Having a lean and toned physique is the dream of many. Typically, achieving and maintaining an ideal body shape is the product of an integrated approach or effort through a nutritious and balanced diet, focused and regular workout routines, and quality sleep. However, certain people with obesity or excessive weight gain may opt to take the easy route towards a slimmer, leaner body. These include using slimming pills or waist trainers and adopting popular yet controversial eating regimes like the GM diet.
Here are a few truths behind well-known diet plans and ways to consume healthy foods following Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) belief.
7 Day GM Diet
What is GM Diet?
The GM diet – an abbreviation of General Motors diet – is a diet endorsed by the General Motors Company to help its employees improve their fitness and well-being through weight loss. With help from the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture, the primary rule of this diet involves the consumption of complex carbohydrates and low-calorie foods and an increase in water intake.
This diet plan is purportedly able to detoxify the body and promote calm and relaxation. Nevertheless, it’s a crash diet — a type of diet that revolves around a drastic change in your regular eating routine. It goes against the principles of balanced eating.
It’s unsustainable in the long run as it’ll trigger weight gain when a person starts to eat without restrictions.
It can also cause various side effects. For instance, hair loss, muscle weakness, severe headaches and a lower metabolic rate are common in people who follow the GM diet. Certain people can also experience dehydration or a persistent thirst.
Peanut Butter Diet
Holly McCord, editor of a health and nutrition magazine called Prevention developed the peanut butter diet. This diet is based on 2 separate caloric intakes — 2200 calories for men and 1500 calories for women. It also provides enough essential nutrients and is believed to be beneficial for health by regulating cholesterol, promoting weight loss, and reducing a person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Yet, consuming peanut butter on its own is unlikely to cause weight loss. In fact, you will also need to switch up your dietary habits. You can opt to reduce portion size and consume fresh vegetables to see effective results.
This diet plan was made famous by famed South Korean entertainer IU (real name Lee Ji Eun). Many believe that IU follows a variation of the pro-ana diet — Myproana. It promotes and mimics the habits of an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa.
The IU diet involves consuming an apple for breakfast, 2 sweet potatoes for lunch and a protein shake for dinner. In total, these foods add up to a daily intake of only 300 calories. IU claims it helped her lose 4 kilogrammes (kg) within 4 days.
Proponents of the diet have reportedly achieved a weight loss of 3-5 kg within a week. Yet, they struggled through the entire process. Moreover, a continuous calorie deficit consumption as per the guidelines of this diet can also harm the body. It can also increase a person’s risk of many diseases.
OMAD, short for One Meal A Day, is a popular diet plan for weight loss and improving metabolic health. The rules of this plan don’t specify what foods or how much you can eat daily. Similarly, it doesn’t specify what time you eat. However, it’s regarded as the longest form of time-restricted eating — 23:1 (fasting for 23 hours and eating during a 1-hour window).
Abiding by an OMAD diet allows a person to reduce their calorie intake, keep diabetes in check and improve metabolic syndrome. It’s also particularly beneficial for frequent travellers or people who work on shifts or have hectic schedules.
Having said that, the consumption of an OMAD diet can also lead to a lesser protein intake. This leads to bouts of hunger. Seeing that the diet involves a limited eating window, this diet can also result in excessive consumption of carbohydrates at a single sitting. This can increase a person’s glucose and insulin levels. Alternatively, people who live active lifestyles can find this eating plan difficult to follow, especially if they’re not accustomed to fasted exercise.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine Take on Healthy Eating
In the classical Scripture of Great Peace, TCM advocates eating less and eating real foods as the foundation of a clean and healthy body (《太平经》：“少食为根，真身好洁，粪秽气昏”).
This is contrary to the beliefs of crash diets as they can have a rapid weight loss effect. Yet, they are not sustainable long-term. Specifically, such eating patterns can potentially cause an essential nutrient imbalance in the body.
“People may forget that once they stop these so-called ‘effective slimming diets’, their bodies will regain weight easily and become unhealthy. Perseverance is key to a healthy body, especially in your diet. The body takes time to react and change to a new diet. A fast and quick method can have hidden health risks,” says Chu I Ta, Chief TCM Physician at Real Health Medical. He suggests people take it slow even if they want to try a certain slimming diet to allow their bodies to adapt and react.
“You should terminate it immediately if you frequently become unwell,” he says.
TCM prioritises the consumption of coarse grains like buckwheat, oats, coix barley and mung beans. Coarse grains contain insoluble dietary fibres that can enhance digestive system functions. It works by improving gastrointestinal peristalsis motion, toxic metabolic waste excretion and preventing constipation. Coarse grains also contain considerable amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. These include B vitamins, which promote healthy growth and development. Coarse grains can help control blood sugar levels by staying in the intestines for longer. Thus, reducing the absorption rate of glucose by the body.
A healthy diet in TCM consists of a balanced consumption of both staple and non-staple foods. A few ways to do this are avoiding sweetened beverages, eating less processed foods and sugar-rich carbohydrates, and ensuring a sufficient protein intake. It’s also essential to balance the consumption of meat-based and vegetarian meals.
A Diet Plan That Resonates with TCM Beliefs
In this regard, Physician Chu believes that intermittent fasting (IF) is a healthier option in comparison to crash diets. IF promotes weight loss but also reduces inflammation, lowers a person’s risk of obesity and chronic diseases, and supports the recovery of cancer patients.
There’s also records of IF in ancient TCM text —The Book of Rites (Da Dai Li Ji, 《大戴礼记》). This is known as bi gu (避谷). Bi is defined as ‘to reject or avoid’, whereas gu is defined as ‘grains’. The book states, “Meat-eaters are brave and fierce, grain-eaters are wise and clever, breath eaters live their lives longer, and those who don’t eat don’t die but live as long as immortal gods.” This is one of the very few historical Chinese texts which explain the benefit of fasting. The concept may work relatively well for people who absorb an excess amount of nutrients due to daily overconsumption of food.
Complementing an IF Diet with Herbs
You can use several herbs to complement the consumption of an IF diet during feeding windows. They include astragalus(huang qi), liquorice (gan cao), codonopsis root (dang shen), wheat germ and white atractylodes (bai zhu). You can use them to make a herbal soup base that can help improve digestion, tonify spleen qi and strengthen the immune system. These herbs may also help to prevent the initial fatigue that may occur during the practice of IF.
If your goal is weight loss, you can consume Roselle Cassia Seed tea. It uses Roselle, Cassia seed, dark plum, hawthorn berries and lotus leaves. If you’re looking to gain weight, consume a whey protein beverage fortified with Chinese yam and wolfberries. They are ideal for enhancing nutrient absorption. Otherwise, ingredients like ginseng, liquorice, Chinese yam, goji berries, gorgon fruit (ge gen), poria mushrooms (fu ling), or red dates can also be used to prepare a soup base that improves appetite and rate of digestion, enhances muscle growth and strengthens the body.
Irrespective of your weight goals, it’s safe to say that the GM diet and similar crash eating plans will only be temporarily effective for weight loss. Ultimately, balanced consumption of healthy foods will produce lasting results. It will also protect your body from future harm. Nevertheless, check in with your regular healthcare providers before starting a specific diet. In doing so, you’ll be able to achieve the best possible outcomes without compromising your health.
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- Viral Rang News. 2018. The Pro-Ana Diet: 8 Different Meal Plans to Follow (Number 4 Is Super Effective!). [19 October 2021]
- CHANNEL KOREA. 2021. IU DIET PLAN: THE SECRET BEHIND HOW IU LOST HER WEIGHT. [Accessed 19 October 2021]
- Diet Doctor. 2021. What you need to know about OMAD. [Accessed 19 October 2021]