They’re everywhere… new fads or trends that can miraculously help you lose weight, inches, toxins, make your skin glow and give you all kinds of energy! Most of these, I might add, you can do and see amazing results without ever exercising or even going for a walk!
…. Because the last thing we as mammals should do for our health is exercise. That is simply unthinkable. Instead, everyone wants to know the ‘secret’ to losing weight or having a six pack – and yes, I have been asked what the secret was to having a six pack.
A few mornings ago, the Today show was doing a spotlight on ‘Activated Charcoal’ and it’s health benefits. The show plays while I’m at work, and normally I don’t listen. However, at the mention of ingesting charcoal for health benefits, my interest peaked. Charcoal has been used in medicine for a long time – for drug overdoses or accidental poison ingestion. ‘Activated charcoal’ is simply a carbon containing substance like wood, that is heated until it becomes charcoal and then oxidized to ‘activate’ it. It is being added to juices, smoothies, breads, pastas, etc. or it can be taken as a standalone supplement. On the show, it was added to a dish and a juice, and claims were made that it can rid your body of toxins. First, what toxins are you ingesting on a regular basis that you need to “detox” your body? On top of that, we come fully equipped with a liver and kidneys (unless yours aren’t functioning correctly, but that is a different health issue) that detoxify our bodies amazingly on their own. Second, charcoal cannot make the distinction between toxin or a beneficial nutrient – therefore, if you are ingesting it on a regular basis, you could actually be decreasing the amount of nutrients you are absorbing from your foods. Finally, if you ingest activated charcoal and you are currently prescribed medication, there is a large possibility that your medicine is being rendered ineffective.
So why are we advertising ‘activated charcoal’ as having so many health benefits and using a news outlet to do so? It brings to mind other things that are supposed to be beneficial like cayenne & lemon juice cleanses and one of the most irritating diets I get asked about – the Keto diet.
The Keto diet was originally used as a treatment for epilepsy, but now celebrities and what seems like 2 out 3 people I talk to use it for weight loss. The premise of the diet is to eat very little carbohydrates (typically less than 50 grams per day), and get most of your calories from fats and proteins. You will usually be getting anywhere from 60 to 80% of your calories from fats. If done correctly, eating this way puts your body into ketosis – where your body begins to metabolize fats as your main fuel source instead of carbohydrates, thus creating Ketones. The diet has been shown by some studies to be effective in weight loss in obese adults – as well as being beneficial for those with Type 2 Diabetes, acne and other medical issues like PCOS. However, unless you are working with a registered Dietitian, chances are that you are not doing the diet correctly, and therefore aren’t actually in a ketogenic state. The diet is sensitive to each individual – for some, 50 grams of carbs per day can put you in ketosis; for others, that number may be significantly different. Without a blood test, it isn’t possible to accurately diagnose. (There are urine strips and breath tests, but they aren’t reliable). On the flip side of that, you can also be consuming too few grams of fat, which would also throw you out of ketosis. If you incorporate cheat days or cheat meals, you are definitely not in ketosis anymore. Don’t get me wrong, this diet definitely has beneficial applications for some individuals. However, it should not be used as a trendy weight-loss strategy that you found on Pinterest. Let’s just say that I’ve seen celebrities in the fitness industry say that they eat 1-2 cups of oatmeal as a preworkout meal, followed by their post workout shake and carbs, and then they are “keto the rest of the day”. Face palm.
If you are working towards weight loss or just wanting to improve your overall health, don’t try something just because you found it on the internet or heard about it from Dr. OZ. If you do a Google search for ‘fad diets’ and the one you were going to try is on there, avoid it. Conduct actual research, contact a registered dietitian, or ask a health professional. The original, old school method of a combination of exercise and eating a well balanced diet consisting of unprocessed foods is still going to be your best bet.