During a recent family dinner, my 24 year old nephew asked my thoughts regarding a severely restrictive diet an acquaintance had been following, which he called “The B-Diet”. The B-Diet has only four daily food choices: beef, butter, bacon, and broccoli. The 43-year old male following the diet, let’s call him Mike, had lost 40 pounds in the last 40 days. Apparently his cholesterol and blood pressure had improved and he was espousing his diet as a major success. In fact, his doctor wanted to make Mike and his diet an exemplary patient for a healthy lifestyle.
Besides some obvious limitations in Mike’s food intake, I wanted to probe further about Mike’s lifestyle habits. It turns out that Mike repeats his B-Diet every year; dropping significant weight leading up to a late-February Hawaiian vacation; getting swimsuit-ready for the beach. Who can blame him? I know many people feel compelled to shed extra pounds before having to expose their skin in a bathing suit. The vacation marks the end to the diet, and Mike then begins his return orbit to putting on 40 plus pounds over the next few months.
Besides including no sources of fresh fruit, legumes, dairy, or whole grains, Mike cuts out his alcohol intake, pointing to a more insidious problem of swinging from being out of control with food and alcohol to overly restrictive. It’s a “feast or famine” approach that works for Mike, but it’s not one that should be condoned by a doctor’s office, or frankly – even in the home. Its dieting behavior like Mike’s contributing to the alarming statistic that in the U.S., 80 percent of girls, by the time they’re 10 years old, have been on a diet. It’s also not uncommon to hear an 8-year old mention “carbs make you fat”.
Mike is not my patient, but if he were, I’d recommend that he look at his underlying emotions that drive him to binge drink and binge restrict. No one is immune from under or over eating, as we are all working on balancing our food intake with energy output. But it needs to be done in a way that is year-round sustainable, and teaches young people how to properly care for themselves. We should be teaching them about several food groups like proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fats and oils, and dairy, instead of four foods. It also takes a lot of work to reroute stress so it doesn’t dramatically affect calorie intake. Regular exercise, coupled with meeting with a trained health professional to manage stress can help a person remain more emotionally and calorically balanced.