I Tracked Every Article About Dieting for 7 Days—Here’s the Surprising Thing I Learned

In the last week, how many news articles did you see that claim to contain simple tricks (or even THE secret) for loosing a few pounds? I saw 22.

(Photo: Pixabay)
(Photo: Pixabay)

In the last week, how many news articles did you see that claim to contain simple tricks (or even the secret) for losing a few pounds? I saw 22.

To see what can be made of the diet and health advice we read online, I’ve been conducting an experiment for which I’ve taken note of every news article I’ve come across on these topics over the course of seven days. What I discovered is that online advice for dieting and healthy eating is out of control. It’s everywhere, and it’s dramatized. It’s conflicting and it’s inaccurate, and it’s messing with the minds of even those who aren’t looking for it. Below, I listed every tip I’ve read over the course of seven days—nearly 100.

First, my method. I limited this experiment to articles that discussed specific diets and regimens or that touted tips, tricks, advice or scientific findings (sorry recipe listicles, find another experiment). Additionally, I didn’t go out of my way to seek out any of this information. I simply looked at what happened to pop up on my social media feeds. Since most of it was from Twitter, I doubt Facebook’s newsfeed curating algorithms had much of an effect. I follow a lot of media, but nothing specifically about diet, health or wellness, so the fact that I stumbled upon 22 articles was pretty interesting, and as it turns out, concerning as well.

SEE ALSO: Meet the Famous Dancer Taking the Online Workout World By Storm

I talked to Tricia Psota, president of the DC Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and asked her to weigh in on the biggest challenges and causes of stress when it comes to eating healthier and losing weight. Without hesitation, she said, “simple confusion.”

“There are so many mixed messages. Not knowing where to start is a huge issue, and then people try to do too much,” she said. “People think they need to change everything when, realistically, they need small changes, which will add up over time.”

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I did this for a week, but I would have agreed with Ms. Psota wholeheartedly after just a few days. By just using social media the way I usually do, I found myself receiving countless pieces of advice, many of which were mixed, contradictory or made me believe I should prioritize one thing, while others said to prioritize another. For best results, exercise first thing in the morning, read one post. Do it in the evening, read another. I read how to detox with juice, only to come across another article detailing why I absolutely should not go on a juice cleanse. If I followed all of the advice I read, I’d be vegan, on a taco diet, eating fish all day, exercising literally all day, eating before bed, eating more meat, eating less meat, eating oatmeal for breakfast, eating protein for breakfast, drinking smoothies, juicing, not juicing, hiding food, cheating, using my hand to measure portions, using measuring cups to measure portions, etc. etc. etc. No wonder we’re all so confused. Now, here’s all of the diet advice I collected during my experiment:

Weight loss and healthy eating

  • “An Exercise Scientist Debunks a Huge Weight Loss Myth” (Tech Insider)
    • It’s not true that eating late at night is bad and will prevent you from losing weight, and there are studies now showing eating before bed can improve body composition
  • “16 Healthy Eating Rules You Should Always Follow” (Delish)
    • For breakfast, eat 300-400 calories, including 10 grams of protein, healthy fat or fiber, and also whole grains
    • Whenever meals are spaced three or more hours apart, eat 100-200 calories, including 4 grams of healthy fat, protein or fiber, avoiding processed foods and refined sugars
    • For lunch, eat 400-500 calories with 5 grams of fiber and 50 percent of the meal being veggies
    • For dinner, eat 400-500 calories with 50 percent of the meal being non-starchy veggies, 25 percent being lean protein and no more than 20 percent being whole grains
    • Treat yourself once a day, but cap it at 200 calories and 15 grams 0f sugar
  • “The Way to Lose Weight Without Diet or Exercise May Simply Be Water” (Independent)
    • Drinking water 30 minutes before a meal can lead to 5.5 pounds of weight loss over three months without diet and exercise
  • “6 Real-Life Diet Tips From the World’s Top Athletes” (Huffington Post via GQ)
    • Eat oatmeal for breakfast
    • Drink a lot of smoothies
    • Fish is great for you
    • Cut out meat (temporarily at least)
    • Go vegan
    • Cheat occasionally
  • “The One Thing Khloé Kardashian Did to Lose 11 Pounds” (Delish)
    • Completely cut dairy out of your diet
  • “One Chart Shows How Americans Need to Change Their Eating Habits” (Tech Insider)
    • Most Americans aren’t eating enough vegetables, fruits and dairy but are consuming too much sugar, saturated fats and sodium
    • Most Americans don’t get enough oils because they get most of their fats from solids like butter as opposed to vegetable oils (Note: the article says nutrition scientists debate if one is better than the other)
    • For an average American following a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the new recommendations suggest eating the following every day: 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruits, 6 oz. of grains, 3 cups of dairy, 5.5 oz. of protein and 1.8 tbsp. of oils
  • An Exercise Scientist Reveals the Fastest Way to Lose Weight with Minimal Effort (Tech Insider)
    • Dieting plays a much bigger role than exercise
  • “Tips for a Healthy 2016” (Fox8, North Carolina)
    • Look for brightly colored vegetables and fruit
    • Minimize saturated fats by choosing lean cuts of meat
    • Reduce butter and cut out trans fats
    • Use good fats like Omega 3 (found in fish, walnuts and olive oil), grapeseed oil and coconut oil
    • Watch intake of refined carbs and simple sugars
    • Choose whole grains high in fiber
    • Limit full-fat dairy
    • Add anti-inflammatory spices and flavorings such as ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and garlic
  • “How to Store Food for Weight Loss” (Delish)
    • Store packaged snacks in the pantry
    • Put a bowl of fruit in plain sight
    • Don’t store food on open shelving
    • Leave healthier foods to the front of the cupboard
    • Keep healthiest foods at eye level in the fridge
    • Wrap tempting foods in aluminum foil
  • “Drop a Few Sizes With These 12 Simple Portion Control Tricks” (Huffington Post)
    • Eat smaller portions
    • Eat a small breakfast of protein and fiber
    • Cut pizza into smaller pieces
    • Beware labels like “gluten-free,” “low-fat” and “organic”
    • If you want to eat large portions, fill up on fruits and veggies
    • Eat a lot of soup
    • Use measuring cups
    • Use your hand a portion guide (your palm is three ounces of meat)
    • Buy single-serving and pre-portioned packages of food
    • Eat slowly
    • Eat off smaller plates and bowls
    • Cook at home more often
  • This Is the Best Time of the Day to Exercise ( Tech Insider)
    • Exercising in the late afternoon/early evening leads to better fitness and reduction of fat tissue
  • What to Do Every Hour to Lose Weight All Day (Shape)
    • 6 a.m. – Drink water, eat a small snack of carbs and protein (like a banana and almonds) and then work out right away
    • 7 a.m. – Eat a filling breakfast that includes 10 grams each of protein and fiber
    • 8 to 9 a.m. – Pack a lunch and sip on water
    • 10 to 11 a.m. – Enjoy 150 calories of a fiber-filled snack and track what you’ve eaten in a food journal
    • Noon: Do some mid-day exercising by going for a walk or strength training at your desk
    • 1 to 2 p.m. – Eat a healthy lunch of low-fat protein, fiber, fresh veggies, whole grains and fruit for dessert, and then exercise again
    • 3  to 4 p.m. – Have a 1 50 calorie snack and then some green tea
    • 5 p.m. – Walk or bike home from work
    • 6 p.m. – Make a low-cal dinner filled with veggies, low-fat protein and whole grains
    • 7 p.m. – Brush Your teeth early to avoid late-night snacking, and exercise while you do it
    • 8 p.m. – If you’re watching TV, exercise during commercial breaks
(Photo: Pixabay)
(Photo: Pixabay) Photo: Pixabay

Diet plans and regimens

  • “An Exercise Scientist Told Us How Many Pounds You Should Lose Each Week If You Want to Keep It Off” (Business Insider)
    • Loosing one to three pounds per week helps keep weight off while diets that promise more rapid loss don’t produce sustainable results (Note: the article shows some research suggests otherwise, citing a randomized study that found almost no difference between the results of rapid vs. longer weight loss plans)
  • “Jennifer Aniston’s New Diet Plan Will Shock and Inspire You” (Cosmopolitan)
    • It’s a 30-day taco diet, where you eat a vegan tacos for each meal including breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Dietitians, Nutritionists, and Food Psychologists Got Together and Ranked the Best Diets of 2016 — Here’s Their Top 10(Business Insider)
    1. DASH diet, a long-term diet to stop hypertension or high blood pressure, not the Kardashian’s store
    2. MIND diet, which focuses on eating foods that may help reduce your risk of neurological disorders—in particular, Alzheimer’s
    3. TLC diet, focused on loving and caring for your body by lowering cholesterol
    4. Weight Watchers (a.k.a. Oprah’s latest gig)
    5. The Mayo Clinic diet, which purportedly can help you lose up to 100 pounds in a year
    6. The Fertility Diet, which encourages healthy fats, whole grains and plant protein (for weight loss and to enhance fertility)
    7. The Mediterranean diet, a celebrity-favorite diet which consists of fish, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil
    8. Volumetrics, a slow, slow way to use weight that focuses on being full
    9. Jenny Craig, another celebrity favorite
  • “Maybe It’s Time to Rethink That Paleo Diet, Bro” (New Republic)
    • The paleo diet encourages more meat consumption than recommended
  • Expert Tips for Surviving Your First Juice Cleanse(Daily Mail)
    • If it’s your first time, opt for a two-day cleanse that incorporates both juice and vegetables
    • Don’t start on January 1; abstain from alcohol, sugar and caffeine for at least two days before starting
    • Follow the guidelines for maximum benefits
    • Listen to your body and continue exercising
    • Continue focusing on whole foods when the cleanse is over
  • “What Happens to Your Body When You Go On a Juice Cleanse” (Time)
    • When you reintroduce foods, you can get a sense of what doesn’t agree with your body
    • Your appetite will shrink
    • You’ll be sensitive to cold temperatures
    • You’ll lose your spark and may experience caffeine withdrawal and headaches
    • You’ll drop water weight
    • Your metabolism will slow
    • Your skin may dry out and your hair and nails won’t grow
  • “You Don’t Actually Need a Juice Cleanse to Detox” (Galore)
    • Registered dietician Erin Palinski-Wade says juice cleanse products won’t actually enhance your body’s ability to detox

Scientific studies and findings

(Photo: Pixabay)
(Photo: Pixabay)

Overwhelming, right? You could argue that I clicked all of these links, leading myself into all of this conflicting information, but the truth is that we all casually click on articles like this all of the time. Our curiosity gets the best of us as we, individually and as a society, continue our search for a magical weight loss quick fix. And even without clicking, the headlines of half of these articles are enough to confuse us anyway. Listicle-style articles make this advice feel extremely accessible and easy to read, and besides, media knows everyone is looking for a simple guide, laid out for them, so they give us headlines like “This Is the Best Time of the Day to Exercise” and “16 Healthy Eating Rules You Should Always Follow,” because they know we’ll always click them.

We asked Ms. Psota if people should get diet advice from the news, and she said, “It’s definitely not the best idea.”

She said that dramatic headlines and news sources’ agendas and overall lack of knowledge leads to misinformation. “There’s a lot of conflicting advice in the media. The best information can be found from a government site,” she said.

Ms. Psota recommends SuperTracker, a system available for free from the USDA. Like MyFitnessPal or WeightWatchers, you use it to track your food intake and exercise, but it’s way more comprehensive. It can run over 30 reports to help you understand what you’re putting in your body and what you need. Rather than just focusing on calories, fiber, protein, sugar and carbohydrates, you get a breakdown of your vitamins, sodium levels and many other nutrition facts, as well. 

I Tracked Every Article About Dieting for 7 Days—Here’s the Surprising Thing I Learned