Nutritional Fads: Rad or Bad?

Lauren C.

Staff Writer

In a world obsessed with outward images, nutritional propaganda appears to be omnipresent. There are constantly new ads for “revolutionary” products that will be “life-changing.” While there are some methods for getting and staying healthy that truly do work, many are just short-term obsessions for people who eventually given up on them. These extreme, expensive regimens are too much for most people to handle, but they do offer short–term results that are appealing to consumers looking for a quick fix.

One example of a popular diet is the “Paleo diet,” which originated from the idea of going back to a more prehistoric state: eating a similar diet to those who lived in the Paleolithic stage (we may refer to them as cavemen). The idea is to only eat what would have been eaten back then: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, etc. Basically, it includes what one could hunt or gather, excluding products such as processed foods, dairy, grains, starches, and alcohol. The diet has had some success; junior Elizabeth Beatty claims the diet made her “feel cleansed and have much more energy.” Athletes also agree, showcased by senior swimmer Alarii Lopez, who stated, “The diet really enhanced my performance in sports with the added protein and reduction of carbohydrates.” As seen with most diets, the Paleo diet has had its fair share of controversy.

Although the Paleo diet may have worked for some, others’ experiences were not quite as positive. Anatomy teacher Ms. Laura Cox stated, “The diet made me feel way less energetic. I went back to my original diet.” Cross-country runner and Woodstock junior Catherine Moreau claimed that the diet negatively impacted her workouts, where “carbs are essential.” Diets are very specific and work differently for everyone, as seen by varying responses from veterans of the routine.

Another more extreme diet is one called “the Thrive diet.” This plan is based upon plants and raw foods, excluding all dairy. Created by Ironman athlete Brendan Brazier, this diet follows vegan practices, favoring nutrient-dense, non-processed foods. It is designed to only last 12 weeks, but the idea is that it will create lifelong habits of proper nutrition.

A few well-known, name-brand diets include products such as Weight Watchers, South Beach, and NutriSystem. These offer nutritional plans designed for weight loss. However, these diets may not necessarily be the best for consumers. Certified nutritionist and conditioning coach for local swimming team Chattahoochee Gold, Sheri Young says, “These diets are a lazy approach to reaching fitness goals that are often much less nutritious than just cooking something yourself. There is much more tnutrition 2 LCo gain from controlled healthy eating and regular exercise.” These types of diets often include frozen meals that are high in sodium, making them much less healthy than alternatives such as salads or fresh cooked pastas.  “I would never try a name-brand diet,” says Lopez, who claims they are way too costly and do not have many benefits as far as health is concerned.

More simple and cheap options to get fit are readily available. For starters, improving one’s diet by cutting out a majority of the processed foods and fast foods will make a drastic change. Increasing the intake of proteins and produce while reducing carbohydrates will also make an impact. Easy ways to encourage healthier eating would be to try out new recipes, through either a cooking class or research. More expensive options would be to try out juicers and dehydrators, which can be costly but are able to create healthy snacks and drinks on the spot and eventually save money from buying these products at the store.

The number one change that can be made to improve overall health is to simply exercise. There are so many ways to be active around Woodstock. From swimming at the local aquatic center, to biking on trails such as Rope Mill and Greenprints, or even just walking down the street, there is a multitude of options for everyone. Even replacing a car ride with a bike ride, or taking the stairs rather than the escalator at the mall will add up to a big difference in overall health and fitness over time.

There are a variety of nutritional plans available for those who are interested. Some may work well, and others may be completely useless, but the importance is to find what works best for each individual and stick to it. “Just be careful when trying new things,” says Young. “Always ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need to be healthy.” With so many options, the possibilities to be fit are abounding for everyone with a little research and effort.

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