Lately, there have been a lot of... let's call them "Diet Challenges" going around on the interweb. Specifically, the ones where you pump yourself full with products that come from a bottle and place little emphasis on real food. They usually start with some sort of supplement based "Detox" (which is a whole 'nother basket of tacos), and then progress you through a bunch of other unnecessary products. You only have X number of days to do so, but OMG hang on a little bit longer!
I have a HUGE problem with them. Typically, when I am talking about something controversial, I try to stay neutral and weigh the pros and cons of said topic: Crossfit, Gluten, whether Eli Manning is better than Tom Brady, etc. Usually, I can be objective and figure out something positive from it.
Rather than go on a rant and get myself Hulk smashing the place, I'm going to outline reasons to steer clear of these types of products.
1. You have no idea what you're putting into your body, or why for that matter.
The FDA doesn't regulate the supplement industry. Most companies are coming around these days, and realize that people won't buy the product if there are all sorts of chemicals and contaminants in it. But even still, why would you want to risk it?
This is the same reason many athletes are getting popped for PEDs. There simply is no guarantee. For that reason, there are third party companies like Informed Choice, NSF, and Consumer Labs, that can help protect you. These companies test products for contaminants and/or to ensure that what is on the label is in the bottle in the right amounts. Then again, there's nobody regulating them either, so it's just mayhem out there.
Check out this photobomb:
See how hexavalent chromium is totally punking these dudes? This is a screenshot of a project I did in 2010, using Consumer Labs to check out some of the same type of weight loss products. Keep in mind, this is 5 years ago. I can only imagine what type of chemical cocktails there are today. Seriously, do you know what that 7 syllable ingredient is? Or for what purpose it is in your smoothie? If you can't answer the "why," then that's a pretty good sign you don't need it.
2. They don't teach you how to eat; for the rest of your life.
Think about this for a minute. Do you think that 24 days of mildly restricted eating and drinking is going to set you up for success after you are done?
I'm going to venture out and say, no frigging shot, my friend.
By getting a cookie cutter diet plan and being handed a goody bag of who knows what, there is no individualized approach to who you are. By the end of the program, you have no idea where to start because the program didn't teach you. There was no education about what healthy eating really is and how you can incorporate it into your life. It didn't take into account your food sensitivities, job, schedule, or activity level. It did, however, reinforce the idea that there is an easy way out; that you can get quick results without hard work, and that you can have Christmas Day whenever you want.
Well, you can't. The Holidays come once a year.
Eating well and being healthy is a lifestyle. Taking pills and unnecessary supplements is not. Good health is a statue that you're chipping away at everyday. If you have aggressive goals, awesome. Set them, and go after them like Steve McQueen. Educate yourself, make a plan, and get to it the right way.
3. They emphasize Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
Many of these weight loss products contain various fat blockers, diuretics, laxatives, and other herbs that have been "proven" effective in completely unbiased research trials. Notice my absolute sarcasm.
With that said, you probably will lose WEIGHT. But that doesn't mean it's what you want to lose, or that it will stay off.
By flushing out your system via bowel "irregularities," limiting your calorie and carb intake, you are essentially losing tons water. Your muscles shrink a little bit because they hold water (sad emoji)... and bang bang! You have lost WEIGHT, but not FAT. This is neither healthy or sustainable. If you want consistent results in the way of fat loss, it's going to take a lot longer than a month and a few pills.
4. You are a Consumer
Companies want you to buy their products, plain and simple. They may have good intentions, but they also want your money. So do the people that are selling it to you. Supplements are a massive industry, and it's really easy to be taken advantage of if you aren't educated about what you're buying.
With that said, it's not uncommon to see many unqualified people pushing a product who have no academic basis to do so. Anybody can sell anything. Start asking "Why?" a little more often and you'll see who really knows what they are talking about. Sample conversation:
"This is great for you!"
"It fires up your metabolism and helps increase fat burning!"
"Why? How does it do that?"
"Well, it's all of the great ingredients inside! And you can take this one too, to help curb your hunger!"
See where this is going? A lot of deflection and not a lot of information. Don't forget that things change when money is in the picture. Always ask yourself, "Does this person have my best interests in mind?"
5. The Placebo Effect
Fact: You are literally more likely to perceive effectiveness when you are invested in it. You believe it's going to work if you have a reason to want to. Like, spending 200 bones on a bunch of well packaged and marketed products.
I'll even admit here that this can be a good thing and a bad thing. If you feel like it gives you a mental or physical edge, it probably does. The brain is very powerful in this regard. Just be aware, and use it to your advantage. Try to stay neutral and be able to weigh how much something is actually helping you.
My biggest issue here is not the diet products themselves or how they are marketed and sold. I'll actually agree that there are certain cases that some people may benefit from having the experience of going through a program and learning from it. Sometimes it can help jump start someone on the road to success and motivate them for the future.
However, here's where I draw the line in the sand.
It's the attitude. It's the message. It's the habit you are forming. You are creating a mentality wherein every time something is hard, you reach for the the easiest way out. You are telling your brain that you aren't tough enough to be persistent and keep chipping away at the statue. Think about how that relates to life. If you have goals, this attitude won't help you achieve them.
Supplements, in general, are meant to be an addition to your diet and help you fill in the blanks. They aren't meant to be the bulk of it. If your diet isn't good to begin with, work on that first. Real food can do a lot more for you in the long run.
Of course, people will say that I'm taking away any sort of positive from this. Maybe. I'm just not wired to feel that anybody should get what they want if they aren't putting in the effort. You need to own your success, not attribute it to packets, pills, and some fancy labels.
"To get what you want, you must deserve what you want. The world is not yet a crazy enough place to reward a whole bunch of undeserving people."
Work hard, eat well, and stay the course.