Time to take a diet trend detox

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Images+via+Unsplash

Images via Unsplash

Keto. Carnivore. Paleo. Gluten-free. Vegan.  With the onset of the pandemic and the flexibility to stay at home and focus on health, many have set diet goals, ready to get into their best shape. 

The term “quarantine glow up” peaked on Google Trends in April 2020. But, despite the $60 billion diet industry, a ScienceDirect meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies showed that 80% of lost weight was gained back within 5 years. Before jumping onto a diet, consider the interconnections between diet and the mind, and set goals for sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes. 

The keto diet and other restrictive diets can cause “social isolation or disordered eating,” according to UChicago Medicine. These diets zero in on the number of fats, carbs, and proteins in each meal, taking away happiness in eating. The concentration on macronutrient values can detract from quality time with friends and family, and can also be a sign of orthorexia, an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. 

Humans also have an enteric nervous system: 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract. This system can trigger changes due to irritation or imbalance in the digestive system, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Concurrently, gut bacteria, also called the gut microbiome, are responsible for producing mood chemicals like dopamine and acetylcholine, which are essential for anxiety, concentration, and motivation, according to Psychology Today. What you eat can influence your mood, so it’s important not to let societal pressure affect mental health, both directly and through nutrition.

Many people partake in short-term diets, reporting benefits after a 3-month stretch. However, severe restrictions or drastic changes will damage metabolism. High fat and other restrictive behaviors cause metabolism to slow, according to the American Academy of Sciences. Researchers followed up with 14 contestants on “The Biggest Loser,” and found significant evidence that contestants gained an average of 58.3 pounds back and their resting metabolic rate—the number of calories required to sustain basic function—decreased by an average of 610 calories after 6 years. Every person’s DNA is different, so trend-dieting will lead to different, adverse effects in each individual.

While all the research seems complex, it simply reaffirms the necessity of eating a variety of healthful foods. Probiotics and prebiotics, found in foods like kimchi, yogurt with live cultures, leafy greens and oats, help gut bacteria produce positive neurotransmitters for mental resilience and concentration while keeping the gut in balance. Healthy fats, found in foods like avocados and fish, help the body absorb essential vitamins A, D, E and K, which fortify the immune system, provide energy, strengthen eyesight, and ensure your blood clots properly, alongside a myriad of other essential functions. Restrictive eating will only disrupt the body’s natural rhythms – and especially with finals coming up, it’s imperative to choose a lifestyle that optimizes our mental performance.