Why Fad Diets Wreck Your Energy HormonesJul 01, 2023
At one point, I wanted to be trendy. Follow the latest fashions, eat at the hottest new restaurants, and attend all the art gallery openings and theatre premiers I could find…I’d been watching Sex and the City like it was my lifeblood back then and I coveted that on pointe, ahead-of-the-curve vibe that Carrie seemed to ooze.
But, I lived and worked in Calgary Alberta. As a city, it’s fun, vibrant and you can get everything you need. But it’s no NYC and my meagre $40k salary wasn’t enough to cover that one Dolce & Gabbana jacket I drooled over at Holt Renfrew.
Trends still intrigued me, and as my values and interests shifted away from the material things towards health, I was drawn like a moth to flame to the latest diet fads.
Yet, it took a few frustrating weeks of trying to strictly follow a meal plan I couldn’t keep up with for me to decide that fad diets weren’t all they claimed to be.
I mean, on paper, they sound great – all YOU need to do is follow the meal plans perfectly without thinking about what to make for dinner every day. AND they’re supposed to fix your gut, get rid of fatigue, and magically – poof! – have all your aches and pains go away.
Easy peasey, right?
But, if you’re like most women, you’ve tried many, many fad diets and all you’ve gotten was more frustration and maybe a little bit of “what’s wrong with me?” self-defeat.
You’re still exhausted. Your brain if full of heavy, honey-like fog. You can’t sleep, and your body feels heavy and sluggish all the time.
Perhaps you’re even more confused about what to eat to fix your health too??? (This is sooooooo common – you’re not alone!)
There’s only one simple reason for why you’re still exhausted – fad diets do NOT work!
They don’t work because they’re not designed to improve your energy, hormones and mental clarity…not one bit.
The constant restrictions of foods, the meals that feel like punishment instead of pleasure – this all feels like too much WORK, doesn’t it?
And, if you’ve ever “fallen off the wagon” with a fad diet, don’t blame yourself. Those intense restrictions make it impossible to stick to the plan because, nutritionally, they’re unsustainable. Your body is screaming at you to stop the madness, so you get inundated with cravings for “bad” foods and “cheat” meals.
But the BIGGEST mistake with fad diets is…they are wrecking your energy hormones!
Energy Nutrition 101
Super quick science lesson – this is ALL you need to know in order to eat for high energy: Your body runs on nutrients.
Think of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, fats, protein, and other critical nutrients are your energy fuel. Without proper, adequate fuel, you can’t function.
Nutrient gaps are the underlying problem that’s causing you to feel foggy, fatigued and frustrated. Our very first step in fixing fatigue and hormonal imbalances is to refuel your personal nutrient gaps (learn how to get started here).
When we introduce a restrictive fad diet into this mix, we create more nutrient gaps…
And MORE exhaustion and health issues.
You gotta FEED your body, not starve it.
Fad diets restrict the very foods you need for high energy
Those nutrient gaps I just mentioned?
They’re keeping your Fatigue Cycle spinning out of control, like a carnival horse carousel that’s been possessed by a demon!
The Fatigue Cycle is the combination of poor stress regulation and inflammation that directly triggers a shutdown of energy production at the cellular level. When 90% of your energy comes from your cells, The Fatigue Cycle can be very, very problematic!
To break the Fatigue Cycle, you need to restore fuel, balance and strength to your adrenals and your immunity. With nutrients found in food like lentils, beans, broccoli, apples, whole eggs, ground flaxseed, salmon and berries.
Guess what? Those nutrients are the ones restricted by popular fad diets!
Let’s look at 4 common ones.
The Paleo Diet
While the paleo diet is the least restrictive of the bunch, it still restricts some critical adrenal food.
Here’s what you’re supposed to ditch:
- all grains
- lentils, beans, chickpeas
The problem with the paleo diet is the overall concept – the idea that people should revert to eating like their cavemen ancestors. While eating from the land and reducing processed foods is a great idea, the disconnect is that the lifestyle of the cavemen was much different from ours today.
Sure, cavemen had stress. Sabre-toothed tigers and vicious enemy tribes and all that. But, when the stressful events were over, cavemen (and women) relaxed, sang, danced, slept and enjoyed life. In other words, they had the whole work-life balance thing down pat!
Today’s “go-go-go” lifestyle, expectations to always be “connected” and the silly notion that to be seen as successful, one must always be “busy” is a very, very different type of stress than our ancient ancestors.
How often do you get home from a hectic day and simply laugh, dance, sing and relax while chilling around the table with a good meal and your loved ones?
Probably hardly at all, right?
Between homework, emails, laundry, the dishes, and trying to get organized for the rest of your week, you probably tumble into bed feeling wired and wrung out.
Therefore, the paleo diet isn’t supportive of our modern stress-filled lifestyle because the food restrictions are some of the most important for breaking your fatigue cycle and refueling the nutrient gaps that help build up a strong, resilient stress response.
Keto – The One That Won’t Quit
Want to feel MORE tired and cranky? The keto diet is your best choice!
There are a few problems with the keto diet when it comes to female energy and hormones:
- Food restrictions like honey, all grains, lentils, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, beets and other starchy veggies restrict energy nutrients needed for healthy adrenals
- Low, low carb macros starve your body of essential fuel for high energy production
- Foods you’re “supposed to” eat are generally very inflammatory, adding more spin to that Fatigue Cycle (dairy, bacon, deli meats)
- Concepts like intermittent fasting that get thrown into this mix are very stressful for your body
Overall, the keto diet is the worst for reclaiming energy and getting back to feeling like your successful, high performing self.
New Player in The Game - Carnivore / Organ Meat
What you’re not supposed to eat on this one:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, green beans, peppers
- apples, berries, banana, kiwi, almost all fruit
- beans, lentils, chickpeas
- almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc
- grains + quinoa (not a grain!)
- maple syrup and honey
I don’t think I need to explain why these restrictions are problematic for health and energy!
On top of all those critical energy rejuvenation foods, the carnivore / organ meat diet is problematic in 2 ways:
It’s so high in protein that it puts extra stress on your digestive system to break down and absorb the nutrients. Protein takes a lot of resources to digest!
A high, high protein diet restricts antioxidants – ironically, a high protein diet creates a lot of free radicals from natural digestion metabolism so starving your body of antioxidants doesn’t help the energy situation. (Free radicals or oxidative stress turn off energy production and increase inflammation.)
And, with the organ meat craze happening, it’s very easy to ingest toxins and microbes that can overburden your liver, lymphatics and immunity.
Juice Cleanses and Detoxes:
Okay, what about those short 3- or 5-day juice-only cleanses or detoxes? Fruits and veggies have lots of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals…they must be healthy, right?
Not if you’re exhausted.
Struggle with hormonal imbalances.
Feel sluggish and heavy.
And battle brain fog with all your might!
Because juicing your fruits and vegetables removes all the fibre, leaving behind concentrated glucose that shoots straight to your bloodstream, increasing blood sugar. High levels of blood sugar equal inflammation.
And women who are fatigued, battling a lot of stress, and struggling with PMS and cravings already have a certain degree of insulin resistance.
Any glucose left in the blood is then shunted to fat cells for storage. And once it’s inside, it’s really tough to get out again.
Another huge caution – studies find that up to 80% of a fruit or vegetables antioxidants is contained in the fibre!Eek, you do not want to remove the fibre.
Now, I want to give a shoutout to the celery juice diet and how this is just not the answer to fixing your health problems (women who have followed these protocols have concerning levels of hormonal damage afterwards, the more they do them, the worse their hormonal health becomes).
Here’s what’s wrong with this particular fad:
- Remove eggs because they “feed” viruses. No, that’s not true. Egg whites can influence a replication of some stealth infections like EBV, but they don’t “feed” the virus. Egg yolks contain cholesterol, that important building block for stress and reproductive hormones.
- Eliminate healthy fats from raw nuts. Omega-3 fats are directly anti-inflammatory, which helps to reduce your stress response when it’s not needed; these fats fuel your adrenals to support resiliency to stress
- Don’t eat chicken. Chicken is a great source of protein that most people aren’t sensitive to, and you need a high level of protein to support your immune system and hormone production. If you can eat chicken, there’s no reason to eliminate it.
- Depending on the protocol, other healthy whole foods are removed and others are pushed to an overabundant level. It’s just not balanced for a woman’s hormonal needs.
From what I’ve read (and I haven’t bought into the protocol itself), this diet concept is very loosely based on surface-level data about how food fuels the body and reverses illness, concerns and imbalances. If any diet restricts healthy, whole foods, it’s best to stay far away.
I struggle to condemn the vegan diet because I love a good plant-heavy meal. I love animals and my heart breaks for cruelty or misuse of them.
We know that vegans restrict all animal foods, including eggs and honey. (Why do I keep mentioning honey? Because it’s an excellent antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial food to help boost your immune system safely.)
There is a growing number of vegans who choose this way of eating for convenience or ethical reasons, not necessarily health purposes. (One study suggested only 12-15% of vegans follow this diet for health reasons, knowing how to put a proper meal together for micro and macronutrient balance.)
Veganism has become so popular that most health and grocery stores have a large array of processed vegan foods. Vegan cheese. Vegan snacks. Vegan “meat”.
I love watching what people choose to eat when I’m with them, too. And I have some vegan friends – they opt for pasta, salad and bread most of the time.
Putting those two problems together – processed foods + lack of variety – equals a very concerning level of inflammation, nutrient deficiencies and gut health issues.
Can’t Forget the Low Calorie / Weight Loss Fad!
Any number of foods may be restricted with weight loss, and many weight loss plans combine one of the above styles of eating.
On its own, the biggest problem with weight loss diets is the low-calorie intake. Women simply aren’t eating enough nutrients to create a sustainable and resilient stress response, which increases inflammation and lowers energy production. (Plus, metabolism itself takes a hit.)
It can feel very stressful to try to count or track your food, too. Food stress is a leading cause of fatigue and burnout, and weight loss diets are a major contributor to stress and adrenal health problems.
To Reclaim Your Energy, You Don’t Need to Restrict Healthy Foods
High energy nutrition advice can steer you wrong in two main ways:
First, vague food tips like “eat the rainbow” or “balance your macros” or “just eat healthy” don’t help. You need to know what your body needs to thrive. You don’t need more confusion and headache about what to eat!
Second, fad diets that remove whole foods create nutrient gaps that increase your stress load and inflammation, spinning that Fatigue Cycle out of control. While many fads give you a great food list to choose from, most won’t teach you how to create a healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense meal in place of the restrictions.
Food is at the heart and soul of energy. Without proper, personalized nutrition, your energy will never be at the level you need to be high-performing every day, to feel clear-headed and quick-thinking, and to be able to knock off your to-do list quickly, leaving your more time to spend doing things you love, with people you love.
Yes, to reclaim your energy there are some important foods to restrict because they directly increase inflammation:
- Junk, deep-fried, processed foods devoid of nutrients
- Cow’s milk dairy
- Gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye)
- Vegetable and seeds oils (sunflower, safflower, soybean)
- Sugar & artificial sugar alternatives (aspartame, agave nectar)
But when you have the tools to create delicious, energy-boosting meals that balance all your important energy nutrients, these restrictions no longer feel like a burden.
If you’re ready for personalized energy nutrition that’ll skyrocket your energy within weeks and help you create meals you can’t wait to devour (even without the cheese), let’s chat and create YOUR perfect high energy nutrition plan together!
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