With the New Year comes an abundance of health-kick resolutions as fat-fighting fads circle the internet – but what are they actually doing to your body? Join UNIfied’s Adam Parsons as he debunks the latest diet trends.
The festive period has drawn to a close and everyone’s social media feed goes from ‘what a great night out, I love Christmas!’ to ‘Wow, I over did it, time to join a gym’.
There is nothing wrong with this and making some life changes, either to your general diet, overall alcohol intake or working out a bit more. However, there are some trends (unfortunately, they have become the most popular) that in the long-run do nothing but put you on the road to being a yo-yo health fad ‘expert’ or can adversely affect your overall health.
The cold turkey of [insert bad health choice here] in the month of January, because it works right? I know it does, my mate Sam did it and lost the beer belly, then my friend Sarah spring boarded herself for beach season. Sound familiar? Yeah, everyone has heard it – the problem? Science and evidence-based research. Let’s look at the two big offenders: Dry January and Veganuary.
Dry January – OK so this one has been around longer than its younger hipster fuelled brother and it has certainly got legs. It also has support across the board from many charities and has for many become a big challenge. However, is it really deserved of its saint-like podium? Not really, in terms of ‘detoxing’ and part of a low-calorie overall push, it is frankly irrational. These ‘toxins’ that so many new social media wellbeing ‘experts’ espouse are at a basic level a myth, if your body was full of these toxins you’d be ill, actually ill, not just a Christmas hangover.
“But I feel better and I’ve lost weight”. Well, that’s because you’ve allowed your liver and kidneys to start and do their job again after seasonal excess, what you are feeling is normal, it’s not miracle work. Also, the starvation of your body from calories and much more tends to go hand in hand with Dry January. If prolonged it will start to build up harmful ketones and the protein starvation will mean your body is breaking down muscle just to keep you going. So yeah, you lost weight but that’s not always good.
It has its good points of course – a study by the University of London found a liver fat reduction of up to 15% from abstaining from alcohol, the problem? The study also found more than half of people returned to the previous excess shortly after the month ended with some actually increasing the uptake. In fact, even those who stayed off the source should likely be made aware of the long term effects, with those who are ‘moderate’ drinkers constantly found to not only live longer but indeed hit all indicators to being overall healthier than teetotallers.
Veganuary is fine though, right? Everyone knows plant-based is best for health. Yes, we all ‘know’ that don’t we, but is this approach the right one? The same arguments for calorie reduction and detoxing hold from the Dry January breakdown above, but there is a little bit more to it with veganism. Of course a reduction in meat has shown in some studies to reduce a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol and you are less likely to binge burgers in the same way many binge on Jagerbombs after the month is up. However, what people are shown to do is just stop eating meat and forgetting to eat the essential foods to make their diet healthy. This means the total cut on all meat products causes you to end up wanting on essential minerals and vitamins, even calories for energy but of course you can just take the multi-vitamins right? As those of you who are Big Bang fans will be aware, doing so is a great way to make expensive pee. Your body benefits from specific digestion of certain minerals and such through food.
So yes, veganism has its upsides the same as teetotalling does but you need to be aware of the drawback and actually research things, make sure to up your legume and grain intake for instance and not just eat kale all month.
A side note on this should also probably point out that although not as clear cut with the research on alcohol intake, a majority of studies also show vegetarian or omnivorous diets to reap more long term health effects than veganism or heavy meat diets, in fact with pescetarians leading the way in longer lives and spritely health. Therefore if this is truly a health move and not an internal moral backlash to a YouTube video you watched showing other countries practices, you may wish to check your options first.
So what’s the overall point? What should I do if I feel like crap after Christmas? Well as the title would suggest, moderation is key. If you think you are drinking too much, then make a permanent change and reduce your intake. If you feel lethargic and suffering from various digestive issues, again make a permanent change and look at alternatives and more nuanced consumption of meat.