed by the Acid and Alkaline Diet and Six Weeks to OMG.

From a list of nine popular diets, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of the dietitians agreed that The Lemon Detox Diet was the 'worst'. This is the second year in a row the diet has received top dishonour.

The diets are of particular concern to dietitians considering another recent survey, by the Association, of 200 young women which found 42 per cent are looking to lose weight in the new year.

Around 35 per cent of women aged 18-24 years are either overweight or obese and Australians are expected to spend over $800 million in 2012-13 on weight-loss services, low-calorie foods and shakes, diet cookbooks, weight loss guides and dietary supplements.

DAA Spokesperson and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Melanie McGrice says: "Like many things in life, good health takes perseverance and commitment to a healthy lifestyle," she said. "Extreme diet measures are unnecessary and counterproductive."

Lemon detox diet

Lemon



The Lemon Detox is a ten day "holistic naturopathic journey to better health," says the author Dr K.A Beyer. Or in other words, it's ten days of nothing but laxative tea, salt water 'flushes' and a concoction of lemon, water , maple or 'natural tree' syrup and cayenne pepper. It is, Beyer says, a "carefully formulated formula to provide the nourishment while supporting the body as it cleanses itself."

It works by "stimulating your body's own natural cleansing process by giving it a break from the constant work of digestion... Its purpose is to purify the body and free the system of excess fats and deposits."

Beyonce famously lost 6 kilograms on the diet for her role in Dreamgirls. She promptly regained the weight and said she would never "recommend it to anyone".

What the dietitians say

Apart from concern about cutting out all core nutrients and criticising the necessity of detoxes in the first place, Melanie McGrice points out potentially more dire dangers.

Just 24 hours without protein and calcium can do damage, she says. When we don't get certain amino acids (found in protein) and calcium-rich foods, "the body has to break down muscle tissue [to access stores], which slows down metabolism... and get calcium from the bones, which increases the risk of osteoporosis."

While slowed metabolism and depleted calcium can occur quickly, "they take ages to build back up."

It is diets such as these that result in her seeing many women whose metabolism is so slow all they need to do is "look at chocolate cake and [they] put on weight."

Dietitian Tara Diversi agrees that "your metabolism can take a bit of a beating," but says cleanses "can be OK for a week or a couple of weeks [assuming] you don't have a medical issue."

They can "act as a kickstart into a healthy lifestyle," she says but equally they can set up problematic eating patterns and be bad for body image. "people can think 'I can only lose weight if I don't eat' and start getting negative about food and their body - yo-yoing and either eating crap food or nothing."

The Acid and Alkaline Diet

Avocado

A diet which has been growing in popularity over the past few years, the idea is that too much acid in the body creates a breeding ground for disease. "In recent years, one of the most exciting nutritional discoveries has concerned the effect that different foods have on the body's PH levels once they are consumed," say authors of The Acid Alkaline Food Guide, Dr Susan Brown and Larry Trivieri. "Simply put, some foods create an acidic effect within the body, while others act as alkalising agents than can neutralise harmful acids."

Alkalised foods include green, leafy vegetables, bananas, avocados and oatmeal while acidic foods include some other fruits and vegetables along with dairy, most meats, caffeine and alcohol.

What the dietitians say:

While some small studies have found that restricting dietary acid can be helpful for health, McGrice says such diets simply add to confusion about food.

"Some of the foods they're getting you to cut out are really healthy," she says. "It's sending the wrong message."

In spite of preliminary research, she warns against jumping on the bandwagon too quickly, "when they can do us damage." Instead, "people should follow [current nutritional] guidelines until we have good evidence behind changes."

Diversi says that it's not bad so long as "it's getting people to eat more whole foods." But, she is skeptical of the PH balance argument. "Our bodies are actually very good at keeping homeostasis," she says. "That's our body's role."

Six Weeks to OMG

Apples

The controversial author claimed to have the key to weight-loss. He was, he told me last year, sick of "watching people pour their effort into old-fashioned diets destined to fail; and ... knowing that there were solutions that no-one had the guts to put forward."

His so-called 'solutions' involved black coffee for breakfast because it "urges fat cells to spill their contents into the bloodstream, where working muscles can then make use of it," cold showers to kickstart your fat-burning furnace and avoiding fruit because of fructose.

But, the claim that he copped the most criticism - and press - for, was that broccoli carbs are no better than soda carbs. His rationale was that carbs are carbs and our bodies can't tell the difference between chocolate cake and an apple.

What the dietitians say:

He must have a good imagination, Diversi says. It would take around "three kilograms of broccoli to get the same carbs as a can of soda," she says. "I'd put this [diet] at the top of the [worst] list."

He is correct that if we over eat carbs we will put on weight, she says. "But it's easier to eat them when they're condensed... we're not just going to overeat broccoli, but it's easy to drink two litres of soda."

McGrice is equally critical. "It's marketing hype," she says. "He must have thought 'what're the most outlandish claims we can make to get media attention?'"

The problem with such diets, Diversi adds, is that they take science out of context or say something "that seems kind of true, but is not right in the real world.

"They don't set [people] up for a healthy lifestyle. They are designed to sell."

94 comments

  • I've done all three diets and found that not one of them worked long term. On the Lemon diet I lasted a day before hunger kicked in.

    The Acid diet has some resonance with me. There are some things I just can't eat like dairy, refined flour and sugar, so I stopped eating them. Then I did an elimination type diet where I worked out what I could digest and what I couldn't. I did stop eating broccoli even though I love it because it felt like it was getting "stuck". So I substituted broccoli for shredded cabbages in all colours and it worked a treat.

    I still eat meat but only beef and a little bacon. Everything else feels like it gets stuck too. But I heap my plate with veggies, use coconut oil or beef dripping for fat and I've never felt better. I'm full after each meal, lost the desirel to snack in between and I'm steadily losing size without any effort. Cutting out all non veggie carbs has been the biggest boost. For whatever reason my body just can't digest wholegrains any more.

    People tell me it's dangerous to go without wholegrains but I just laugh at their ignorance. I'm not bloated any more, my tummy isn't in pain after every meal and my grocery bill has been substantially reduced. I'll leave the naysayers to their overconsumption of grains. I'm not interested.

    Winning all the way!

    Commenter
    Audra Blue
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    January 10, 2013, 8:06PM
    • You'll be hungry on any diet. You're reducing calories (no matter what method you use).....

      Commenter
      Amy
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 9:20AM
    • That's not true. You can fill up on veggies at a very low calorie count and they will make you feel full. Plus if you you're getting enough nutrients, you won't feel hungry and you'll naturally eat less at every meal.

      If a diet is making you hungry all the time, it's time to change your strategy.

      Commenter
      Audra Blue
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 9:38AM
    • Actually, all you are doing is going on a low carb diet which has been consistently proven to be very effective, not dangerous and able to be a 'lifestyle' that you can sustain long term. Probably you have some wheat intolerance or something like that, which accounts for feeling better when you reduce some foods.

      So well done.

      The food pyramid is a crock when it comes to weight loss. To maintain weight in conjunction with some exercise, you can follow it. To lose weight, cut out the bottom layer (grains) and the sugar, then you are fine.

      Commenter
      asdf
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 10:05AM
    • @Audra I think you say some really valuable things including that the silly diets don't work and you need to educate yourself and listen to your body because everyone is not the same. If you base your eating (stop calling them diets) around healthy foods and make sure that they fill you up - e.g. loads of veges and proper quantities of lean protein in whatever form - then you are 80% of the way there. You need some form of dairy or high calcium food(some people bloat on dairy too) so that your thyroid works properly but you don't really 'need' grains because veges are carbs too - good carbs full of fibre.
      Also - to @fluffy - it's not even willpower, its about raising your standards and realising that in order to be healthy you have to eat healthy - its not magic as you rightly say

      Commenter
      lam
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 10:13AM
    • @Amy, I have been on an Atkin's type diet for over a year and I don't get hungry - fats and oils are very filling.

      Commenter
      Jezz
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 10:43AM
    • If your body 'cannot digest wholegrains anymore' you have a very, very serious problem with your digestive system which requires medical attention.

      It's not so much whether you can go without wholegrain (you can) but any suggestion of inability to digest it is . . very bad - or you completely misinterpreting what your body is telling you.

      Commenter
      J
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 12:18PM
    • If you are accustomed to over eating then any sensible diet is going to leave you hungry until you adjust. If this is too much to bare then you better ramp up the exercise instead but that's going to be uncomfortable too.

      If being in good shape was easy then everyone would do it.
      There is no easy way out, only self discipline.

      Commenter
      JimP
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 1:34PM
    • "but I just laugh at their ignorance." Good on you audra, it is great if things are going your way. It is of concern though that you have tried so many diets, as this tends to reflect a lack of healthy eating overall. If more people simply tried eating a good breakfast every day, laying off the sauces they overload their otherwise healthy pastas / vegies /etc with, and undertook more incidental exercise, it would help their bodies make a downward adjustment naturally. I have seen an overweight lady following a Tony Ferguson diet have no rice with an Indian meal as rice is banned, however as caramel dessert was not on the list of forbidden foods she ate the dessert. We also had visitors on a low carb diet, so we had to ensure we didn't serve potatoes or anything... of course, they had a packet of pizza shapes before dinner every night. Common sense can go a long long way to fixing up your bad habits permanently.

      Commenter
      Bemused
      Date and time
      January 11, 2013, 2:32PM
  • All diets are scams - you might need a plan to help keep on track (which is great) but there is no big secret people - eat healthy food and exercise to burn off more calories than you consume. Fad diets don't work - you'll make yourselves sick and feel horrible because you will continue to fail. East less (calories), run more - easy.

    Commenter
    No secret, just healthy food and excersise
    Date and time
    January 11, 2013, 12:11AM

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