New in 2018, Learning Curve is a monthly series on my blog that’s focused on teaching you semi-complicated nutrition topics in an easy-to-understand format and language. From how to debunk diets to what to know about sugars and everything in between, Learning Curve will help you live your best life (and hopefully answer all of those burning questions!)

Want me to write about something in particular? Let me know in the comments section below!

There are a lot of diets out there, and it’s hard to know which ones are legit. Not that I’m promoting dieting, but I know that a lot of you will look for some sort of nutrition plan at some point, and I want you to be able to recognize a red flag when you see one.

Tracey Anderson is a celebrity trainer who has worked with tons of movie stars. Now, she’s the subject of a rather ferocious backlash about her advice in a Goop article on how to lose weight fast.

When I saw her ‘lose 14 pounds in 4 weeks’ diet in Goop, it occurred to me that it represented pretty much everything that’s wrong with celebrity – and other – diets. Way to go, Tracey! That’s quite a dubious honor!

Having read the article myself, I can legit understand why the backlash is real for Ms. Anderson. It’s because her advice is the biggest load of dangerous, nonsensical CRAP I literally have ever read in a magazine, given what I do for a living, that’s saying a lot. Tracey isn’t a stranger to diets, though. She was the one who invented the Baby Food Diet that Jennifer Aniston was on. Super legit! I’m rolling my eyes, FYI.

Lots of people want to lose weight, I totally get that. But I want to highlight the very obvious red flags that you should be aware of if you’re ever considering nutrition advice from a ‘celebrity trainer’ or anyone of the sort, really.  There’s a right way, and a wrong way, to do things. Weight loss included.

To use this Tracey Anderson diet as a learning tool on how to spot bad diets, I’m going to cut and paste the most outrageous red flags into this blog post so I can address them one by one. You’ll be able to see how so many unqualified people sneak crazy diet advice into the media using their celebrity status and tons of promises of major weight loss success. Sigh.

Better sit down for this one! Here we go:

1. If you have weight to lose, you can effectively do a fourteen-pound weight loss in four weeks. This requires focus and physical, mental, and emotional willpower. You will experience short-term stress (particularly during your cycle if you’re a woman)—but this can end up being less stressful than living with the stress of excess weight.

You know what I find stressful? The fact that Tracey Anderson is saying this shit and that mainstream media is publishing it. Didn’t crash diets disappear in the 70s where they belong?

Recommending to readers that they can lose fourteen pounds in four weeks is incredibly irresponsible, dangerous, and misleading, among many other things. And saying that it’s possible IF they have the willpower and strength to do it puts the blame squarely on the reader if they’re not successful with this piece of crap diet.

Anytime you see or hear this sort of blame and talk of willpower and strength or some variation of it (ahem Whole30), run. Not being able to starve yourself for a month on this diet doesn’t make you weak.  Also: losing weight isn’t about willpower: that’s just a lame tactic to make you feel weak when you fail on their diet.

Red flags: Blaming you for messing up on their shitty diet; unrealistic weight loss claims; talking about willpower. 

2. If you only have 48 hours, I would go with the leanest eating options. For example: the tea with protein powder at breakfast, a poached egg and small salad with rice wine vinegar for lunch, half of the chocolate bar for a snack, and steamed/grilled plain fish with steamed spinach or asparagus for dinner. With this eating plan, plus a sweaty muscular structure and cardio workout, you could be down four pounds, but most likely two, unless you are a really good physical performer and you have the heat and humidity perfect in your workout environment.

So in other words, starve yourself, and dehydrate yourself by sweating in the ‘perfect environment of heat and humidity’. Why is there a chocolate bar as a snack but gross tea with protein powder for breakfast? Who in the world drinks tea with protein powder?

Watch the weight come right back on when you have a glass of water and a regular meal…if you don’t pass out during your ‘sweaty muscular structure and cardio workout’ first. What is that even? Some Hollywood woo woo workout?

Red flags: Starvation; weird rules about what you can eat and what you can’t. And in case you’re confused about what ‘weird’ is, use your gut feeling. 

3. The best way to jump-start weight loss is to work out every single day until you actually crave the workout. Plus, get off gluten and go very low carb.

No, the best way to get injured is to work out every single day and to turn exercise into a punishment that should be endured, not enjoyed. how long do you actually have to work out every single day until you ‘crave the workout’? You should try to be active every day under normal circumstances, but working out every day won’t do anything to ‘jump start’ your weight loss. It actually sounds like a punishment. Did you do something bad to deserve this? Like, eating?

Also, haven’t we learned that gluten isn’t the devil? Why is she still recommending gluten-free diets for everyone when science has proven again and again and again that they’re not necessary or healthy? Yawn.

Red flags: Cutting out gluten for no apparent reason besides the fact that Tracy Anderson thinks it’s trendy and fun and will make her sound more legit; making workouts into punishment. Your body hasn’t done anything wrong; don’t treat it as though it has. Also: eating isn’t cause for punishment. Ever. Ever. Ever. 

4. If you’re hungry between meals, have, say one poached egg, and wait a few hours to see how you feel, then have another little something light if you’re still hungry.

One poached egg has 70 calories, which is a lot less than what I’d recommend for a snack. More importantly, I want to ask: Why is it so shameful to be hungry between meals? Why do I have to eat a 70 calorie egg and then wait hours..HOURS..and then have something ‘light’ if I’m still hungry? What if I’m legit HUNGRY?!?!? Isn’t that normal??! And wait! This diet stipulates that you can only have one egg a day..what if I’m hungry between meals?

Oh right…the chocolate bar.

Red flags: Starvation: Never okay. Treating hunger like it’s shameful: Never okay. Whacked out rules allowing for wine and chocolate but not healthy foods: unbelievable. You know that, right?

5. (If your weight won’t budge)…even small adjustments (like cutting almond milk from your coffee) can make a difference if you need it.

Let me get this straight. Cutting the 15 calories of almond milk out of my coffee, and forcing me to drink it black, is going to make a difference?

Unless you drink 15 coffees a day, cutting out your almond milk with your coffee is really not going to do you much good. It’s just going to make you hate your life that much more.

And let’s not forget the most important thing: if your weight won’t budge, it’s probably not the almond milk in your coffee. Try examining your weight goals and ensuring that they’re actually realistic.

Red flag: Removing all pleasure from eating and drinking. 

6. We don’t all have organic salads at our disposal. I have had a lot of success over the years helping people to get rid of unhealthy, debilitating weight, in part by eating meal-replacement bars. As I learned more about nutrition and the body, and my work evolved, though, I found I couldn’t recommend the same products anymore because of the toxic ingredients in them.

So is it either organic salad or (her) meal replacement bar, take your pick? I’ll take a sandwich, thanks Tracey.

Recommending that people eat a meal replacement bar instead of food is absurd. It’s fine to cut calories, but eating only a bar for a meal can really cause you to be hungry – and compensate for that by overeating later on. But don’t worry, if you’re hungry after that bar, you can have a whole poached egg for 70 calories!

It’s important to remember that most meal replacement bars clock in at well under 400 calories, so what Tracey is doing is basically suggesting that you dramatically cut calories at meals by eating some prepackaged garbage bar. But of course, she’s also calling all meal replacement products toxic EXCEPT FOR HER OWN, which you can conveniently buy by clicking a link right in this article! Shame on you if you can’t afford organic salad OR Tracey’s special bars! Then again, doling out elitist crap is normal for Goop.

Lastly, calling any food ‘toxic’ and then referring to her own product, which is linked for purchasing within this article, is a very gross, self-serving use of fear mongering. Shame.

Red flags: Fearmongering; elitist behaviour; meal replacements – especially ones that the diet is selling. Beware of up-selling, sales pitches, and anyone who has something to sell, period. 

 

31 Comments

  1. Love this article so much—thank you! Your blog has been a great source of support (and laughs!) for me as I work toward healthier eating.

  2. Wow, just wow!!!! I get SO frustrated when I see/hear about these kind of articles and diets. I am so tired of hearing people talk about “bad” foods and other nonsense. Thank you for this. I will be sharing it with a few of my friends who still think that starving themselves and doing “cleanses” will help them lose weight.

  3. Once again you lend a common sense, evidence based approach to helping me understand better nutrition. Thank you~

  4. Love your articles! Always reminding us to love and care for our body rather than treat it as an enemy. So the comment Ms. Anderson says above about losing 14pounds in 4 weeks sounds nutso, but she’s not the first trainer I’ve heard say something like that. When losing weight is there a “safe” or realistic maybe percentage of weight to drop weekly and anything suggesting beyond that is just unrealistic/dangerous/crazytown? Or is it entirely unique to each person and there is no guideline?
    Thanks!

    1. We recommend 1-2 pounds a week, generally. There are plateaus though, and some weeks you may lose more, but 14 pounds in 4 weeks is crazy. Everyone is unique in that they might have more weight to lose than the next person and therefore may lose more, quicker, initially – and there’s also the fact that everyone processes nutrients differently so one ‘diet’ will not work for everyone!

  5. Great article, Abby!!
    You’re so right to denounce these self-serving “diet gurus” who preach harmful advice while subliminally steering the gullible, desperate, and now starving dieter to buy their own crappy products and programs.
    Thanks for exposing these celebrity mavens exploit the vulnerable dieters by piling on the guilt!

  6. Love this! Unfortunately, you are preaching to the choir. Wish my coworkers would read this and pay attention to it.

  7. Awesome review – you are point-on with every red-flag! You approach nutrition from a healthy viewpoint, one that I wish more people would adopt and promote. Thank you!

  8. Fad diets are crap. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of veggies, fruits, carbs and protein is the ONLY long term solution to staying healthy. Healthy doesn’t mean skinny!
    We need less “lose weight now” articles, and more “feel good as you are” articles

  9. I have come to look forward to every review you put out. They are so sensible and true. It is amazing that there are still people out there that will actually follow anything like this….sad as well. Keep up the great work and I look forward again to your next post!

  10. I get so much pleasure reading your no bull honest articles. I struggle with my weight but reading your blogs helps keep things in focus and stay the course!

  11. I love your blog

    I am in a constant weight battle with my weight and I like that you talk to us about eating real food

    I am sick of protein shakes and all the other “diet” food

    I just want to eat real food

    Your blog always gives me some valuable insight

    thanks mary

  12. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. I am an iliostomate with lifelong Crohns disease and recent Lupus diagnosis. I have had difficulty with weight gain since my original ostomy surgery 13 years ago and more so this past year with another intestinal surgery. I’ve had trouble with malabsorption as well. I am frustrated and incredibly anxious to get the weight off. I had been researching the Keto diet (I mean REALLY researching) and reading your thoughts on that has reeled me back in. Reading this article has helped me as well. Your no B.S. explanations reminded me of things I already know and helped me kind of “shake off” the need to try an unrealistic approach to dieting and set myself up for failure. Thank you for what you do.

  13. I love this! Thanks for breaking down nutrition in an understandable way. There’s so much information flying around from every direction–low-carb vs vegetarian vs why-are-you-eating-at-all…it was making me nuts. I got online to find a factual source that seems reasonable so I can figure out how to feed myself. Thank you for this series–I will be back!

  14. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate finding you. I was just about to embark on Sara Gottlieb’s hormone reset diet when I went looking for an honest review. I’m just happy I read it as part of my monthly Scribd membership and didn’t fork out the $23 as I was originally going to do. I’ve also looked into Isagenix, Bulletproof and It Works but my hatred of MLM companies has held me back. I was up for hours last night reading through your reviews and am happy to say that I will be focussing on using real food and exercise to reach my goals in the future. I’ve subscribed to your blog to keep me inspired- Thank You!!

  15. I just stumbled upon your site and LOVE your honest reviews and sarcastic wit!! How refreshing to see someone with proper credentials debunking this garbage. Can’t wait to explore the rest of your site.

  16. Abby,
    Not only are you an expert in your field—you are stinkin’ hilarious!! I love your style and glad I stumbled across your site!! 🙂

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