Another year, another diet trend. How is the average person supposed to keep up with these diet trends, and does it really matter?
Well, yes, diet matters. A whole lot. You are what you eat, after all – more specifically, you are what you digest, but the point is you cannot overlook how you fuel and feed your body. Weight loss is a billion-dollar industry for a reason.
Millions of people struggle to lose weight and end up drowning in a sea of frustration and confusion when diets fail them. Most of us never have formal nutrition education – we eat what our parents (or taste buds) told us!
All the money spent on hair, skin and clothes cannot make up for a substandard diet. So most people end up self-experimenting and doing their best to navigate the complex world of diet and nutrition alone.
Below we discuss diet trends and how you can find what works for you.
Table of contents
Diet Trend 1: Intermittent Fasting (IF)
IF is not a diet but rather a pattern of eating. There is a swell of interest in this concept currently.
Researchers are also looking at circadian rhythms and timing of eating (i.e. Is eating more food earlier in the day rather than at night better for weight loss?). The continued interest in ancestral health, which drove the initial primal and paleo eating style, is still the basis of the current diet trends.
However, Intermittent Fasting and Keto are now overshadowing paleo. (Look at Marks Daily Apple, a blog by Mark Sisson, one of the earliest advocates for the paleo diet. The words “Keto” and “Intermittent fasting” appear at the top of his page now, not “paleo”).
There are many versions of Intermittent Fasting – The 5:2 diet, Warrior Diet, 16:8, multi-day fasts, water-only fasts etc. Diabetic treatment modalities involving fasting are now in use.
One notable proponent of fasting is the nephrologist, Dr Jason Fung. The challenge these days for many people seems to be finding a doctor who understands the mechanisms of the new dietary interventions so they can advise those with health conditions like diabetes to manage their medications while fasting.
Fasting is NOT a new concept. Almost every ancient culture has some version of this eating pattern. The relationship between fasting and weight loss is now gaining traction. Personal success stories are bombarding online spaces as people try this trending eating pattern for weight loss.
Diet Trend 2: Low Carb and Keto
The Low Carb concept is not new to the diet world. The famed Atkins Diet was one of the most popular and successful low-carb diets launched in the last 50 years.
Post Atkins, Low carbohydrate and Keto (ketogenic diet), a stricter version of the Low Carb, have taken off again in recent years. Success stories of weight loss stories and reversals of previously considered “chronic” illnesses are creating a grassroots following which is growing daily.
As the name suggests, the simple basis of these diets is to lower carbohydrate intake to induce the body to use alternate fuel sources, ketones, instead of glucose.
The challenge, however, is to do this in a world where simple, processed carbohydrates have become the basis of our diet (think bread, cereals, pasta, rice, biscuits, pastries, cakes, chips etc.).
Some cultures, including India, rely heavily on carbohydrates in their recipes and dishes. The challenge of completely changing the composition of your diet is tough, but more and more Indian-based keto recipes and tips demonstrate that it is possible to change.
Diet Trend 3: Carnivore Diet
For those who do not find Keto extreme enough, there is the Carnivore Diet. Based on only meat (or sometimes other animal products), the concept is that the human body evolved by eating meat and animal products.
The proponents of this diet suggest some plant foods are not only unimportant for nutrition but contain harmful substances such as phytates and oxalates, which are incompatible with the human body.
The strictest version of the carnivore diet is just eating meat – not even a cup of coffee, sorry… just meat.
The carnivore diet is a tough regime to switch to if you are used to a varied diet, but for some, this simplified diet regime has seen their previously untreated serious ailments disappear, such as chronic gut issues.
Diet Trend 4: Vegan
People survive all over the world on a different diets. Every diet can work for someone. Most diets have poster children to prove their success – and the vegan diet is no exception.
From bodybuilders to online influencers and celebrities, switching to a vegan diet seems to work for many people. There appears to be an enormous interest in this diet (outside the animal rights and alternative culture groups). Mainstream families are encouraged in the popular press to do “Meatless Monday” and consider their food from more angles than just nutrition. Many people report improved health after converting to veganism and the less strict various forms of vegetarianism.
The persistent theme that clouds veganism is that it does not supply all the nutrients the human body requires, notably DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid, required for optimal brain function) and vitamin B12.
All the diets listed above have their supporters and detractors.
Unfortunately, there is less scrutiny of the western junk food diet and the nutrients it may lack. Instead, diet trend groupies are facing off and missing the point.
As expected, the opposites of carnivores and vegans are throwing punches at each other to prove their way is “right”. But are they comparing apples with apples? Who says one diet will work for everyone? We are genetically and environmentally different, so it makes sense that a more individual approach may be “right”.
How to decide which diet to follow?
The simple answer to this question – try it.
1. Select one version and try for several months. You must decide if you feel and look better on this diet or whether you are starting to feel unwell or become nutrient deficient.
2. You can choose a diet guru to follow initially, but again it may pay to do a little critical thinking than blindly follow someone with a big following online. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Is this just a one-person sample?
- Is the expert a scientist/researcher, or do they work with patients too?
- Are they selling me something?
All these questions do not necessarily point to biased information. In a world of conflicting advice, a little personal research and understanding can go a long way and help motivate you to be in control and improve your health.
3. Knowing your current food intake also helps.
There are many food and nutrient tracking Apps – MyFitnessPal, Chronometer and HealthifyMe – examples that can assist you in gaining insights into your nutrient intake.
IS IT WORKING?
After some time, evaluate if you have lost weight or feel more energetic. Other signs to look for are skin, nail health, are you less hungry, fewer headaches etc.
One important note – hair loss may not be an initial sign that the diet is wrong.
Hair loss can result from stress on the body, and dieting is considered a stress to the system. It should resolve itself in a few months.
Weight loss is hard – it is a fact! The journey is challenging thanks to too much information rather than not enough! Educate yourself to understand your body and its nutritional needs.
If you are concerned about your weight and have additional health concerns, consulting a nutrition professional or doctor is advisable.
Harsh is the founder of menPsyche. He enjoys using his extensive research and writing skills to communicate ideas and concepts, with the aim to improve people’s lives.
Harsh trained as a Communication Engineer and published a MSc (Research) thesis, as well as worked in a variety of marketing and consultancy roles.