In this episode of Healthful Woman podcast, Dr. Fox is joined by Casey Seiden, a registered dietician, nutritionist, and diabetes educator to talk all about dieting, why fad diets fail, and how to create healthy lifestyle changes.
The new year is upon us, which is notoriously known as a time for diets of all kinds. Many women consider the new year to be a “clean slate” and a time to change their diet to reach their health goals. However, many women find themselves following fad diets or diets that are not sustainable, leading to yo-yo dieting. “95% of diets fail,” explained Casey Seiden, registered dietitian nutritionist, and diabetes educator. “And we know that doing that yo-yo dieting is often a lot more harmful to a person’s health in the long-term.”
Unfortunately, diet culture is pervasive. Messages and images portrayed in the media often drive people to want a quick fix, which is why they turn to fad diets that are unsustainable in the long run. Scientifically, it has been shown that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to go the slow and steady route.
Popular Diets and How They Work
The Keto Diet
Keto is short for the word ketogenic. “It’s a way of eating where you’re restricting carbohydrates so that you’re putting your body into a state of ketosis,” explained Seiden. “Meaning that rather than using carbohydrates for your energy source, you’re going to start to burn fat for your fuel. And that would then help you lose weight.” The ketogenic diet has been scientifically found to help treat a variety of health conditions, including diabetes, some seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological conditions. And while this diet can help people to drop weight rapidly, Seiden does not recommend it among the general population. “I give keto a thumbs down because it is encouraging you to restrict major food groups,” she said.
Intermittent fasting involves switching between fasting and eating on a regular schedule in order to manage weight. Seiden explained that there are a few different ways to do intermittent fasting. “The first popular approach is where you’re doing a 16-hour fast, and then you have the rest of the 8 hours of the day with no calorie restrictions,” she said. “The other popular way is to kind of do five regular days and two full-fast days. Kind of similar to keto, it can really help with weight loss.” Overall, Seiden is not completely for or against this diet, as different diets and eating habits work for different people, but the restrictive and time-bound nature can be difficult and less intuitive for many.
Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
The apple cider vinegar diet involves drinking 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily. There are also now apple cider vinegar gummies available to purchase. “There is quite a bit of evidence behind some of the benefits of apple cider vinegar,” explained Seiden. “A lot of the benefits are circulating around weight loss, reducing cholesterol, lowering your blood sugar levels. So, with my work with diabetes and blood sugars, it is something that the research shows is pretty compelling to use as a tool.” If it’s not to manage a health condition like diabetes, apple cider vinegar may not be helpful for you and if taken in the liquid form could actually cause dental or gastrointestinal issues.
The Noom Diet
Noom is a diet program that markets itself as a “lifestyle change” program to help you lose weight. It uses something called the stop light system to guide people to make food choices. For example, it categorized foods as green (you can eat as much as you’d like), yellow (foods to be mindful of), and red (foods to avoid). While there is a personal coach that works with you through this app, this diet is centered around reducing calorie intake and often recommends calorie levels far below what an adult person would need to consume to maintain daily functions. The program’s coaches are not certified in nutrition and so is not the same as having a personal dietitian who tailors a diet to you and supports you in making realistic changes. “It’s categorizing things as basically good, neutral, or bad,” said Seiden. “And when we start to assign moral value to foods, which intrinsically have no moral value, then I think that just keeps us trapped in that sticky diet culture realm.” Overall, Seiden does not recommend the Noom diet.
Intuitive eating is not a diet, but rather an approach to listening to your body to break down diet rules that you have learned throughout your lifetime. “It’s a framework based on 10 principles that focus on saying no to what we call the “food police”, making peace with food, and rejecting this mentality of needing to be on a diet,” explained Seiden. “It talks more about listening and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, engaging in joyful movement, and practicing gentle nutrition.” Many women that follow intuitive eating learn to make peace with food and with eating, and Seiden has found that this approach is very helpful for many of her patients.