Trigger Warning: this article contains mentions of food and dieting which may be triggering to some readers. Please read at your own discretion!
I am sure we have all seen our fair share of “diet tips and tricks” videos on the internet. Whatever platform you indulge in—Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok, Pinterest—there are plenty of beauty influencers trying to sell you their secrets to beauty and wellness. With all the media we consume, however, how can we know what diet suggestions are true and what suggestions are a stretch of the truth, at best? How do we separate our stream of information from fact and fiction?
Here are five common dieting claims that you should skip next time you see them on your socials.
1.) You should try to eat as little carbs as possible. The less the better!
Contrary to popular dieting beliefs, carbs are an essential part of your diet. In fact, the benefits of having a healthy amount of carbs in your diet include providing energy for your body, especially your brain, kidneys and heart. It is also suspected that carbs play an important role in preventing disease, especially cardiovascular disease. Carbs even aid in the process of digestion and controlling your weight. According to The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, around 45-65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates! The takeaway from this is simple: carbohydrates are nutrients for the body, and, like any other nutrients, are important for the body to function properly.
2.) Drinking lemon is a magical cure all for all things diet-related.
I am sure we have all heard that warm lemon water in the morning is treated as an almost magical potion, alleged to aid in digestion, immune system boosting and even the “alkalization” of the body. This claim, however, has absolutely no evidence to support it. It was popularized by Anthony William, also known as the “Medical Medium,” who, despite his name, has zero medical background. Although drinking lemon water can provide you with a mini boost of potassium and vitamin C, it is not nearly enough to fulfill your nutritional quotas for either of the nutrients. Lemon water can actually do more harm than good, as it can wear down tooth enamel—causing dental cavities—or make you more susceptible to canker sores. In the end, if the flavor of lemon water helps you stay hydrated, then feel free to have a glass in the morning! Just know that it’s absolutely not necessary to a healthy and happy lifestyle. You can read more about lemon water here!
3.) You should avoid any form of fat no matter what.
Like carbs, a healthy amount of fat is essential to your diet. Fat helps our body do a variety of things, including but not limited to: aiding in the absorption of vitamins, helping you feel full, regulating your blood sugar by preventing blood sugar spikes and lowering the risk of heart disease. Even saturated fats, which are demonized by the clean eating community, can be part of a healthy diet in the right quantities. The average person should get approximately 30% of their daily calories from fat, according to Cleveland Clinic, and some form of unsaturated fat should be present at every meal. Like everything, you want to have fat in moderation, especially saturated and trans fats, but eliminating fat from our diet is both unhealthy and unsustainable.
4.) You should never cook with butter or oil.
This fallacy stems from my previous point about the demonization of fats. Oftentimes, clean eating influencers tell you to forgo the butter or oil in cooking in order to keep your meals as fat-free as possible, but using butter or oil is a great way to sneak some extra healthy fats into your meals! Different oils also have been shown to have different health benefits. For example, olive oil has a strong correlation to heart health. Coconut oil has research to suggest that it aids in keeping cholesterol in the healthy range. Even canola oil has a large amount of omega 3 fatty-acids, which can often be difficult to find, especially in vegetarian and vegan diets. In other words, the oil free fad diet is just that: a fad. You should never feel unhealthy for incorporating oil into your dressings, sauces and cooking. You can read more about incorporating oils into your diet here!
5.) There are “good” foods and “bad” foods .
All of the trends I have mentioned above stem from the idea that there are “good” or “bad” foods. As we know, not all foods are nutritionally equal. Is eating an apple more nutritionally valuable than eating a cupcake? Yes, this is a true statement. But you choosing to eat that apple over a cupcake does not make you an intrinsically better person, just like eating that cupcake does not make you an intrinsically worse person. Food should never be tied into virtue, because food does not have virtue to begin with. All food, no matter how many calories it is or how many nutrients it contains, is just fuel for our bodies. All food can fit into a healthy and balanced diet if we want it to! This is not what diet culture promotes, though. Diet culture wants you to associate your worth with the food you eat, which is a much more dangerous notion than I can even begin to dive into in this chapter. If you take anything away from this article it is that you are not what you eat. You are just as much a human being worthy of love and respect no matter what you fuel your body with.