Do Celebrity Diets Work?

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Hollywood’s A-listers have tremendous influence. Some people look to celebs to decide what to buy, what to wear, what to read and even what to eat. People think if they eat like a celebrity, they’ll look and feel like one.

“It’s important to remember that looking good is part of a celebrity’s job,” says Kelly Nohl, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Henry Ford Health System. “Plus, they often promote a specific diet for a reason. Maybe they get paid, or maybe the dietary marketers selected them as spokesperson because they already have a sought-after figure.”

Breaking Down Celebrity Diets

In a society that places a lot of value on appearances, it’s natural to search for a “get slim quick” solution. While some celebrity diets are a sham, others may have merit.

Here, Nohl outlines the perks and pitfalls of some of the more popular plans:

1. Keto: The ketogenic diet, or keto, is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein plan that coaxes the body into a state called ketosis. In this state, the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Although it’s scientifically proven to help control seizures for patients with epilepsy, there’s scant evidence that the keto diet benefits anyone else. More concerning, a keto diet bans nutrient-rich foods such as grains, dairy, beans and fruits. What’s left? Butter, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds.

Cautionary note: You might lose weight on a ketogenic diet since it eliminates food groups, but you’re likely to gain it back when you return to a normal eating plan. And if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or liver or kidney disease, going keto may not be safe.

2. Intermittent fasting: This diet — also known as IF — comes in a range of methods. Some people eat 500 calories for two days each week and follow a normal diet the other days. Others don’t eat for days at a time. Most intermittent fasters restrict their eating to a six- or seven-hour window each day. So they might have “breakfast” at noon and eat their last bite of the day at 7 p.m. The idea is that you’ll ingest fewer calories because you have less time to eat — and that means you’ll lose weight.

Cautionary note: For most people, IF is perfectly safe. But if you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or chronic fatigue syndrome, skipping meals could be risky. Before you jump on board, talk to your doctor.

3. The Whole 30: The Whole 30 diet is built around the idea of cleaning up your diet for 30 days to help kick-start a lifestyle change. The diet eliminates processed foods, sugar (both natural and artificial), grains and dairy in favor of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Why 30 days? It’s based on the premise that it takes 30 days to form a habit.

Cautionary note: Getting rid of beans, legumes and whole grains can leave vegans and vegetarians short of nutrients. Other than that, Whole 30 is a solid plan that may offer benefits if you can stick with it and use what you learn to establish a healthful long-term eating regimen.

4. The alkaline diet: The goal of an alkaline diet is to coax your body to become less acidic and more alkaline, or basic. The idea is that a blood pH between 7.35 and 7.45 will help increase energy and promote a more healthful state. Low-acid fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes are mainstays, and you limit acidic foods such as wheat, dairy and meat.

Cautionary note: The diet is based on the idea that you can change your blood pH by changing what you eat. But this is impossible. The truth: You can only modify the pH level of your urine with food. So while following an alkaline diet or sipping on alkaline water probably won’t hurt you, you might spend a fortune on foods that don’t offer any payoff.

5. The Master Cleanse: The most dangerous celebrity diet on the menu, the Master Cleanse requires dieters to sip a cocktail of lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. That’s it — you can’t eat anything else. Some people follow the diet for five days. Others go without food for a full week or 10 days. Nearly everyone who goes on this diet will lose weight, at least until they go off it.

Cautionary note: Since you’re not consuming any real food, you’re missing out on fiber, protein and critical nutrients. The plan doesn’t teach you healthful lifestyle habits. For a subset of people, including those who have compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions, it could be quite dangerous.

Lose Weight Safely

Unfortunately, most celebrity diets only help you lose weight temporarily. You might drop 10 pounds in six weeks, but when you return to a normal diet, you’re likely to regain any lost weight, plus a few pounds.

“The best approach to achieving a healthy diet is to consider lifestyle changes you can sustain long-term,” Nohl says. Diets that work aren’t restrictive eating plans. They’re lifestyle decisions.

A few ideas to establish healthful eating habits:

  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Cook with healthy fats
  • Eat fiber and lean protein to keep you feeling full for longer periods of time
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise


To find a doctor or registered dietitian at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). Learn more about nutrition services available at Henry Ford.

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Kelly Nohl is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Categories: EatWell

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