When did restrictive, fad diets become a thing?
Have you ever tried a “fad” diet before? I bet we all have! I remember drinking my grandmother’s Slim Fast meal replacement shakes when I was younger. I also recall my best friend trying a fasting diet that consisted of water, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper—this lasted less than a day.
One of the first fad diets to become popular was the water and apple cider vinegar diet of the 1820’s. This led to an explosion of fad diets throughout the 1900’s ranging from the grapefruit diet to the cabbage soup diet to Weight Watchers.
What do fad diets have in common?
- Usually advertised as a quick, easy way to lose weight
- Provide a list of “good” and “bad foods” (aka foods that are acceptable to eat and foods that are off-limits)
- Eliminate certain foods or entire food groups
- May involve restriction of how much you can eat (aka calorie restriction)
Fortunately, there is another way! One that encourages health, nourishment, and enjoyment of eating real food—leaving the calorie counting and food restriction out of the equation.
What is this magical diet that we are referring to?
It’s called crowding out.
What is the Crowding Out “Diet”?
(The use of the word “diet” is to imply a pattern of eating.)
Crowding out is a term that was coined by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Simply put, it involves focusing our attention on eating healthy foods, instead of trying to avoid unhealthy foods.
For example, we may want to turn our attention to eating more fruits and vegetables (in-season, local produce is even better), instead of relying on our willpower to avoid foods like vegan ice cream or chips.
Remember, this is not a traditional “diet.” In fact, dieting has nothing to do with it.
The main idea here is to change where you focus your attention, so that eventually you will instinctively gravitate towards healthy, real food. This will leave less room for unhealthy, processed foods that we try so hard to avoid (you are literally crowding out the “bad” stuff).
Why is this a better way?
- Your taste-buds will change for the better. Eating healthy, whole foods in place of highly processed foods will help re-train your taste buds to appreciate the natural flavors found in real food. If you stick to a diet with less processed foods, your taste bud preferences and cravings will eventually change over time. I know it sounds crazy, but the more you eat salad, the more you will crave it!
- You will feel less deprived. If you allow yourself to eat a variety of real food and include all 5 tastes in your diet (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami), the less likely you will feel deprived. It’s time to get creative in the kitchen! Try making healthier versions of processed foods that you don’t want to give up—vegan cookie dough anyone?
- You will feel less stress and guilt. This style of eating can help ease feelings of stress and guilt that go along with following a restrictive diet. We think that eating food should be a special, enjoyable experience that does not involve negative, self-deprecating feelings. Also, these emotions may spill over into other areas of our life, like our jobs or relationships, which can perpetuate the cycle of negative emotions and emotional eating patterns.
- You will be able to maintain this style of eating. Fad diets often make people eliminate entire food groups or track every food throughout a given day, which can be difficult and unsustainable. Life is already hard, why make it even harder by making food complicated and unenjoyable?
How to do it?
- Let go of perfectionism. Gone are the days that you resort to eating a pint of dairy-free ice cream to drown your sorrows after you failed to follow through with that strict diet (been there, done that). Focusing our attention on a variety of real food will help us to eliminate our restrictive, perfectionistic dieting mentality.
- Focus on making more meals at home. Cooking meals at home allows us to take control of the ingredients going into our food. Try experimenting with new foods that have different flavors or by trying new recipes. Restaurants tend to use unhealthy, low-quality oils to cook foods and add high amounts of fat, sodium, and sugar to make food more palatable. But… Remember we are not trying to be perfect here, which means allowing yourself to eat out every now and then!
- Eat your veggies! Focus on eating a rainbow of different colored vegetables. Try cooking a new vegetable every week or trying a new recipe that makes veggies the star of the meal. Vegetables add flavor, texture, and color to a meal, which makes it more visually appealing and appetizing.
- Fruit is not the enemy. Focus on eating whole fruits. Yes, fruit has natural sugar in it, but it also has vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber is a key nutrient that helps to feed our gut microbiome. A happy gut microbiome is a healthy one, which means better health for us!
- Make small, sustainable changes, which lead to a big impact over time. Try making one small change per week. Eventually, all of these small changes will result in a big impact on your health. We are aiming to be consistent, not perfect. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that it fits your individual needs and preferences.
- Choose healthy, delicious food products. FoodNerd is here to help! Instead of choosing ultra-processed, sugary cereal to have for breakfast, try our OverNights made with superfood ingredients. Looking for a non-ultra-processed food your kids will love? Try our Puffs!
It doesn’t get much simpler than this
Following this style of eating allows you to make your own food choices based on your likes and dislikes. This means that you are able to create your own individualized, sustainable “diet” (we use the word diet very lightly here).
Focusing on eating healthy, real food, which naturally crowds out the unhealthy, processed stuff is the simplest way to maintain an eating pattern that supports our health, well-being, and longevity.
- “Fad Diets.” Cleveland Clinic, 2017, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9476-fad-diets.
- Schaeffer, Juliann. “Taste Better, Live Better - Using Flavor to Retrain Palates and Fill Up on Less.” Tog day's Dietitian, 2008, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/092208p54.shtml.
- Rotchford , Lesley. “Diets Through History: The Good, Bad, and Scary.” Health.com, 2013, www.health.com/weight-loss/diets-through-history-the-good-bad-and-scary.
- “Why “Crowding Out” is the Healthiest Way to Diet.” Institute for Integrative Nutrition,2016, https://www.integrativenutrition.com/blog/2016/10/why-crowding-out-is-the-healthiest-way-o-diet.