Got Diet Culture Burnout? A Dietician Tells Us the Diets You Should Ditch

Diets that Don't Work
Getty, Luis Alvarez

Diet talk can be difficult. While we might wish it wasn’t so, for many, talking about diet is tied up with challenging memories, complex health issues and appearance anxiety. To make matters worse, the internet and social media are awash with fad diets, that not only don’t work, but can be destructive to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Despite all this, diets remain popular. Probably because they provide simple guidelines in the often complex world of health and nutrition (and Uber Eats). However, many of the diet trends that end up going “viral” have more to do with high profile spokespeople or eye-catching “quick fix” solutions than actual health.

Geraldine Georgeou is a nutritionist, dietician and author of “The Healthy Skin Diet.” She tells me, “As a nutritionist and dietician, to me the term ‘diet’ simply means the food and drink we put in our bodies to fuel and nourish ourselves. The keyword for this discussion is ‘nourish.’ Food and drink are essential to our survival and the best way to survive is by thriving on a well-balanced mix of nourishing elements.”

Georgeou says that, unfortunately, some of the most popular diets are more about marketing than they are about health. She explains; “some diets have been born out of consumerism and competition – and seemingly outlive many fashion, design and business trends!” Georgeou gave us her list of nutritious trends we should be keeping, and diet fads we should be avoiding below

Dietician Geraldine Georgeou’s Diet Keep and Kick List

KICK IT: Strict rules and eliminating food groups

The list of trademarked diets that see us restrict ourselves from certain types of food goes on and on… Keto, Atkins, Whole30 to name a few.

While some aspects of these diets are beneficial, the overarching rules of what you can and cannot eat is where they fall short. Eliminating an entire food group can lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients, which then could lead to illness or other complications.

The key is keeping to a “long term” nutrition plan which is both nourishing and nurturing.

KEEP IT: Everything in moderation

I rejoice when I see this phrase in reference to food and drink, as it is the simplest way to enjoy eating and staying healthy. It’s worth noting that a critical part of a well-balanced diet means including all food groups.

It is best not to restrain yourself from enjoying the occasional sweet treat or moreish savoury delight… in moderation of course, and alongside the other food groups, to maintain a well-balanced diet.  

KICK IT: Weight loss as the main goal of dieting

When dieting mentality is completely fixated on losing kilos, the greater picture of health is lost. If we focus on numbers on the scales, we run the risk of jeopardising other elements of a healthy lifestyle, both physiological and psychological.

Personally, I believe the overall goal of establishing a nourishing diet should be health and happiness. From there, one of the natural effects can be weight loss. But also, muscle growth – improved lean body mass, flexibility, better body composition, prevention of metabolic disease, social confidence, and so many other positive results.

KEEP IT: Take your gut health seriously

A healthy gut needs the support of good bacteria to promote better digestive balance. To keep those good bacteria growing and thriving, we need to feed them with a high fibre diet. Eating high fibre grains, such as whole-grain bread and cereals, plus vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes, can help keep your gut happy.

My go-to breakfast to make sure my gut stays healthy is some Sultana Bran cereal with a probiotic higher protein yoghurt; what better way to start the day?!

The Mediterranean Diet is one that works
Image Credit: Getty, Cristina Pedrazzini

KICK IT: Fat-free or Carb-free diets

There are only three macronutrients that provide our bodies with calories: fat, carbohydrates and protein. If you cut out the first two, you’re left with just protein. To process protein, your body requires extra water, so by consuming too much protein, you could become dehydrated.

Eliminating carbs and/or fats entirely you might also find yourself lacking energy, stamina, or muscle development. Healthy carbs and fats are used to supply energy to your cells, which you need to fully function. Healthy carbs can be found in whole-grain foods, legumes and pulses, together with fruit and veggies.

KEEP IT: Ways of eating rooted in local culture

While some fad diets can be detrimental, there are a few dieting trends that stem from geographical regions that can have positive benefits, particularly the Nordic and Mediterranean diets.

The main difference between these two lies in the fat source. While the Mediterranean diet calls for locally produced olive oil, the Nordic diet opts for canola oil. Largely, both diets are high in plant foods which contribute to fibre content and combine plants with animal protein such as fish and lean meat, chicken and eggs in moderation.  

KEEP IT: Grains are good

Diet culture loves to make enemies out of carbs, sugars and fats. But again, in order to keep a well-balanced diet, your body needs each of these.

Whole grains and carbohydrates also help give your skin that gorgeous glow and consuming low GI carbs, found in whole-grain bread and sourdough bread, is a great way to ensure your blood sugar levels don’t spike, which can contribute to many skin issues.

Additionally, whole grains have significant benefits for your gut. So get going with a bowl of high-fibre whole-grain cereal each morning, and then compliment that with whole-grain bread and brown rice during the day.

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