Mono Meal for One: Beware of Extreme Diets

Instagram: Freelee the Banana Girl

Apparently there’s a race to “bikini ready” and we’re all falling behind. It seems like every magazine is touting the countdown to beach season. Didn’t we just leave winter? The headlines shouting at you from the grocery line checkout sure make you think so.

- “Drop Two Sizes Just in Time for Summer” reads the June 2014 headline for Health.

- “Get fit Super Fast” promises Women’s Running.

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- “Fast Track to Sleek” boasts Muscle and Fitness Hers.

While our 2013 spring and summer outfits might be slightly more snug after such a long winter, please, please, please turn down the volume on the ‘emergency’ slim noise, and avoid the tendency to take it to the extreme.

First of all, people will think you are crazy.

Have you heard of the “mono meal” diet? People eat one type of fruit or plant food for every meal.

Freelee the Banana Girl, an Australian, is blowing up the Internet claiming to be a “diet guru” for solving her own health problems with this extreme diet. (I can’t find her real name anywhere.)She told The Daily Mail that she has suffered from anorexia and bulimia, so it’s not entirely clear if her relationship with food is a psychologically healthy one to model. But she’s digging into watermelons and mounds of bananas at meal times, crushing produce.

Her arms are certainly getting a workout from hauling all of that food. Fifty-one bananas in one day? Five pounds of potatoes in one meal? No sweat.

Second of all, extreme diets might actually make you go crazy.

I asked Marci Anderson, a Cambridge-based registered dietician, nutritionist, and eating disorder specialist, her opinion on this young woman’s dieting behavior.

“While I cannot comment on whether she is currently struggling with an eating disorder, this type of eating pattern is truly disordered,” said Anderson in an email exchange Wednesday. “Mono eating is another fad to add to the ever-expanding list of diets that are unsustainable at best and harmful at worst.”

Malnutrition can result not only from a combination of inadequate amounts of food, but also an inadequate range or diversity of food. By sticking to limited foods during the day, you’re limiting the daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals that can have long-term impacts on your physiological, and psychological, wellbeing. For instance, a nutrient deficiency of the Vitamin B3 Niacin can lead to dementia and depression, according to the World Health Organization. Without the daily recommended 55 mg of Selenium, people can develop mood disorders.

While no promise of weight loss is worth this, what makes extreme dieting worse is that the behavior is much more likely not to last, and whatever weight was lost will probably return.

“People often confolute weight loss with health. This type of eating pattern could easily lead to nutrient deficiencies as well as an increased obsession with food,” said Anderson. “Both make a person vulnerable to binge eating and future weight gain.”

Your diet might be too extreme if...

You’re ditching social interactions in order to stay true to your strict regimen. (Notice that Freelee can’t convince many friends to pose with her on Instagram.)

If there aren’t options for your extreme diet in a typical restaurant, and you ditch your friends just to stay at home with your kale, it might be a sign. A healthy diet is part of a healthy lifestyle, one that’s balanced, maintainable, and manageable, but most importantly it’s a life style. As in, you should still have a life. Press pause before this behavior becomes something much more serious.

Take this online survey from the National Eating Disorders Association to see if you might need to watch out for those extreme tendencies.

No beach body is worth it.