Welcome to my little slice of the internet! At Flawed yet Functional, I believe in eating whole, unprocessed food and using diet, exercise, and healthy habits to obtain and maintain health. If you’d like to read more about me and my story, click here. Today, I’d like to get up on my soapbox a bit. I recently heard some comments about this site that questioned my following of “fad diets.” If you’ll let me, I’d love to explain my history and thoughts on the subject.
Warning: I get wordy when I get on my soapbox! Grab a cup of coffee, put your thinking cap on, and settle in!
What is a Fad Diet?
A fad diet is one that eliminates essential food groups; promotes extreme amounts of a single food; promises extreme, easy weight loss; or makes health promises that seem too quickly or too good to be true. (Sources: 1, 2)
Given that definition, are the Autoimmune Protocol, Paleo, and Keto diets fad diets? I came across an interesting pamphlet from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center that had a list of questions to determine if a diet is a fad diet. I thought they were quite insightful, so I copied them below along with my thoughts in response to each question. For the record, I am answering the question with regards to a Paleo diet seeking healing in the body from autoimmune diseases or other ailments.
Question 1: Does it ask you to eliminate one or several food groups?
Response: Yes, grains and dairy are eliminated, but not without scientific backing. Check out Dr. Sarah Ballentyne’s work for a thorough scientific explanation.
Question 2: Does the diet promise quick results such as 5 or more pounds of weight loss a week?
Response: No, but quick is relative. Healing will begin immediately when irritating foods are no longer entering the body. God made our bodies to heal themselves, so don’t be amazed when healing happens without medicine. That’s how we were created! From a weight loss perspective, you will lose weight and fairly rapidly but not 5 pounds per week. Eating real, whole food will allow you to return to your optimal weight without much effort or trouble.
Question 3: Are there several personal testimonies that are used as a proof of effectiveness?
Response: Yes, there are thousands upon thousands. I don’t think this is an identifier of a “fad” though. This is anecdotal evidence, and although not scientific proof, it is helpful for validation and encouragement. For me, it provides some soundness and realness to the diet. This blog falls into this category!
Question 4: Does the diet use only certain foods that offer special advantages for weight loss?
Question 5: Does the diet recommend supplements or pills as part of the plan?
Response: Sometimes, depends on the need of the individual. Personally, I’ve noted that my calcium intake is probably not high enough since I am sensitive to diary, so I take a calcium supplement as a precaution.
Question 6: Is the diet written or advertised by a celebrity?
Question 7: Is there any scientific evidence that the combination of foods or methods in the diet work?
Response: Yes, tons. You just have to know where to look. I try to cite sources when I post a more research-based post (Check out my insulin free diabetes page.). Mark’s Daily Apple is very good at citing sources too.
Question 8: Is exercise minimized as a weight loss aid?
Response: No, exercise and healthy habits are very much a part of a healthy body and life.
Question 9: Did the diet gain quickly in popularity and then fade away?
Response: No. I’m not even sure it’s popular now!
Question 10: Does the diet provide lists of foods that can be eaten and others that must be eliminated?
Response: Yes, but for specific reasons (with scientific back-up) and for a limited time, unless sensitivities are discovered.
Question 11: Is any research data presented sponsored by the company publishing the diet? Is there external review provided by other researchers?
Response: Ha! This is my biggest beef with big pharma, diabetes research, or really any mainstream food/health research or recommendations. They are ALL funded by companies that profit from a favorable outcome to the study. The folks doing research on themselves, like me, profit nothing if the diet succeeds or fails. However, it is hard to get big research studies on a diet that reduces medical costs, increases profit to small farms and farmers, reduces prescriptions (for emotional and medical reasons alike), and puts health control in the hands of the individual. There’s no money for big corporations in that. (Sorry to be so cynical, but this is a real problem.) Controlling your health through diet and lifestyle habits profits you, the individual, immensely but not corporations. Therefore, they will not fund research that doesn’t profit their bottom line.
Question 12: Do the results simply sound too good to be true?
Response: Yes, and therein lies the belief this diet is a fad. You can heal your body through changing your diet. It was made to heal itself. Don’t be surprised when it does! The general thought is that autoimmune diseases cannot be cured and no one knows what starts them. But as I mentioned in #11, research of autoimmune diseases is not targeted as a diet and food sensitivity problem. There’s no profit in that. So naturally, mainstream medicine is not finding a “cure.” Now I will say not all autoimmune diseases can be cured, at least not that we know of yet. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body kills enough of its own insulin-producing beta cells that the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with a normal carbohydrate load. Eliminating gluten stops the autoimmune response, but new beta cells are not automatically formed. Beta cells do regenerate, albeit very slowly, but new ones are not created. Therefore, a Type 1 Diabetic must be on insulin injections or reduce carbohydrate intake to a level the pancreas can keep up with as long as gluten and other gut-inflaming and sensitive foods are eliminated from the diet.
Source: Pennington Biomedical Research Center, article
The focus of the articles I read, addressing fad diets, were addressing weight loss specifically. I think most diets fall under the “fad” category if weight loss is the only goal. However, if you are looking to heal your body and are willing to change your lifestyle, you will find that these diets are not fads but rather healthy lifestyles that promote healing.
You may read my responses and say, “Clearly, Emily, it is a fad diet!” This is where I would encourage you to think critically about what you read, even what I or your doctor says! Do your research. Do your own experiments. Draw your own conclusions. You are an intelligent human being because that is the way God made you. Think critically about your health!
What is My History with Fad Diets?
You might be reading all my uber confident thoughts above and think I’ve always been on the gluten-free/Paleo train. Oh how wrong you would be! If you approached me in January of 2017, I would have proudly told you the gluten-free movement was a fad (with zero research to back my claim, of course!), and I would even have haughtily complained that my church had jumped on the bandwagon by only offering Cheerios in the children’s classrooms. How ridiculous and unnecessary!
How wrong and prideful I was, friends! I wonder if God chuckled looking down on me during that time saying, “Pride goes before a fall, Emily.” I’d laugh now if He did!
So proud and confident in my beliefs, I did not stop to do a second of research. I thought I knew what was healthy, and there was nothing anyone could say to change my mind.
I don’t expect you to take my word as gospel truth. My story is anecdotal evidence of the gluten connection and probable cause of adult-onset Type 1 Diabetes. I do challenge you to think. Think and read; then think and read some more. Don’t take a diagnosis at face value, go research alternatives. If it isn’t an infectious disease (or maybe even if it is!), I bet you’ll find a whole world of alternatives. I hope to inspire you through my story.
Is AIP/Paleo a Fad Diet?
Well, I think that might depend on how you are using the diet. Are you trying yet another way to lose weight? Then yes, it might be a fad diet for you.
If your goal is health and healing from a myriad of conditions but primarily autoimmune diseases, then I must respond with a resounding NO. Try it. Change your lifestyle, and you will find healing. As always, don’t just take my word for it. Go do it for yourself.
The topic of fad diets is kind of a touchy subject for me. I jump on the defensive far too easily, I think. If you have thoughts or questions or criticisms, I’d love to hear you and discuss with you. Since my belief about food has changed so dramatically, you will find me open to your skepticism. I was there once too!
In my opinion, the Autoimmune Protocol, Paleo, and even Keto diets are not fads. The research and personal accounts points to their validity. Will they be around long-term? I think that will largely depend on people being willing to change their beliefs about food and stop taking the advice doled out to them at the doctor’s office. It reminds me of a comment I heard on the radio that I wish I could cite but I don’t know who said it.
Doctor’s tend to treat any ailment or disease as a pharmaceutical deficiency rather than a nutritional deficiency. (paraphrased, author unknown)
It’s a generalization. Not all doctors treat their patients like this, but the common way of treatment is there. Your body is not deficient in Lipitor or Metformin or any other pharmaceutical. There is something greater amiss. Dig deep to find out what that is!
Whoa! I get wordy when I get passionate about a topic, over 1700 words in this post! Did you make it to the end? What are your thoughts? Are you for or against using food to heal the body? What are your opinions on the Autoimmune Protocol, Paleo, or Keto diets?