Here’s The Skinny on 5 Trendy Diets

There are always new, fabulous diets running amok. I imagine there always will be, which can sometimes make it hard to know the next thing to eat or not to eat to give you INCREDIBLE results.

A “diet” is the food you eat. “Dieting” is the process of eliminating or increasing something in your diet to produce results of either losing, maintaining, or increasing body weight, fat, muscle or all three, depending on your goals.

Dieting has been around for a really long time and some diets have been really scary, such as swallowing tapeworms. Some have been deadly such as a stay at the glamorous “Wilderness Heights Sanitarium” where you could undergo a fasting treatment after which you would either be REALLY ready for your high school reunion, or most likely would come home dead.  (Check out this crazy shit!)

The precursor to Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was part of a diet that was popular at a sanitarium that promised superior health. One of the first popular diets was called Banting which came about in the 1860s and was named after an English undertaker named William Banting.

He wrote about his successes with his own diet which consisted of meats, greens, fruit, and dry wine. (F*CK YEAH! WE GET WINE!) He suggested avoiding sugars, sweet foods, starch, beer, milk, and butter. Doesn’t sound that strange does it? It almost sounds… PALEO! Plus, there’s wine! The popularity of this diet was such that people would ask each other “Do you Bant?” referring to this method. (Do you even f*ckin’ Bant, bro?)

We often get questions from Ninjas about diets and food lifestyles that are popular today. My goal with this article is to answer some questions, dispel some myths, and perhaps help you decide if any of these are right for you. We are going to explore some popular eating trends like the paleo diet, cleanses (specifically juice cleanses and the Master Cleanse), intermittent fasting, and the Whole30.

First off, let me dispel one big myth, and that is that diets don’t work. I beg to differ. Most, if not all, diets DO work… for a while. It is a matter of sustainability and dedication to new habits that will keep them successful.

Okay, let’s fuckin’ dive on in, shall we?

THE PALEO DIET

What The F*ck Is It?!

Paleo is really more of a lifestyle choice (like being gay) than a diet, as there are no time parameters around it. Whether you keep paleo going or not, it isn’t something meant to lose weight quickly to fit into your wedding dress and then stop doing as soon as that zipper successfully glides shut. The gist is that you eat in the way that our Paleolithic ancestors ate before the invention of agriculture. So that includes grassfed and pasture raised meats, wild caught seafood, veggies, eggs, lots of good fats from avocados, macadamias, butter, and animal fats, some fruit and nuts, and some sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.

Alcohol is totally allowed with a little caveat, it should only be things like wine, tequila, mead (honey wine), and hard cider. These are allowed because they are made with things that could’ve been collected and fermented by cavemen, grapes, agave, honey, and apples. Remember we weren’t growing grains yet to produce whiskeys and such.

I really like this way of eating, and tend to gravitate to this myself but I don’t consider myself necessarily paleo, I am a nonconformist and don’t like labels. I also like to stray. Paleo can have wonderful results for improving health markers and body composition. It offers a healthy and complete nutritional profile that will help you look and feel great and really never have to worry about going on a diet again.

What Is It Not?

Paleo is not a quick crash diet, a caloric reduction, or calorie counting. In the paleo lifestyle you don’t eat grains, legumes, sugars, vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils (duh),  or dairy products. (Butter and some grassfed heavy cream is OK, although super paleo purists may not even go down that creamy road). You also just eat when you are hungry, so there isn’t a certain amount of meals to hit each day.

What Really Grinds My Gears

You all know them, those “Paleo People” that love to chew your ears off about it. Or the people that are like, “I’m paleo but I ate a pizza and some cronuts this weekend.” To which I reply, “Are cronuts even still produced? Where is mine!? And I’m sorry but you aren’t paleo then, but perhaps paleocentric (as in living the paleo lifestyle most of the time but will never ever pass up a batch of Mom’s Christmas cookies) and are still crushing it.”

Is Paleo Right For You?

Maybe. It definitely would be a healthful choice but, as with anything, it requires some discipline and the ability to say no to that box of <insert awful baked good from grocery store here> at the office birthday party for Linda the receptionist. Also sometimes you just need a pizza and some cronuts!

CLEANSES / JUICE CLEANSES

What The F*ck Is It!?

A juice cleanse is a short term diet that involves little to no solid food for usually 3-5 days but sometimes longer. The dieter drinks different fruit and vegetable juice cocktails (sorry boozehounds, no booze in these cocktails) throughout the day for sustenance.

This is most definitely a way to lose weight quickly for that Vegas vacation coming up next week that we totally shouldn’t have booked immediately following the holidays expecting to rock our hot bods at the TAO pool club.

Usually the juices are freshly pressed or cold pressed to preserve the nutrients longer. The idea is that your digestive system won’t need to work as hard, will immediately absorb the nutrients in the juice, and can focus on cleaning out toxins, repairing bodily tissues, and losing fat. Sounds pretty good! But is it?

What It Is Not

Sustainable or actually cleansing. There is no way people could subsist on a juice cleanse. Unless you really love the feeling of hunger and blood sugar swings.

What really grinds my gears

There are a lot of falsehoods thrown around with juice cleanses. And really just cleanses in general. We have a wonderful cleansing mechanism built into our bodies. It is your friend and mine, the liver. Your liver cleanses you, not food, not juice, and not those fancy expensive cleansing pills.

Of course eating healthy nutritious foods, drinking lots of water, and not dumping tons of toxins into your body (ie. cigarettes, booze, crystal meth) will help your liver work more efficiently, allowing you to be more cleansed. Don’t spend money on cleanses, just keep your lifestyle clean (in moderation of course). There is no quick cleansing fix.

Another problem with juice cleanses is that you are lacking in two very important macronutrients, protein and fat. What you are getting is a large dose of quickly digesting sugars several times a day, which causes spikes and crashes in your blood sugar, mood swings, fat storage, and lots of hunger.

To make matters worse, you are getting virtually no protein which means farewell to some of your glorious and hard-won muscle mass (yes, you will lose muscle) and hello to lots of fat storage when you finally start eating again at the Caesar’s Palace buffet with unlimited cocktails.

Is a Juice Cleanse Right For You?

Maybe, but probably not. I can see a lot of benefits from maybe one day of juices from only green veggies and absolutely no fruit juices at all, except for maybe some lemon added to the green juice, but this would be more of a fast and not meant to lose weight or “cleanse.” Instead, it would give the body a short break from digesting solid foods and would be perfectly healthy to do. One day won’t have a negative effect at all.

THE MASTER CLEANSE

What The F*ck Is It!?

A diet in which you drink nothing but a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water as well as a shit ton of salt water for fourteen days. It is supposed to cleanse your body and help you lose weight quickly.

What It Is Not

Healthy, sustainable, or a good idea.

What Really Grinds My Gears

See above. I really don’t like this one. This diet is basically just anorexia. All of the negative effects of the juice cleanse with less nutrients, and more hunger, more muscle loss, more terrible moods, more fat gain when you are done, and the cycle continues.

Is The Master Cleanse Right For You?

Maybe, but probably not. Unless you love feeling like shit and losing muscle and slowing down your metabolism.

INTERMITTENT FASTING

What The F*ck Is It!?

Basically you have a fasting window of about 12-16 hours per day, which includes your sleeping time, and an eating or feeding window of 8-12 hours per day. Or you can also go for a 24-hour period without food once per week. It seems to be easiest to finish eating after dinner and then pick back up with dinner again 24 hours later, that way you don’t actually have a full waking day without food. Going to bed hungry sucks.

The idea is to keep your body in a hormonally optimal state of fat burning for a longer time during the day and to give your digestive system a longer break, giving the body more time to repair itself rather than giving as much priority to digestion. It is very sustainable. Especially as it becomes part of your daily routine.

I like intermittent fasting and also tend to do it regularly without thinking much about it, although when I first learned about it and tried it, it was a conscious effort. It turned out that it worked well for my schedule.

What It Is Not

A diet. This is more a pattern of eating. There aren’t necessarily any foods that are off limits. It is not reducing calories. You should still eat healthfully to keep hormone levels in check for many reasons including not being overwhelmed by hunger in fasting hours.

What Really Grinds My Gears

Nothing really. Although make sure if you do this you are still eating healthfully and not being too restrictive with calories. You should still be eating a full day’s worth of calories, but in a shorter window of time.

It is also not an excuse to eat pizza, ice cream, and burgers every day. (SIDE RANT: Why is it always those three foods that diet commercials say you can eat the shit out of  and still lose weight!? “Eat the foods you love, and still lose weight!” I don’t know about you, but I’d feel like f*cking shit if I ate that way every day. We don’t want to eat that shit and still lose weight. We want food that makes us feel physically, emotionally, and mentally amazing!)

Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?

Maybe, but if you are especially stressed out in life, the 16-hour daily fast may not be the best option to do at the moment. Perhaps try fasting for 12 hours daily or the 24 hour once per week version and see how you feel.

The hormone cortisol is elevated in the morning to help wake us up. Fasting can keep cortisol elevated until you eat. Cortisol is necessary to wake us, help us recover from stressful situations, and many other bodily functions, but too much for too long can cause all sorts of problems like fat gain and hormone imbalances. Eating breakfast helps to bring it down to a normal level.

So if you are already stressed to the gills from working 18 hours a day, running around the city in six inch heels, that freeloading loser boyfriend or girlfriend, AND your ass kicking workouts at MFF, your cortisol may already be high. This is natural, but we want it to come down at some point during the day. So long, daily fasting may not be for you in your current state. You need to eat breakfast, meditate, and calm down.

THE WHOLE30

What The F*ck Is It!?

The Whole30 is a 30-day diet that eliminates foods that may cause inflammation such as all added natural and artificial sweeteners (fruit is okay), all dairy except ghee or clarified butter (the milk solids have been removed which are the things to avoid here), legumes (including soy and peanut products), any and all grains and grain-like substances (like chia seeds and quinoa), vegetable and seed oils, hydrogenated oils (duh), alcohol, and junk food made with Whole30 approved ingredients such as paleo pancakes and muffins and whatnot.

“So what the f*ck am I supposed to eat?” you may ask. “Lot’s of good, nutrient dense food,” I say.

Pasture raised meats, pasture raised fish*, all veggies and fruits. Nuts, eggs, healthy fats, coffee, tea, even potatoes! It is meant to help your body and intestinal tract heal from any chronic inflammation.

The Whole30 is also meant to help you rewire your brain to new food habits that should benefit your life in many ways.

*Just seeing if you were paying attention with the pasture raised fish thing, but do eat wild caught rather than farmed. You can learn about why in one of my previous articles.

What It Is Not

A quick crash diet, a caloric reduction, or calorie counting. It’s also not a weight loss or fat loss diet. Although you will most likely lose fat, that isn’t the point of doing it. The health benefits are paramount, the aesthetic is a nice bonus.

I am, at this moment of writing, one week away from finishing my fourth Whole30 and let me tell you, if done properly and especially if exercising such as lifting heavy shit, at the same time, the Whole30 can be a fat loss magic wand because you are eating so cleanly. But personally I have never lost any body weight while doing it because I still eat a shitload of calories and lift weights regularly. Weight loss is not a goal of mine. If weight loss your goal, you most likely will lose weight. I actually try not to.

The Whole30 isn’t 100% sustainable, unless you never want to go out to eat again, then it is totally sustainable. But it isn’t meant for you to do it forever anyhow.

What Really Grinds My Gears

You must learn to read nutrition labels and read them all, because you never know what food companies are sneaking into packaged foods. Reading labels is good to learn but will seem like a pain in the ass before it becomes second nature.

You need to be able to cook a fucking lot, which I do enjoy very much. Sometimes you just aren’t in the mood to cook, but you have to anyway, because going out to eat on the Whole30 is pretty tough. It can be done, but you have to be that annoying customer asking what’s in every fucking thing. Waiters hate that.

It also grinds my gears when people say they are doing Whole30 but are not actually doing it like, “I’m doing Whole30, but I still drink” to which I reply, “Then you aren’t doing the Whole30.” The parameters are specific, and they need to be followed. If you eat that way and are doing something that is slightly off the program, you are still totally nailing life, and you eat better than most everyone on the planet, but you aren’t doing Whole30.

Something else to watch out for is when people successfully complete the Whole30 and immediately dive off the deep end into a pile of gin and Ho Hos. (Which by the way, I am totally guilty of.) After the first time I did Whole30, I left for an all-inclusive vacation in the Caribbean the day after I finished and, as you may have guessed, the only refreshments that were available on the plane were gin and Ho Hos. Nobody’s perfect. I totally grinded my own gears.

Is Whole30 Right For You?

Maybe. I think if done properly it can be good for anyone. But make sure you know what the rules are and be prepared. There are a few books out there written by the people that came up with it. I recommend It Starts With Food. It gives you the easy to read science behind why certain foods are included or excluded and the parameters of the Whole30 as well.

Also it may seem hard at first, it might seem scary, but it really isn’t. It isn’t meant to be a lifetime diet of perfection but a reset that helps you develop better habits. I have done it multiple times because each time I do it, I feel that I hold on to more and better habits than the last time.

That’s a Wrap!

I hope this is overview has been helpful and answered some questions. I do like a number of these approaches, as you can see. I also think they can be done well together. For instance, doing a Whole30 and staying paleo afterward, loosening the reigns a bit but keeping most of your new habits. Adding intermittent fasting to the mix is also great to do. Find what works for you. It will be an ever evolving journey, just make sure you always eat your veggies!!!

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Landen Jones, New York’s Hottest Gay Trainer as voted by the readers of Next Magazine, is a fitness and nutrition coach certified by ACE, SFG, Precision Nutrition, and more. He is a unicorn astronaut who recently blasted off from Mark Fisher Fitness to spread Ninja Glory to other realms, currently Pittsburgh. You can train with him or find him training satellite Ninjas at Silverio-Hoffman Fitness in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Follow him on Instagram for fun photos and fitness tips and never any pictures of his food.

  • Kayte VanScoy

    Did not know you were in Pittsburgh but this pic makes me wish I were a gay man in Pittsburgh. Great article.

  • Bess Van Leuven Fifer

    Miss you Landen!

    • Landen Jones

      I miss you, sexy!!

  • nora

    ” This diet is basically just anorexia” makes you sound ill-educated and like an asshole all at the same time. You might want to look into what anorexia is, both in the medical and psychological senses.

    • Landen Jones

      Hi Nora!
      I’m very sorry to have sounded that way. I only mean to make the comparison between the Master Cleanse and Anorexia Nervosa in that they are both purposefully starving yourself to get thin and are illadvised. Thank you for reaching out!
      Landen

      • nora

        Landen,
        Thank you for taking the time to respond to my (admittedly) somewhat rude comment. While I did understand the comparison you were trying to make, I still find it in-apt. It’s a little like hearing your roommate/partner/parent/friend in another room muttering to himself and shouting to them “Are you talking to yourself?! That’s basically schizophrenia!” That person may laugh and shrug it off, but if you say it within earshot of a person who’s actually schizophrenic they won’t take it the same way. It’s confusing the illness with the symptoms in a way that perpetuates all of the bad information out there surrounding mental illness. It belittles the struggle, which further alienates people who are already having trouble seeking help. I’ve struggled with EDs for 15 years, and during some of that time have belonged to an online dieting community where I see a lot of people buying into diets that are crazier and more unhealthy than anything that I, as an intelligent person who has an unfortunate mental illness, would ever dream of doing to my body. The difference is that I am a slave to my compulsive need to control my body while they are struggling against a lack of control over theirs.

        In your profession, I would think that being able to engage with the ED community in a thoughtful way would be an asset, and encourage you to more fully look into what these illnesses entail.

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