Every year new diet and fitness trends emerge – the good, the bad and the downright unhealthy. Though promoted as health boosters in 2017, the following fads were nothing more than fizzers.
Celebrity diets: Fad diets touted by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna, Katie Price and Matthew McConaughey were named and shamed in this year’s British Dietetic Association naughty list of celebrity diets to avoid.
Topping the list were the raw vegan diet, which the association says can be healthy with careful planning but not is guaranteed to help you lose weight, and the alkaline diet because the pH of your food is unlikely to affect the pH of your blood.
Butter balls: “To suppress appetite, some people on low carbs and high protein diets are now eating butter balls and sticks of butter or drinking cream with a dash of coffee,” says Gabrielle Maston, an accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
“Loading up on saturated fat in this way is bad news for your heart and for maintaining a healthy weight.”
Vegetable sticks with hummous are the healthier option.
Edible cookie dough: When you cook a biscuit, it expands due to the heat so you eat less kilojoules than you do when eating spoonfuls of uncooked biscuit dough.
“Edible cookie dough has no crunch so it is less satisfying than cooked biscuits,” Maston says.
“It also involves less chewing, which is not helpful because chewing assists in signalling to your brain that you are full.”
Camel’s milk: Some people claim that the proteins in camel’s milk are better tolerated than the lactose in dairy, but there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims, Maston says.
“And at $25 per litre for camel milk, if you’re lactose intolerant, you would do better to choose a cheaper non-dairy option, such as soy milk.”
Lentil and vegetable chips: “These are absolutely no healthier than regular chips,” Maston says.
“Though they have marginally more fibre, veggie chips are not a healthier snack because they are still very high in salt, fat and kilojoules.”
Teatoxing/skinny teas: Maston says essentially these are “glorified laxatives and diuretics”.
“They encourage dehydration, which can stress your body, dry out skin and cause dry mouth, increasing risk of tooth cavities.
“The laxative effects can lead to stomach cramps and lazy bowels, so that you may become bloated, constipated or go days without passing a bowel motion.”
Some products also warn that the laxative effect of the teas may interfere with effectiveness of medications, such as the contraceptive pill.
Long, daily HIIT workouts: Christine Armarego, an accredited exercise physiologist and director of the Glucose Club in Sydney, says this defeats the whole point of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which should only last around 10 to 15 minutes.
“Long HIIT exercise sessions of 30 minutes or more not only increase risk of injury to joints such as knees, they may prove de-motivating and lead people to skip exercise more often because the sessions are too taxing,” she says.
Waist trainers: Made from materials like cotton, latex and even steel, these glorified corsets are supposed to be worn for hours each day to suppress hunger and promote the burning of belly fat, but instead the pressure may cause stomach pain, acid reflux and bloating.
There is no scientific evidence that waist trainers help trim belly fat, and it can lead to muscle damage.
“The more hours you wear waist trainers, the weaker your core muscles become because the corset is doing all their work,” Armarego says.
Acrayoga: Many people simply lack the flexibility and acrobatic skills to do this challenging kind of workout.
“With an exercise buddy, acrayoga involves difficult balances that can lead to falls which may cause strains, sprains or even broken bones,” Armarego warns.
Sauna suits: These silver jumpsuits are supposed to fast-track weight loss by making you perspire more when doing activities like walking the dog, jogging, cleaning the house or working out.
“In reality, all they are really doing is causing you to dehydrate and lose fluid,” Armarego says.
Bars at the gym: “Unfortunately the kilojoules you drink completely negate any that you burned off during your workout,” Maston says.
Research from Massey University in New Zealand has also shown that alcohol after a workout can interfere with post-exercise muscle recovery.