The fatal flaw of most diets and how to turn it around in your favour

There are so many different “diet labels” telling us how to eat. There’s Vegetarian. There’s Vegan. There’s Raw. Paleo, 4:3, Wheat Belly, 5:2, Atkins, Zone, and Gluten-Free. South Beach, Dukan, Mediterranean, Weight-Watchers, Blood-Type, Grapefruit, and Skinny Bitch. 3-Hour, Best Life, Cabbage Soup, Caveman, Fat Flush and Glycemic Index diets. French Women Don’t Get Fat, Hormone, and Jenny Craig programs. Macrobiotic, Master Cleanse and Food Combining diets. Beverly Hills and Nutrisystem. Shangri-La, Volumetrics, and the list goes on and on.

Fatal flaw of diets


The labels above are a shorthand way of classifying and organising things but what we often forget is that they are often inaccurate or restrictive.

Because I’ve tried so many of the above, it’s funny that I should still be wrestling with the question of “what should I be eating for maximum health?” Despite a life-long quest for nutritional enlightenment, I truly ask myself this question every Saturday when I’m creating my weekly shopping list.

The question of what to eat isn’t as simple as it appears on the surface. We are really asking: “What do I need to eat to:

  • look great
  • increase my heart health
  • reduce my cholesterol
  • manage stress
  • avoid cancer
  • counteract the impact of ageing
  • manage my blood sugar
  • maintain my weight
  • improve my skin
  • boost my immune system
  • maintain healthy digestion
  • increase my energy
  • balance my hormones
  • increase my overall feeling of wellbeing, etc.

Many of the diets above do improve some of these things, but what I noticed after doing so much research, is that each diet often has a fatal flaw.

Once I started noticing this fatal flaw in the diet world, my ability to evaluate eating programs increased dramatically. I could take the best out of each diet and evaluate the rest with a grain of salt.

Probably the most common fatal flaw of diets in general is the focus on weight loss in lieu of health. The fatal flaw lies in overly fixating on an end result or focus that is not: “generate the healthiest version of me possible.” The focus instead often lies on the idea: “I’m following all the rules of this diet program.”

We all know that weight loss is an excellent outcome of an eating programme because there are enormous health risks from being even mildly overweight. But you can too easily have weight loss without health by essentially starving your body of the nutrient rich foods it needs to be optimally healthy. 

Ditto if the eating focus is ethics. This is a wonderful and honourable focus, but it is possible to confuse ethics with health.  You can be eating a highly ethical diet and still be unhealthy. I have been a fat vegetarian (and a skinny Atkins meat eater!)

A common focus these days is on avoiding foods like wheat or dairy. Supermarkets are now full of gluten-free products. Sounds healthy, right? The sad thing is the foods created to replace the original offending food items are generally just as bad as the original foods from a health perspective.  Gluten-free products are often made with refined grains, are low in nutrients and cause inflammation in the body. The fatal flaw strikes again. This is another case of the wrong focus (this time on food substitutes) instead of focussing on optimal health.

A huge collective mental  shift will happen when we focus on finding out what “being healthy” really means. When we stop avoiding fat, carbs, sugar, etc, to try and feel safe eating inside the fence-like parameters of a diet label. We’re all pretty clear on “what not to do”. But what should we be eating for optimal health? That’s harder.

The answer to the question of “what should I eat” is unlikely to come down to a one word label.  In many ways we give away our power to these labels – and no label will take charge of our health. I’ve been on a path towards answering this question for myself over the last 2 years, and will be writing more about the many wonderful “do’s” (and a few “dont’s”) that we can easily add to our lives to see remarkable results.

What about you? Have you seen the fatal flaw in action? Do you think it’s clear for most people what we need to ADD to our diets to see dramatic health benefits?