There are a lot of diet trends that are big in the media right now. As someone who’s been working out since high school and eating a clean diet forever (thanks Mom!), I’ve tried many things. I’ve been lucky to learn what works best for me and have managed to stay super fit through some insanely busy times ( Opinion of a Fit Girl Part 1 talks about my thoughts on some of the latest fitness trends ). Like this week for example – whew! While everyone is different, I feel like I have good insights into the sustainability and effectiveness of some of these diet trends.
The hype: intermittent fasting (IF)
This is a technique to make cutting overall calorie intake less painful. Instead of eating when you’re hungry through out the day, you can only eat within a 8-24 hour period. You then fast or slash calories drastically for the next 8-24 hours (more details here) and repeat. Studies have shown that IF is as effective for weight loss as regular diet plans (probably simply because it cuts calories), and that less frequent meals can increase the lifespan of lab rats (!).
Opinion of a fit girl:
I can see the appeal, but I’m not good at starving myself. I’d rather eat clean, low calorie food (veggies, lean protein, and oatmeal etc.) and treats once in a while versus starve for a pizza binge several times per week. I think IF can deter people from forming a taste for healthy food (the importance of which I discussed here) since it’s easier to avoid eating clean and still maintain an overall calorie deficit with this plan. If you can’t sustain IF, this doesn’t help your long term diet success.
I also think IF can exacerbate disordered eating in people who have issues with restricting and bingeing and I’ve heard that many people who can sustain IF consume a ton of caffeine, which I don’t think is good for anyone in excess (see my post on coffee and fitness here).
The bottom line? I think this method paired with moderate coffee intake could work for some people in the short term. Sometimes I will go for 16 hours without food after a large dinner because I feel full the next morning, but I would never consciously use IF as a long term fitness tool.
The hype: fake sugar = give me donuts
You’ve probably read that artificial sweeteners can make people crave real sugar (i.e. this article). Basically, artificial sweeteners can condition taste buds to crave intense levels of sweetness while making your brain expect a boost in blood sugar. When it doesn’t register a quick uptick in glucose from artificial sugar, it can leave you craving real sweets.
Opinion of a fit girl:
I’ve noticed that the more sweetener I use, the more immune to it I get (that’s backed up by studies too!). I use stevia to sweeten everything and while I need a lot more than when I first started to enjoy the taste, I haven’t found that it leaves me craving real sugar.
I don’t feel bad about using stevia since it’s plant based and hasn’t been associated with potential side effects like chemical sweeteners. There are other options for calorie free natural sweeteners including xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol, but these can cause stomach trouble (they are considered high FODMAP). So, I’m going to embrace my calorie free stevia sweet tooth rather than weaning myself off the sweetness (as some experts recommend for those addicted to real sugar). Occasionally, I have an aspartame filled diet soda too. Everything in moderation!
“If you repeatedly eat a food, your affinity toward it will increase” – Psychology Today, “How To Get Over Your Sugar Addiction”
The hype: low carb
This has been a fad since the dawn of Atkins diet in the 1970’s. There is plenty of research to back it up (Google it!) and many a celebrity has hawked it, including Renee Zelweger. Again, like IF, any time you avoid an entire food group you often end up cutting calories. Not everyone eats more to compensate for skipping the bread!
Opinion of a fit girl:
Not for me. Carbs make me feel satisfied after meals, and give me energy to workout. I need a high fiber, complex carb with almost every meal and I strongly believe there is a place for these carbs in almost every diet. In surveying my girlfriends, it’s pretty clear that none of us have ever been able to sustain a true low carb diet. Lots people I know who’ve tried them end up bingeing on carbs after a few days and developing a belief that carbs are evil, even though they can’t quite explain the scientific reason behind as to why.
I’m going to keep putting lots of stevia in my big bowl of oatmeal that that I eat twice a day, at anytime during my waking hours that I feel an urge. Hurray!
A Note on the Perfect Headphones:
I’m on foot ALL the time in San Francisco, which is part of why I love the city so much. While I’m all about my noise cancelling headphones when I’m working in a loud area or on a flight, I do a lot of walking on roads and need to be alert, so I don’t like them for my commute. The Apple ear buds are the wrong shape for my ears and fall out all the time, causing the opposite issue of letting too much outside noise. Enter the Audio-Technica earbud. They come with several sizes of ear bud to custom fit to your ear, and while not noise cancelling, they do a great job of filtering out unnecessary outside noise and are perfect for commuting and the gym. Check them out at the link below!
Jacket – Levi’s
Top – c/o RYU
Tights – Adidas
Shoes – Adidas
Headphones – c/o Audio-Technica
Photo credit: Michael Moore
What do you think of these trends? What works best for you?