Here Are The Worst Nutrition Trends (So Far) Of 2020.
Oh 2020, you’re a fucking dumpster fire. And not just with covid, but with nutrition trends, too. It seems like things are getting more extreme, science is getting more twisted, and unqualified people are getting more bold in their nutrition advice.
All recipe for my latest ‘worst trends’ post. Buckle up, here we go.
In the world of nutrition trends, Intermittent fasting is probably the most popular. And hey – it works for some people. I’m open minded about modern eating patterns like IF and keto for certain individuals, but you can definitely take them too far.
Enter, extreme fasting.
I’m not sure why people think that if some is good, more is better, but here we are.
I recently got this lovely message about my intermittent fasting post:
“I wholeheartedly disagree with a large portion of what you have to say. IF is by far the easiest and most doable plan I’ve EVER done. I’ve lost 40 pounds in two months eating the same kinds of food I usually do, just in a 2-4 hour window each day. This is the first time I’ve lost weight without having to count calories or points, which is amazing and freeing! I have more energy towards the end of my daily 20-22 hour fast than I do at any other point in the day. This is a truly sustainable way of life – and I’m not just losing weight because of calorie restriction. You really need to do better research!”
I’m sorry, but if you’re eating all of your food in 2-4 hours a day, how the hell are you even enjoying your life? How are you going to sustain this way of eating for the rest of your life? She seems to think she can, but its only been 2 months.
We can pretty much do anything for 2 months, especially with the immediate gratification of a 40 pound weight loss for someone who has wanted to lose weight for a while.
And yes, the reason she has lost weight IS because of calorie restriction. There is no other reason. How much food is she eating in 2-4 hours?
Absurd. Absolutely absurd.
Food and eating are so much more than how much weight you can lose by starving yourself. That shit is harmful and it ripples out to all the other areas of our life, as well as to others around us. Does this person have kids who are seeing her eat like this? How is she managing social situations? How has this way of eating changed her relationship with food, eating, and her body?
Listen. Do whatever you want with your body, but IMO, fasting for 22 hours a day is not healthy. Neither are other fasting patterns I’ve seen, like going entire days without anything to eat or drink (dry fasting, which is the most fucking dangerous, useless, idiotic crap I’ve ever seen).
Personalized vitamins/DNA diets.
We love to jump ahead of science. And dreaming up ways of doing that is probably how we push forward with new discoveries in nutrition and other science. But it’s one thing to jump ahead of science in order to formulate a hypothesis, and a completely different thing to do it because you want to sell something to unsuspecting people.
From personalized vitamins to DNA diets, tailoring products for that personalized experience is super popular right now.
We love to feel special, and as though a product has been formulated just for us.
But these things aren’t really necessary.
Most of us don’t need the expensive vitamin regimens that companies like Persona sell (I review them – and multivitamins – here). What you generally end up getting with them is maybe one or two things that may be useful, and a whole lot of other crap that you don’t need.
And DNA-based weight loss diets? Well, it’s interesting to hear what they come up with, but at this point, they’re useless (I reviewed them here). There is no evidence that you can tweak your diet according to your genes and lose weight because of it.
If you need to supplement, do it with individual nutrients, not a multivitamin – unless you’re in a specific group of people who need a multi. These include people with inflammatory bowel disease, those with kidney disease, or who are chronically malnourished. Don’t go all-in on a ‘personalized supplement regimen’ from a fancy company that’s going to charge you a ton of money for useless pills.
Probiotics are one of the more popular nutrition trends, but putting probiotics into your chocolate and onto your popcorn is not going to to sweet fuck all for your health.
Chocolate is still chocolate, even if it’s ‘functional.’ Kombucha isn’t necessarily probiotic, and it can be full of sugar.
I love probiotic supplements for some things, like antibiotic-induced diarrhea, and IBS. And fermented foods that contain live bacteria may be beneficial for gut health.
But infusing random products with probiotics just to give them a health halo is a marketing tactic that’s getting tired.
Also, claiming that probiotics can help with weight loss is just wrong: we don’t have the science to back that up. At least, not yet.
Eating fermented food may benefit our gut health, especially if it’s truly probiotic – like sauerkraut or kimchi that have been properly fermented, not sugary yogurt that’s sold as being ‘probiotic.’ Generally, probiotic foods that are sold refrigerated are more likely to contain the gut-healthy bacteria you’re looking for, as are those that have bubbles inside the jar. Also, look for a label that says ‘contains live, active cultures.’
According to Desiree Neilson, dietitian and gut health expert, tells me that kraut and kimchi are raw, and therefore are the most likely to be fully fermented. Kombucha is also fermented, but Neilson says that “kombucha companies won’t tell you how long they ferment for – but sugar content is a good barometer of whether they go in for the long ferment or just a bit…the microbes consume the sugar during fermentation, so a longer ferment means more of the initial sugar content is consumed – some manufacturers will add extra juice or sugar after but typically, lower sugar booch has been more fermented.”
Still, we don’t know how many CFUs (colony forming units) of which probiotic are actually in many probiotic foods. Cooking or otherwise heating those foods can destroy the beneficial bacteria. Many of these foods don’t have labels, or don’t list this information on the label. We can only guess. And even when products such as yogurts or kefir list CFUs and type of probiotic in their label, that information isn’t always accurate.
Gut health is a thing, but it matters where you get your probiotics. Cut it out with the functional popcorn, and add a variety of properly fermented foods to your diet.
Also: Don’t expect miracles.
These are primarily sold to women over 40, but there is no research showing that female hormones can be manipulated by diet.
I know, it sounds boring, but what I’m saying is true. I actually wish it wasn’t.
You can’t ‘reset’ your hormones with a diet. In fact, you can’t ‘reset’ anything with a diet, supplements, green juices, or whatever else the wellness industry wants to sell you.
Your body isn’t an iPhone that can be restored to factory settings with the press of a button.
That’s not how any of this works.
Diets that promise to balance your hormones after menopause are often based on generic recommendations with the addition of supplements and other products that the diet developer is selling. They usually talk a lot about ‘toxins,’ and eliminating foods such as dairy and gluten in order to fix ‘bloating,’ ‘brain fog,’ ‘slow metabolism,’ and ‘exhaustion,’ complaints that are very non-specific and that can result from a variety of causes. Beware of people who tell you that you have something scary going on, and then want to sell you the solution to the problem you never knew you had. This is the mark of a nutrition charlatan.
These people also target vulnerable women who feel like shit about their changing bodies, and appeal to their emotions while confirming that their bodies are ‘broken.’
Which, of course, they’re not.
Some hormones, such as insulin and thyroid hormones, can be impacted by what you eat.
But balancing and resetting female hormones?
Not happening. At least, not with food.
Sugar free influencers (and influencers in general)
One of the big nutrition trends right now is going ‘sugar-free.’ And while I do think that most of us eat too much added sugar in the form of ultra-processed foods, it’s not healthy to go to the other end of the spectrum, either.
While added sugar has been linked to health issues, eating a reasonable amount of it has never been shown to be harmful. And it’s the totality of your diet – meaning, what else are you eating on a consistent basis – that really matters. Those two Oreos you eat after dinner every night aren’t a big deal if you’re eating an overall nourishing diet with lots of plants and minimally processed foods and not too much alcohol.
Another thing that matters? Lifestyle.
Are you consistently and highly stressed? Not sleeping? Sedentary? Dieting chronically?
All of these things add up to potential health issues, both physical and emotional.
But that piece of chocolate cake you ate on your birthday isn’t going to even make a dent.
I hate to use the word ‘moderation,’ so I’ll say this:
A little sugar is fine. A lot may not be. But lots of other things in your life and your diet also matter, and cutting out sugar for most people is unsustainable and unnecessary.
It’s also very unfun.
And lastly, it’s also not a good idea to follow the health and nutrition advice of ‘influencers’ who have no credible nutrition training whatsoever (and no, an online course doesn’t count).
So let’s not do that.