Suffering For Their Art

Celebrities are always trying the latest fad diets. So what's the deal with these crazy eating plans? We get expert advice on their nutritional merits, plus share some sensible tips for beating the back-from-holiday bulge.

Celebrities always seem to be following the latest diet craze in a desperate attempt to keep their slim figures.

It's small wonder as, under the glare of the media, every kilo they gain is noticed and often commented on.

But sometimes the pressure to slim can end in tears and while other celebrities might currently be winning the fight against gaining weight, they should be embarrassed by some of their tactics.

Beyonce's apparently tried the Maple Syrup diet, Jennifer Aniston and Paris Hilton have toyed with a Baby Food Diet, Guy Ritchie's favoured a Hollywood Cookie diet and Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow are renowned for their enthusiasm for macrobiotic food.

"All too often people are looking for quick fixes," says Fleur Borrelli, nutritionist at Nelsons Pharmacy.

"Celebrities are often under pressure to lose weight fast, and their fans follow whatever has seemed to work for their idols and role models."

She believes that the end result of many 'fad' diets is disappointingly short-term weight loss, and poor health due to poor nutrition.

"A lot of these diets verge on fasting or food deprivation which is not healthy," Borrelli says.

"It would be far better to lose weight more gently and slowly, with a balanced healthy diet incorporating lots of fruit and vegetables. That would lead to steady weight loss that would remain stable."

We've put some of those celebrity diets under the spotlight for Borrelli to weigh up.

:: MAPLE SYRUP DIET


Celebrity fan: Beyonce.

This diet is based on a detox drink made from Madal Bal Natural Tree Syrup (made from the sap of maple and palm trees) mixed with lemon juice, cayenne pepper or ginger and hot or cold water.

It can be used to substitute meals on one day per week, one or two meals per day or a full on 10-day detox.

RATING: "It will not only play havoc with your system but also will not have the desired effect," Borrelli says.

"The sugar will be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to a temporary burst of energy. This will be quickly followed by a slump; feelings of fatigue, irritability and hunger.

"Crash diets such as this one will initially achieve a substantial amount of weight loss due to the lack of calories but the weight is highly likely to go back on afterwards."

She believes the diet severely deprives the body of the essential nutrients it needs for normal healthy functioning. These include magnesium and calcium for healthy bones, zinc for healthy skin, hair and nails as well as the immune system. It could also lead to deficiencies in iron, vitamin C and the B vitamins, which is associated with low mood and poor mental functioning.

:: THE HOLLYWOOD COOKIE DIET


Celebrity fan: Guy Ritchie.

This restricted diet of 800 calories per day was designed by Florida doctor Sanford Siegal to test thyroid slowdown. If after 21 days the patient experiences limited or no weight loss, this indicates an under-active thyroid.

Dr Siegal has re-marketed the diet as an aid to weight loss and the idea is to eat one meal per day and six cookies. The amino acids contained in the cookies supposedly have appetite suppressant properties.

RATING: "This diet has too few calories to maintain health and energy," Borrelli says.

"The body goes into starvation mode and holds onto stored fat in order to preserve its reserves and burns lean body mass which may come from vital organs such as the heart.

"A cup per day of vegetables does not get close to the daily recommendation of five fruits or vegetables per day. This may leave the body deprived of vital vitamins and minerals and even fibre even though the cookies are fairly high in fibre."

She criticises the recommendation that liquids such as tea and coffee be drunk with the cookies.

"Not only are they mild diuretics, which will cause the body loss of valuable liquid, but components in tea and coffee can impede the absorption of iron.

"Even though oats, the main ingredient of the cookies, are useful sources of nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc, the processing they undergo robs them of these nutrients."


:: THE BABY FOOD DIET


Celebrity fans: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Marcia Cross, Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson.

A former designer at Christian Dior, Hedi Slimane, reportedly developed the Baby Food Diet so he could fit into skinny jeans.

RATING: "Fats are an especially important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers (up to two years of age), who have the highest energy needs per unit of body weight of any age group and these foods are developed so that they contain plenty of calories," Borrelli says.

"But an adult would have to consume a large quantity to suit their calorie needs. This may in turn mean that they are actually consuming too much sugar in the form of jars and jars of rhubarb and custard!"

The result, she says, would produce a negative effect on their blood sugar and ultimately lower their energy levels.

She believes jars of organic baby food may be a nutritious snack for an adult seeking to avoid the crisps or chocolate, but they will be insufficient in nutrition for a complete diet and lacking in essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and the B vitamins.


:: THE CABBAGE SOUP DIET


Celebrity fan: Sarah Michelle Gellar.

No one has laid claim to being the creator of the Cabbage Soup Diet.

As the name suggests, the idea is to fill up on vast quantities of the soup every day, although some other prescribed additional foods are allowed.

RATING: "As with other calorie restricted diets it will cause rapid weight loss from water and muscle tissue and encourage the body to hang on to fat reserves," Borrelli says.

"As diets go, it is not a particularly unhealthy one as it contains plenty of fibre and vitamins. A good multivitamin tablet is also recommended to accompany it.

"However, it is deficient in sufficient protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats."

Healthy fats can be found in foods such as cold pressed olive oil, nuts and seeds, lean meat and fish, as well as avocados.


:: THE GREAT LIFE PYRAMID DIET (Macrobiotic)


Celebrity fans: Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow.

The creation of this diet can be attributed to Georges Ohsawa in the early 20th century. It's based on healthy foods that balance a person's yin and yang, or spiritual side.

RATING: "Probably my favourite of all these diets as it is more of a way of life rather than a fad for a limited period of time," Borrelli says.

"It promotes a balanced diet of fresh whole food and eliminates anything that might be processed with limited nutritional value and plenty of additives."

She believes that the diet is prescriptive in the sense that it does not allow for individual variation in terms of dietary requirements with a recommended intake of 40-60% wholegrains, 20-30% vegetables and 5-10% beans and pulses.

In addition, poultry, dairy and red meat consumed on an infrequent basis could lead to deficiency of minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium as well as Vitamins B12 and D.

So, let's leave the fad diets to the celebs and stick to a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates.
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