Lost in a cloud of weight loss marketing claims and hype about how one diet works better than any other, most of us are left wondering one key thing: are all the diets out there extreme fads built on false promises?
Season three of The Diet Testers, airing on SBS Thursdays at 8.35pm, aims to answer just that. In episode two, airing on Thursday 8 March, Dr Xand van Tulleken and dietician Hala El-Shafie recruit a number of volunteers, all who want to lose weight, to test out various fad diets.
Here’s the lowdown on how three popular diets – the egg diet, strawberry diet and New Nordic diet –fared once road-tested on the show.
1. The egg diet
Dietary details: The egg diet claims to be a quick way to lose up to 1.5 stone (around 9.5 kilograms) in two weeks, according to The Diet Testers.
The diet focuses on the high-protein, low-calorie characteristics of the humble egg, which is also packed with micronutrients.
One-stop rule: To follow this diet, you should eat at least two eggs every day, prepared any way you like except fried.
Other requirements: Dieters are also encouraged to eat leafy greens, plain chicken and fruit (one or two servings only). Drink water, and unsweetened black coffee and tea. Everything else is off the menu. That means no fast food, dairy, alcohol or sugared products.
You can hard-boil a few eggs and carry them with you to work to eat throughout the day.
Meal examples: Enjoy poached eggs or a dairy-free omelette with spinach. Or mix your scrambled eggs with poached chicken breast and a leafy green salad on the side.
Pros: The good news about this diet is that eggs are portable and really quick to prepare. You can hard-boil a few eggs and carry them with you to work to eat throughout the day.
Cholesterol considerations: A diet featuring lots of eggs was once considered to be high in cholesterol. But the good news is that research now says that is not the case. A 2016 study from Finland says that eating eggs does not increase your risk of heart attack, even if you are genetically predisposed to high levels of cholesterol and heart issues. Meanwhile, Harvard University advises people to only eat eggs in moderation, and aim for around one egg a day.
Of course, like anything diet-related, your personal risk of disease depends on your lifestyle, your diet from a holistic point of view and long-term health habits.
Cons: If you don’t like eggs, then this diet is not for you. If you find it easier to stick to a diet featuring a wide variety of healthy foods, then best to look around for another weight loss strategy, as the egg diet might prove monotonous.
The Diet Tester’s weight loss result: This diet was tested by A.K from Bedford on the show. Before she started on the diet, she weighed over 16 stone (more than 101 kilograms) and lost 13 pounds (almost six kilograms) after two weeks, strictly following the rules of the egg diet.
If you find it easier to stick to a diet featuring a wide variety of healthy foods, then best to look around for another weight loss strategy.
In terms of weight loss, the egg diet may work in some people over a short period of time because it features a lot of protein and minimal carbohydrates. In short, the diet is a ketogenic diet, which aim to reduce hunger and lower food intake. This has been proven to be more effective for short-term weight loss than a high-protein, medium carbohydrate non-ketogenic diet.
2. The strawberry diet
Dietary details: The strawberry diet followed in the show allows females to eat up to 1400 calories daily and males up to 1900 calories a day. Luckily, strawberries are low in calories. For example, one cup of strawberries is equal to around 48 calories, according to myfitnesspal.
One-stop rule: The point of this diet is to incorporate strawberries into every meal.
Other requirements: You are allowed to have unsweetened coffee and tea but booze and fatty fast foods are banned from this diet.
Meal examples: Try pancakes with balsamic glazed strawberries and mint. Or, follow the recipe example used in episode two of The Diet Testers and try a serve of strawberries with a cheese and yoghurt sauce and potatoes.
Pros: The fruit is low in calories and high in fibre, vitamin C and manganese. Research also suggests strawberries are a good source of antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Don’t forget that strawberries are also sweet, delicious and nutritious: need we say more?
Cons: If you are allergic to strawberries, then this diet is a definite no-no.
Again, as this diet revolves around the consumption of one main food product, it could prove monotonous for some people. So if you prefer a diet offering greater food variety, then look elsewhere for a different weight loss strategy.
The Diet Tester’s weight loss result: This diet was tested by Bethanie on the show, over a period of two weeks. Before she started on the diet, she weighed 15 stone 9 pounds (almost 100 kilograms). After following the diet, she lost one stone (over 6.3 kilograms), weighing in almost immediately after 14 days.
3. The New Nordic diet
Dietary details: This diet is based on the eating habits of Scandinavian Vikings. If you think this all sounds very earthy and primal then you’ve caught on to the diet’s theme. Nordic dieters are meant to consume regional, organic and environmentally-friendly foods, sourced in nature. Wild meats, seeds, wholegrains and vegetables feature highly on the menu.
One-stop rule: There’s one catch: you have to source all your produce locally. So bring out your inner hunter and forager, as you may have to go bush to fulfil the criteria of this diet.
Other requirements: The diet heavily features fish as well as wild meats. But, of course, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and can get access to lots of safe, local sources of protein, go for it.
Meal examples: As mentioned in the show, Gemma tests this diet. She chows down on a small serving of pickled herring and beetroot salad, and also sources sticky weed, nettles (which are meant to calm her sugar cravings) and wild garlic.
Pros: The diet is low in calories but high in protein. So if you can handle sourcing local produce, the diet – in theory – should be good for you if you are battling obesity. A 2014 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also showed that the diet promotes weight loss and a reduction in blood pressure in both obese males and females.
Cons: If you live in a city and have no plans to venture out into the wilderness (or buy all your produce from a local forager/store), then you may find this diet too difficult to follow. If you do have access to food in nature, you may still require the expertise of an expert forager to ensure that you don’t consume any dangerous wild produce.
The Diet Tester’s weight loss result: Gemma tested this diet over a period of six weeks. She started out weighing in at around 14 stone and three pounds and finished up weighing 13 stone, four pounds. That was a total loss of 13 pounds over the time period.
“The new Nordic diet has been trying at times but it’s definitely do-able,” Gemma says on the show.
A few important dieting notes
Like most diets, the effectiveness of the diets above may also depend on the individual’s overall state of health and nutritional intake prior to starting. All diets should go hand-in-hand with an active lifestyle and moderate exercise.
Losing a lot of weight quickly can be dangerous so always seek medical advice before starting a diet to find out if the strategy you want to follow is right for you.
The dieting results mentioned above were short-term only. Long-term results to test whether the show’s participants regained the weight soon after the diet ended were not measured.
Want to know more about what's behind some of the most popular dieting methods around? Watch the new season premiere of 'The Diet Testers', airing on Thursdays at 8.35pm on SBS from 1 March.
Episodes will be available to watch after broadcast on SBS On Demand.