WHAT THE DIET HOP DOES TO YOU OU
With so many hot new eating plans promising improved energy, more lean muscle and mental clarity, it’s tempting to try them all to find the perfect fit. But jumping from one to the next has long-lasting effects, the latest science shows.
Science shows how jumping from one eating plan to the next can do more harm arm than good.
Keto, Whole30, Paleo. Even if you haven’t tried them, you definitely know the names – these are the trending eating styles engineered to make us stronger, leaner, hyper-focused, and more energised. Each is founded on an element of science and boasts an enthusiastic fan club with raving testimonials all over social media. As a result, they are pretty enticing. “People want more control over their health, and they know they have the ability to manipulate their wellbeing by eating certain kinds of foods,” says Dr Robert Graham, co-founder of Fresh Med, an integrative health practice in New York City.
The club aspect also makes modern dieting attractive. Friends embark on the plans together, swop tips and tailored recipes, and even bond over the discipline required of, say, the mono diet, in which you eat only one type of food. So it’s no wonder why fit women are diet hopping – experimenting with several, or all, of these eating routines in the quest for adventure, a challenge, and, of course, results.
However, while individual diets may have real merit, experts like Dr Graham say that constantly changing your food formulas can have serious consequences if you do it too much or too often. “Your body needs a consistent, well-designed eating plan to stay healthy and not wreak havoc on your gut and metabolism,” he says.
Here’s what to watch out for on these diets as well as the smart, expert-backed strategies that will help you stay healthy, fueled, and fit on any eating plan.
THERE ARE GAPING HOLES
The main concern with a diet that calls for eliminating entire food groups is that you’re missing out on the key nutrients in those foods,” says Kristine Clark, director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. Take keto, a super low-carb, high-fat diet. If you reduce your carb intake by skipping grains, fruits, and vegetables, you’ll fall short on fibre, antioxidants, and possibly vitamins like A and C, she explains. And even if you switch quickly between diets, you’re still not safe from shortfalls. “In just three days without certain nutrients like vitamin C, you can develop symptoms of deficiency diseases like scurvy,” Kristine says. “So it’s essential to have a plan for filling in the gaps.” THE FIX Before trying a diet, see which foods are off-limits, then find alternative sources for their nutrients. For low-dairy diets like Whole30, for example, swop in bone broth or leafy greens.
YOUR METABOLISM SUFFERS
When you jump from one diet to another, your daily intake can start to swing. Even if you stick with one diet for months, many of the most popular plans don’t call for calorie counting, so you could end up consuming 2,000 calories one week and 1,200 the next without realising it. That fluctuation is a problem, says Dr Graham. “If your energy consumption isn’t consistent, it can slow down your metabolism, so you end up gaining weight.” It can also mess with your hunger cues, leaving you irritable, exhausted, and hungry. THE FIX Spend the first few days of a new diet tracking your calories to make sure you’re staying in a healthy range for you. For a 60kg woman in her mid 30s, for instance, that’s 1,500 to 2,100 calories a day, depending on your activity level. If possible, eat four to six smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism steady and your hunger in check, Dr Graham says.
TRANSITION BECOMES YOUR CONSTANT BODY STATE
Your gut and metabolism take about three weeks to adjust to new foods,” Dr Graham says. If you’re trying a new diet every month, your body is constantly playing catch-up, and that can be hard on your system. THE FIX Stay on a plan for at least three weeks, then evaluate how you feel. If you decide to quit, don’t switch immediately to a diet that’s the polar opposite (for example, meat-heavy keto to carby veganism). A sudden change in carb, protein, fat, or fibre intake can cause GI discomfort or energydraining blood sugar swings.
Reintroducing a food group also requires care. “After half a year without a food, the stomach’s production of digestive enzymes may change, making it difficult for you to process a food,” Kristine explians. Eat only small portions at first. If you experience GI symptoms or hives, see an allergist to find out if you have a food sensitivity.
When you jump from diet to diet, your daily calorie intake can swing dramatically, which can lead to weight gain.
STOP THE HOP Stay on an eating plan for at least three weeks to keep your metabolism high.