Is a diet “bogus” because it bans “fat, sugar or carbs”? Yes claims an article at USA Weekend: Five ways to spot a bogus diet.
I’ll get to the other signs of dietary bogusosity in a minute. Let us first examine the assertion that banning or limiting particular foods or nutrients from your diet is “both nutritionally deficient and not sustainable.”
Sure, banning all fat would create a diet that is seriously deficient and unsustainable; in fact, it would kill you. Therefore, no one ever bans fat. People do often limit fat more than I ever would, though, and for many people, an extreme low-fat diets is impossible to stick with. That was my experience.
I’d even agree that banning all carbs is unsustainable, and I personally don’t know anyone who does that or advocates it. As for seriously limiting carbs, that can be done and sustained. I know because I’m doing it. Others have done it before me. Obviously, I don’t agree that restricting carbohydrate intake is the mark of a bogus diet. It works.
It won’t work 100% of the time for 100% of people, but surely perfection is not the standard here. (If it is, someone needs to get real.)
But what bothers me the most is saying that a diet that attempts to ban, or seriously limit, sugar intake is “bogus.”
I’d call seriously limiting sugar in your diet a “good first-step.” Why would it not be?
No one needs sugar. Sure, people want it, or think they do, but it is not a nutritional need. Entire societies have lived without refined sugar. I’ve lived without it for almost six months, and have no plans to eat sugar again. That said, I have not “banned” sugar. I just avoid eating it. If one day I decide to eat a cookie, I’ll eat it and then I’ll go right back to not eating cookies the next day. Does that mean my sugar-free diet is “unsustainable”? I suppose it does in a purely technical (and absurdly pedantic) sense. But in a practical sense, eating no cookies and eating a few cookies a year is the same. Again, perfection is not the standard in real world eating.
So telling people to ban sugar — in the practical sense of “ban” — is beneficial, not bogus, dietary advice.
The article also gives the example of diets that tell people to only eat one food. I agree that a diet that tells you to only eat “cabbage soup or grapefruits” is bogus. But that kind of extreme silliness is not the equivalent of eating a low-carb diet — or a sugar-free diet. Or, for that matter, a low-fat diet.
I do agree, more or less, with some of the article’s other advice for spotting a bogus diet.
Like the article, I am suspicious of diets promising fast results, requiring specific meal combinations, and including special pills, powders or herbs. I have seen low-carb books and web sites that promise fast results, but not all do. It’s a dubious marketing ploy — hype, basically — and I’d beware of people who use it. As for meal combos and special pills, those are not part of low-carb as I know it, and I would avoid any diet requiring them.
This brings me to the fifth supposed sign of a bogus diet: it skips exercise.
I don’t buy this one. First, a diet is a way of eating, not a total fitness plan. OK, most diet books claim to be “programs” and often include exercise as part of the program. Atkins does it. So do other low-carb books. Fine, but that is mostly marketing. A diet is about eating, not working out.
I strongly disagree with the article’s claim that “regular physical activity — 30 to 60 minutes on most days — is necessary to lose weight and keep it off.” I’ve lost over 35 pounds without adding such daily “activity.” (Notice that weasel word. I’m assuming “activity” means intense exercise, such as brisk walks or running, and weight lifting. But the article doesn’t define “activity.” Convenient.)
Do I think exercise is beneficial to a person? Sure. It often improves endurance, strength and balance.
Do I think exercise could help with weight loss? Maybe, to a degree, in that muscles at rest burn more calories than body fat does.
Do I think exercise is required for weight loss?
No. No more than sugar is required for a healthy, sustainable diet.