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BEWARE of extreme diets!

November 05, 2019 09:45 IST

With the internet confusing many with its often unverified information, here is a list of some extreme diets that are in vogue -- with believers and sceptics on both sides of the aisle.

Amrita Singh reports.

Diet

Photograph: Kind courtesy: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.com

Instagram and Facebook have decided to place age restrictions on diet-related content.

Posts about diet products, cosmetic surgery and celebrity endorsements that promote fit teas and varied seeds will all fall in this protected category.

Instead of burdening the young and the impressionable under-18s with ideas of what their bodies should look like, the social media giants wish to create a body-positive environment, one that advocates health and not a number on the weighing scale.

 

But there are those who swear by diets and dieticians -- many of whom have become social media influencers propagating healthy lifestyles, food guides and naturalistic and organic approach for all body types.

Whether or not these diets work, or to what extent they work, is another matter.

With the internet confusing many with its often unverified information, here is a list of some extreme diets that are in vogue -- with believers and sceptics on both sides of the aisle.

Fruitarian diet

In September last year, a European couple claimed they had eaten only fruits for three years.

The couple went viral on the internet for saying that they didn't have to brush their teeth as a fruit-based diet did no harm.

While Tina Stoklosa began the fruit, nut and seed-based diet to lose weight, her partner Simon Beun said he tried fruitarianism after reading about it and decided never to go back to eating regular food.

The couple consume about 2,000 calories of fruit every day and drink coconut water.

Thought of as a subset of veganism, fruitarianism has had many admirers.

In his book, Satyagraha In South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi writes that he was a fruitarian for five years before he returned to veganism.

Mumbai-based holistic health guru Mickey Mehta says he knows of several Indian celebrities who follow this diet, but he doesn't want to name them.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a fruitarian whose fruit eating habits became the inspiration for the tech company's name.

Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, too, tried the fruitarian diet to play Jobs in the eponymous film but gave up after he was hospitalised with pancreatic problems in 2013.

Most dieticians and nutritionists find this diet contentious since it goes against the idea of a balanced diet, which comprises different food groups such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Mehta says, "What most people don't tell you is to stick to regional and seasonal fruit. After all, fruit is a healer and it is great for immunity. But you need to couple fruit with herbal teas."

Mumbai-based celebrity fitness trainer and dietician Leena Mogre, who has trained the likes of Katrina Kaif and Sameera Reddy, however, counters, "It takes time for your body to adjust to eating only fruit.

"For any diet to be successful, it needs to become a way of life. This diet is extremely difficult to sustain."

Blood type diet

When naturopath Peter J D'Adamo wrote Eat Right 4 Your Type in 1996, the book became a New York Times bestseller, selling millions of copies.

People rushed to get their blood type identified.

According to this diet, each blood type (O, A, B and AB) is compatible with certain foods.

For instance, the blood type diet wisdom states that those with type O should eat more poultry and meat while avoiding dairy, whereas those with type A should be on a meat-free diet consisting of only fruits and vegetables.

The theory that drives this diet is a person's ability to digest certain types of food.

Improved digestion, by eating what your blood type can digest, will then help maintain ideal body weight and prevent diseases.

The book makes tall claims that such a diet would also help prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

There is, however, no scientific evidence to back these claims.

While some people have benefitted from switching to this diet, Mogre feels it is too restrictive.

"There are healthy eating options in every culture. Fat loss can take place within the purview of your usual diet," she says.

And then, people with conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol levels should heed their doctor rather than eat what's supposedly good for their blood type.

Baby food diet

"Did you know that I have clients who eat their food with cutlery meant for babies to avoid eating too much?" says Mogre.

Other than switching to mini cutlery, the baby food diet replaces adult-size meals with jars of mushy food to control calorie intake and restrict portion size.

It was made popular by American celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, who propagates eating baby food -- jars that contain 20 to 100 calories.

According to this diet, one can eat about 14 jars of pureed vegetables and mashed fruit along with an adult dinner, but there are no clear rules.

To satisfy the palate, the baby food can be had in all flavours, including turkey, chicken and other meats.

Mehta says, "Anything that is processed or packaged is not good when consumed on a daily basis.

"Even young mothers are told to feed their babies fresh food whenever possible instead of resorting to canned baby food."

For Mogre, this diet, like many other diets, has psychological roots.

"I remember having a client who just didn't want to gain weight during her pregnancy. She ate too little and the lack of nourishment was detrimental for her baby."

Liquidarianism

The practice of blending fruit and vegetables for consumption has gained popularity over the years.

Many celebrities have been rumoured to have gone on this diet to lose weight quickly.

Kareena Kapoor Khan is said to have gone on a juice-only diet to get her 'size zero' figure while preparing for her role in Tashan (2008).

According to Mehta, the only time it is advisable to go on a liquid diet is when recovering from an illness or medical treatment or when preparing for a surgery -- then too strictly on the doctor's advice.

"As a regular diet, it is extremely debilitating."

When you chew your food, the intestines start preparing for digestion.

But if this step is skipped, since juices do not need to be chewed, the body's intricate digestive system begins to feel redundant.

"One should eat what they're used to eating every day instead of going on such unsustainable diets as everything you lose will come back with a vengeance," says Mogre.

Breatharianism

Breatharianism, a belief that a person can live without consuming food, or even water in extreme cases, suggests that it is possible for humans to survive solely on prana (vital life force, as described in Hindu and yogic philosophy).

According to this belief, air, sunlight and nature are enough for survival.

A US-based couple, who call themselves breatharians, claim they didn't eat food for three years.

And now, they occasionally eat fruits or vegetable broth.

Delhi-based fitness and yoga expert Kiran Sawhney says prana through breathing is prevalent in most exercises and meditation, but it is not enough for sustenance.

"There have been yogis who claim that they live on air, but there is no scientific research to prove this," she says, adding, "If breatharianism worked, there would be no malnourishment and no shortage of food or water. Something like this can also lead to strokes and kidney failure."

Amrita Singh
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