Where do people come up with this stuff?
Apparently there is a diet out there that revolves around eating a whole lot of fruit (particularly bananas) and not much else. It’s billed as a raw, vegan diet that can do all sorts of wonderful things. Here are some of the claims from the website (which I refuse to link to). These are direct quotes:
- Infinitely improved digestion and elimination
- Positive fluid loss as suspended toxins leave the body
- A sense of well-being that can only be achieved on a HCRV [High Carb Raw Vegan] lifestyle
- Drug dependency is overcome
- More connection with nature, the animals and yourself
Boy, that sounds like a really scientific list of benefits, doesn’t it? Yikes.
The Diet Plan
Briefly, the “Banana Diet” (or at least that’s what I’m calling it) recommends getting 95% of your total daily calories from fruit, and the remaining 5% from nuts, greens, and seeds. It also says to aim for 3+ liters of water in a day and getting 9-12 hours of sleep. Some believe that eating 30 bananas a day should be the goal.
Meals include things like “Datorade”, which involves blending 20-30 dates in 1.5 liters of water. Cinnamon to taste. I’m not sure how much cinnamon you’d need to mask that awful taste.
Aside from these fruits and veggies, the authors recommend a vitamin B12 supplement. This makes sense, since B12 is found primarily in animal products, meaning that all vegans (whether you’re following a fruit diet or not) will need to supplement B12. Oddly, the authors claim that their rationale has nothing to do with veganism, but rather that B12 deficiency is “rife throughout society.” In reality, it’s more like a shade over 3%.
In no uncertain terms, this is modern day snake oil trading.
The human diet can be broadly broken down into three types of macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Our bodies need each of these to function properly. If someone were to say, ignore two of these macronutrients, they’d likely develop some serious health issues. In the case of a banana diet, you’re missing out on fats and protein (in fact, the authors state you should only eat “overtly fatty foods like avocados once a week MAXIMUM”. [emphasis in the original]
Proteins are a fundamental building block of muscle, but they also form enzymes, transporters, and connective tissue as well. Fat provides energy and cushioning, and is also a component of cellular membranes. Additionally, certain vitamins (A, D, E, K) are fat-soluble, so they need fat in order to be properly absorbed and stored by the body.
By restricting themselves to this type of diet, disciples of the fruit diet (known as “fruit bats”) are significantly impairing their bodies’ ability to function. While some users have reported weight loss and health improvements, these are almost certainly the exception and not the norm. The human body simply wasn’t designed to function like this.
Is the Banana Diet a Scam?
Maybe you could chalk this up to an eccentric bunch just marching to the beat of a different drum, except diet plans are a lucrative business. These people sell their e-books for $25-30 dollars each, and one of them literally has a chapter on how the author makes $10,000/month on YouTube from this.
What scares me is that these people are profiting off of giving horrendously misguided health advice, and are likely too blinded by their piles of cash to realize the potential harm they’re doing to people who mistakenly stumble upon their plan.
In no uncertain terms, this is modern day snake oil trading.
Sure, they might get some folks who do lose weight and do feel great, but that’s almost certainly just a placebo effect. There’s actually no data I can find on any diets that approach this level of high-carb, low-everything else diet. Oddly, there’s research about high-carb diets being linked to increased recurrence risk of colon cancer (somewhat ironic considering the GI benefits these people claim). High carbohydrate intake is also linked to lower HDL (aka “good” cholesterol). Until these “fruit bats” and their kind can prove that there’s any basis to their claims, I have to trust my judgment and assume they’re full of it.
Losing Weight the Right Way
Believe it or not, you don’t need crazy fruit diets or any other fad diet to shed fat. Fat is simply stored energy, and if you burn more than you eat, you’ll lose fat steadily over time. If you’re having trouble, here are some simple tips:
- Write down everything you’re eating, preferably using a calorie logger like MyFitnessPal. I pretty much recommend MFP to anyone I can because it’s free, convenient, and studies have shown that people who keep a food diary lose more weight and keep it off. Once you’ve figure out how many calories you’re eating normally, start by trying to cut that down by 10-20%.
- Drink plenty of water. This is actually something the “fruit bats” and I agree on. Per the Mayo Clinic, the average male will need 3 liters of fluids and the average female will need 2.2 liters per day. If you’ve ever heard of the recommendation to get 8 cups of water in a day, that works out to 1.9 liters, which is roughly in the ballpark. Just remember that all fluids count, not just water.
- Use both cardio and resistance training to get a complete workout. Lifting won’t get you bulky overnight, instead it’ll help preserve and build lean mass that can show through as you melt off your fat. There’s no such thing as getting “toned,” all that means is losing fat to show off your muscle. If you can do more than 12 reps in a set, you should be adding more weight. Cardio-wise, try switching things up with a bit of HIIT (high intensity interval training), which involves switching off high intensity activity (think: sprinting) with active rest (think: walking/jogging). HIIT has been shown to burn fat more effectively than LISS (low intensity steady state) training.
Hopefully by following these simple tips, you’ll be able to get started on the right foot rather than causing yourself more harm than good with some of the crazy diets that are out there. Losing weight isn’t a complicated process, but it does require perseverance. There’s no two way around that. Focus your energy on doing things the right way, and you’ll get better, longer-lasting results.