Do Fad Diets Work? Vegetarianism, Macros, Intermittent Fasting, Keto Diets and More

This blog post is from a live interview with Anna Lutz, RD, of Lutz, Alexander and Associates Nutrition Therapy in Raleigh, NC that answered nutrition-related questions from the public. We talk about fad diets and more.

Brit and Anna during the live interview

Intuitive Eating

We start by talking about intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is something that we are born with. It’s the ability to listen to what our bodies need when it comes to food. As adults, we can use the information we have about nutrition to help guide us, while also using internal cues to tell us when we are hungry and when we are full.

Do you support eating meat? And if so, why?

“I’m a big supporter of figuring out what works for each person.” A lot of “facts” in documentaries about meat and demonizing meat are not actually facts. They were either taken out of context or literally made up.

While a plant-based diet is a great idea, and having a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains has been shown to reduce disease risk, Anna doesn’t think someone needs to necessarily eliminate meat entirely. Humans are omnivores and are made to eat a variety of foods, including meat. It’s important to know that we can get our needs met by eating meat and also by not eating meat. However, some individuals don’t feel well eliminating meat and/or have significant trouble meeting their needs.

It’s common to fall in a “black or white” mentality, where we are either eating no meat or only eating meat. These extremes are not a good idea for a lot of people. Most people do pretty well somewhere in the middle, eating lots of plant based foods and including meat, too.

If there are environmental reasons to not eat meat, that’s also of course supported by Anna.

Quick and easy plant-based sources

  • Beans (raw or canned)
  • Nuts, nut butters
  • Sunflowers and other seeds
  • Eggs (fun to incorporate into dinners as well)
  • Lentils
  • Tofu (find good ways to cook it!)

How do you get B12 in the diet if you’re eating vegan?

  • Brewer’s Yeast (can be added to smoothies)
  • Some seaweed
  • If you’re following a strict vegan diet, Anna recommends taking a B12 supplement

Thoughts on Casein

It’s a protein in milk. You might hear people taking a supplement with casein to build muscle, which is fine. But again, we don’t have to be “black and white” about it. We can get protein from a lot of different sources. As long as we aren’t extreme about it, casein is fine. Anna believes there are a lot of other more convenient ways to get protein.

Intermittent Fasting

Here are a few resources about what Intermittent Fasting is and the science we have about it.

The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting – Are the Claims True? By: Robyn Nohling – Real Life, RD
Does Intermittent Fasting Work? By: Lisa Rutledge, RD

“What I believe about intermittent fasting is that it is another set of rules that people follow. It’s a diet. And for most people, there’s a beginning and an end.” After this cycle, people are further away from listening to their body.

Anna talks about the diet cycle which is displayed below. Weight cycling is more harmful to our health than actually being in a larger body. To read more about how diets are harmful, check out Brit’s blog post.

Image by @THEWELLFUL

What do you think about counting macros?

We can use the information of nutrition (about carbohydrates, protein, and fats) to help us eat intuitively. For example, if you know you have a long morning and aren’t going to be able to snack, you won’t want to eat a breakfast with just carbohydrates. You’ll want to eat a breakfast with some carbohydrates, protein and fats to stay fueled for several hours.

But, for most people, counting macros and focusing on numbers really takes people away from listening to their body. It might work for a little while, but could lead to obsessive thoughts that are unhealthy. For more on macros, check out Anna’s blog post here.

How do I eat “clean and balanced” without tracking something like macros?

First, Anna wants to interrupt clean and balanced. “Clean” is a term people are using right now to mean eating a lot of whole foods. Balanced might be ensuring we are eating all types of foods and enough throughout the day. We don’t need to be counting down to the macro or the calorie, but we do need to make sure we have planned ahead to fuel ourselves intuitively.

Brit mentions that, as Health at Every Size advocates, our job is to help people find compassionate ways to take care of ourselves. Dieting is not compassionate and can really do more harm than good.

Anna follows up how important self-compassion is and that we should treat our bodies with respect, just like we treat someone we care about. This doesn’t mean that we throw out everything we know about nutrition and health. This is a myth of Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size. We can still take really good care of ourselves and our health without tracking macros or other forms of dieting.

How about the Keto Diet?

This is another fad diet that is a very, very strict set of rules. Our brains typically only work on carbohydrates, but we have a backup source to turns fats into ketones for our brains. It was a diet that was developed for kids who had seizures. Now it’s more of a fad diet that can have a lot of negative consequences including shame, gi distress, and problems with liver function.

Diets tend to cycle their way through. First we had the Atkin’s diet, then Paleo, and now Keto. Sadly, with every evolution, they get more extreme and more harmful.

How can a nanny help develop a positive relationship with food when parents are not HAES informed?

Modeling positive ways we feel about our bodies and food. Talk positively about our bodies’ capabilities, for example, “look how strong my legs are!”. You can even say out loud, “I’m hungry, I’m going to eat some food.” It’s also a good idea to avoid labeling foods as good or bad or talking about diets.

Huge thanks to Anna for taking the time to share this amazing information! For further questions, you can reach out to her through her website or Instagram @annalutzrd.