As one of the most influential social media platforms globally, TikTok has unsurprisingly become a hub for discussing weight loss strategies. The surge of diverse trends and concepts related to weight loss has captivated millions, but it also has left countless individuals grappling with uncertainty about the authenticity and effectiveness of these diets.
So in this article, delve into the intriguing world of TikTok diet trends, plus what you can do yourself to identify if a diet really is good or not.
How Weight Loss Works
First of all, it’s important to get a quick reminder of how weight loss actually occurs. At its core, shedding weight involves consuming fewer calories than your body expends, creating a calorie deficit. This deficit compels the body to tap into its fat reserves for energy, resulting in weight loss.
So that’s what we call the weight loss principle.
There’s no fixed number of calories you need because everyone requires a different amount, and this will vary daily as well depending on your activity levels.
The weight loss method is then how you apply the weight loss principle to achieve a calorie deficit.
👉🏼 i.e. The diet you do.
There are thousands of diets out there all claiming to have the magic formula to help you lose weight.
And with the growth of TikTok, we are seeing more and more diets claiming to have this magic formula.
Some notable examples include:
- The Girl Dinner: Advocating a well-rounded platter featuring deli meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and optionally, carbohydrates. This diet emphasises diversity and includes a treat to craft a balanced, fulfilling meal.
- Cottage Cheese and Mustard Diet: Encourages the consumption of cottage cheese infused with mustard, accompanied by vegetable dippers. The focus here is on protein intake and the inclusion of vegetables.
- Green Goddess Salad: Promotes the consumption of nutrient-rich greens, proteins, and healthy fats via a wholesome salad.
- Baby Food Diet: Proposes the consumption of pre-packaged baby food as a strategy for portion control and calorie management.
- Military Diet: Offers a regimented dietary plan dictating specific foods on designated days, intending to create a calorie deficit.
These diets do have some OK principles and WILL definitely work as long as they put you into a calorie deficit. It highly depends on your definition of “work” though, as many of these are just short-term solutions that don’t last very long.
Factors Behind Viral Diet Trends
The virality of these diets can be attributed to several key factors:
- Influencer Impact: Charismatic influencers with substantial followings wield considerable sway, even if they lack professional qualifications to dispense dietary advice.
- Engaging Diet Names: The allure of catchy diet names lies in their capacity to capture attention and facilitate recall, effectively simplifying complex nutritional concepts.
- Rule-Based Approach: Diets featuring straightforward rules resonate with people seeking swift weight loss, offering clear guidelines in an often convoluted dietary landscape.
Evaluating a Couple of TikTok’s Dietary Offerings
Let’s explore two of TikTok’s diet trends…
The Girl Dinner Diet
This diet basically comprises a board or platter with a combination of deli meats, eggs, fruit, veg and a carb source if you like. It’s suggested that you also include something that you really enjoy on the plate that might be considered a treat.
As you can see, this diet follows some pretty sound nutrition principles of a balanced meal with protein, veg and carbs.
Another positive is that it’s pretty quick to put together as well, so makes it easy to follow.
At first glance, I don’t see any problem with this. Especially if it were just a one-off meal. You may even be thinking “Why has this even got a name…I’ve eaten like this before”.
And it’s entirely possible that a lot of the followers of this diet trend can lose some weight with it.
Problems with the Girl Dinner Diet
There are a few things I could see going wrong with this diet.
The first is the interpretation of the rules. It would be very easy for someone to slip from the structure a bit and only include processed foods on their plate OR even just include too much of the “good” stuff meaning that they don’t actually lose any weight.
Another thing that comes to mind is: what about the rest of your meals?
I’m assuming that most people following the Girl Dinner Diet are just eating dinner this way.
Whether you lose weight or not relies on your daily calorie intake and if you overeat at other mealtimes, then you’re not going to be in a calorie deficit. You could even end up putting on weight if you eat too many calories overall.
It has also been noted that “picking” at food as with this type of diet trend could be associated with eating disorders. Anything that affects your relationship with food has the potential for negative side effects.
The Cottage Cheese and Mustard Diet
As you can see, this is another diet with a wacky name and like the Girl Dinner Diet above, it does follow some good nutritional practices.
The diet basically involves including cottage cheese mixed with mustard along with some veg that you dip into it.
This means that anyone who follows this diet will get a good source of protein (from the cottage cheese) and a nice amount of vegetables as well, which are both positive choices.
Where the addition of mustard came in, I do not know, but as with a lot of fad diets, there are always components that make little sense.
Problems With The Cottage Cheese and Mustard Diet
Although this diet sounds ok in terms of nutrition, there are a few things I can see going wrong with it.
First of all, you’re probably going to lack fat in this diet which is essential to many bodily functions. Any diet that lacks enough fat will be detrimental to your health long-term.
Secondly, this diet will get boring VERY fast! No one is likely to enjoy eating cottage cheese, mustard and vegetables every day for dinner, let alone all meals.
So in theory, if what’s on your plate puts you into a calorie deficit, yes, you’ll lose weight. However if you don’t follow it for long, then it’s not going to have much of an effect.
Why Diets Usually Fail
The broader issue with trending diets, whether on TikTok or any other platform, lies in their long-term sustainability:
As discussed, any way of eating that puts you into a calorie deficit will help you lose weight.
What’s important though is that you can follow that way of eating long-term so you not only lose weight, but keep it off, plus the diet must keep you in good health!
The following are some of the main reasons diets don’t end up working for most people:
- Diet Rules: Strict rules, while simplifying the following of a diet, often undermine the long-term success of it.
- Perfectionism: Diets built around strict rules create an all-or-nothing mentality, which struggles to accommodate the unpredictability of everyday life.
- Deprivation: Eliminating your favourite often leads to eventual overindulgence, causing guilt and derailing your progress.
- Emotional Eating: Many trending diets overlook emotional eating, which can trigger unhealthy eating and intensify negative emotions.
- Motivation Source: Weight loss initiated by negative emotions or short-term discomfort leads to up and down motivation and impulsive eating behaviours.
Most diets are based around rules, and while this makes them easy to understand, it’s what often makes the diet fail in the end.
Examples of diet rules are:
- Don’t eat carbs
- Only eat foods assigned to this “green” category”
- Have 1500 Calories per day
- Don’t eat after 6pm
Most people want a diet that’s simple to follow because learning how to lose weight can be a big learning journey.
However, food rules are problematic for various reasons. One I’d like to point out is calorie counting which many will be surprised about. Counting calories can make you disassociated from hunger cues and also not trust yourself to make your own decisions around food.
This leads me to the next point.
Perfectionism or black & white thinking is common with food rules.
The way your mind sees it is:
“I’m either following these rules and on the diet”…
“I’m not following the rules at all and off the diet”.
And I don’t need to tell you how unpredictable life tends to be.
When something you didn’t plan happens, how easy is it to feel like you can’t follow the rules set out by your diet?
Anything can throw you off.
- What happens if you run out of a particular food?
- What happens if you forget to take your food to work?
- What happens if the kids are ill?
- What happens if you don’t have much time that day?
- What happens if you go over your calories a little bit?
- What happens if you’re just super stressed and can’t deal with thinking about dieting?
So diet rules create this very all-or-nothing mindset which reduces the sustainability of any diet.
For true long-term success, you need to be able to be flexible around food and learn to work in the “grey areas”. This means that when you can’t be as perfect as you would like, you still do something towards eating healthily rather than throwing the diet out of the window for the day.
Most diets involve cutting something out – usually, something you like.
This is going to end in disaster for two reasons:
- You’re never going to cut out your favourite foods forever, so on that day, you feel like you haven’t followed the diet which makes you feel like it’s a day off the plan.
- When you eat something you’ve deprived yourself of, it’s well documented that you often overeat on it which can often lead to food guilt and reactive thinking.
So a good diet SHOULD include things you enjoy in appropriate amounts.
One of the reasons people feel they can’t do this brings us back to the all-or-nothing mindset. As you don’t trust yourself around having “just one” of your treats, it’s either have none or you allow yourself a cheat day where you have no boundaries or control over what you eat.
Emotional eating/binge eating is something many of my clients used to struggle with and is one of the hardest parts of dieting to tackle unless you understand it.
For a lot of people when they get urges and cravings around food they feel like something takes over them and they have very little control over their actions. Often the methods to control or solve emotional eating actually make it worse, so this leads you into a downward spiral.
This is why binge eating is often linked with a lot of negative feelings and emotions for people.
Cravings for food actually come from the primitive survival part of your brain, which is very powerful in getting you to do things. It’s important to remember that this part of your brain is just looking out for you. If you have a negative feeling and you’ve accidentally taught your survival brain that food makes you feel better, it will absolutely use that!
It’s the same part of the brain that makes you pull your hand away when you touch something hot. You don’t have much choice in the reaction, which is why it’s so easy to feel no control over emotional eating.
I’ve written more about emotional eating here if you’d like to find out more about it.
When starting a diet, most people are driven by short-term pain. I.e. Something pushes them into wanting to lose weight. It may be their clothes not fitting anymore or catching a glimpse of their fat rolls in the mirror, or even a negative comment by a friend or family member.
This means that the weight loss motivation is a negative one. It’s not fun or exciting. The diet is a necessity for that person, and they are only doing it to escape bad feelings.
As dieting is usually an internal debate of “What do I hate most at the moment…the diet or my weight”, then often the motivation wavers and this leads to “F***-IT” moments where you end up going off the diet for a few days whenever it suits you or you’re feeling a bit better about yourself.
This means that you never really get any consistency with your results.
Another important part of motivation are the negative emotions you feel. Negative emotions “switch on” your survival brain as it sees bad feelings as a possible threat to you. This means that you want the weight loss as quickly as humanly possible, often leading to poor, reactive choices. For example, giving up when you see the scale number hasn’t budged.
For long-term motivation to stick, you need to be excited about the changes you are going to make. This means being fully aware of how your life will be in every way once you reach your goal. This will emotionally reward you for making positive changes in your life and help you feel like it’s worth the effort!
The Diet Blueprint for Long-Term Success
Achieving sustainable, long-lasting weight loss demands considering several pivotal factors:
- Structure: A food plan built around a flexible structure that allows you to let go of unnecessary food rules.
- Flexibility: The ability to make good food choices while adapting to real-life situations.
- Moderation: Being able to enjoy your favourite foods in moderation while not being scared that you’ll lose control if you choose to open a tub of ice cream, for example.
- Understanding Emotional Eating: Fixing emotional eating is vital for being able to follow through with the behaviour you want.
- Positive Motivation: You need an exciting reason to put in the necessary effort to lose weight. It can be a long journey for some so learning to enjoy it gets the best results.
While TikTok diet trends may seem cool and exciting, realising that they are just fads, trends and at best pieces of the puzzle at best. Weight loss has many factors, especially emotional ones which need to be worked on for real long-term success.
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