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!)

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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.