In a perfect world, everyone could eat what they want and live forever. But really, who wants to live forever? How about just learning to enjoy all foods, and limit portions of high calorie, high fat, high sugar, high sodium ones?

It continues to amaze me how humans are drawn to the quick fix, or the easy way out. The old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it is” always applies. Look for red-flag terms such as “quick”, “revolutionary”, and question anything that makes claims with no understanding of human physiology, such as “prevents sugar from turning to fat”. Another flag is any celebrity-endorsed “miracle diet”. Stay away from those false claims. It’s incredible how quickly folks will lay down their hard cash for these “promises-to-be-easy” methods, yet they balk about the out of pocket expense of long-term nutrition counseling from a professional registered dietitian.

Here’s a rundown of a few crazy fad diet trends that seem to resurface year after year in January:

  • Cleansing. Why anyone would choose to drink an unsavory beverage instead of chewing food in the morning, is beyond me. The fact that said beverage is not going to offer you any long-term health benefits at all, makes it all the more reason to skip the cleanse. The human body is a complex machine. Our kidneys and liver do a good job at removing toxins every single day (your kidneys pump out about 2 quarts of waste and water through urine each day). There are habits that can reduce your liver function (heavy use of alcohol and street drugs, as well as overuse of OTC medications or prescriptions) but if you are generally healthy, then your liver and kidneys are working just fine to do their jobs. These “cleansing products” and regimes use pseudo-science messaging to make a sale.
  • Detox Diet. A sister to the cleanse, a “detox diet” promises to remove toxins from your body so you can lose body fat and boost energy. While there is some value in skipping junk food, reducing sugar, reducing sodium and fat – the idea of “detox” is misleading (and there are even registered dietitians who use the term to sell books or get attention – in most cases, their form of ‘detox’ is simply eating wholesome food). It may sound good when you read “remove the toxins from your body for quick and easy weight loss!” but it’s bullcrap (see previous note on our livers and kidneys doing their job, and add that your colon works hard every day too). There is, and never will be, a “quick and easy (long-term) weight loss”. It’s long-term lifestyle management that promotes weight control.
  • Vinegar shots. What? Vinegar is a healthy ingredient to include in your cooking and eating, but why in the world would you want to do a vinegar-shooter? Apparently there are some celebrities who do this in the name of weight control (note – you will not look like Megan Fox afterward, and BTW, I don’t think Megan ever took a human physiology class). Instead, why not just use vinegar to make a salad dressing. Or toss potato wedges into an oil and vinegar mixture and bake them at 425 for 45 minutes for delicious baked steak fries.
  • Misinformation. The biggest enemy is nutrition misinformation. Consumers tend to prefer hearing what they want to hear, as opposed to learning the science behind it. Make a resolution to fact-check. Know who your sources are and if they have evidence-based information to share about “why” something works or not. Research is rarely flawless, but it’s a huge step beyond guessing, and properly evaluated, is useful. There’s also some good research that’s been done, and repeated over the years, that does bring us scientific evidence.

Instead of searching for a “cleanse” (that won’t work) or a 6-week starvation diet, how about working on eating sensibly. Adopt an eating plan that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Take the pressure off the month of January! Just eat less of foods you enjoy! Don’t deprive yourself at every meal, and obsess about food or your weight. Don’t let a little belly fat ruin the journey of life. If you aren’t making a living as a supermodel, a little belly fat is normal, and okay. Count your blessings.

Skip the fads and craziness, and learn how to stay active, and simply enjoy eating good food.

Shameless plug: According to the latest report, the DASH diet is still number one. I wrote a cookbook that outlines DASH eating for lowering blood pressure and staying healthy, and will be publishing another one this year that will help you dig in to the DASH diet lifestyle as you continue your life-long journey for healthier eating and living. REMINDER: A book only costs you $10-20, and promotes thoughtful, personal goals toward real change for a lifetime. A “cleanse” that lasts a month can cost you $60 a day! Think about it.