America’s Newest Diet Guru?

…or America’s latest “health” sanctioned eating disorder in the guise of a fad diet?

Some weeks ago, my friend Ellen sent me a link to this story in More magazine, which bills itself as a publication “for women of style and substance.” Ellen and I were both shocked and distressed by the “substance” of this one:

The article sings the praises of Lyn-Genet Recitas, the owner of Neighborhood Holistic in New York City. Lyn-Genet is “certified” in Chinese food theory and holistic nutrition. Tellingly, neither the article nor Lyn-Genet’s website says who issued these certifications, except to note that Lyn-Genet has a master’s degree from Clayton College of Natural Health (a now-defunct non-accredited distance-learning institution.) The basis of her diet program (“The Plan”) is the theory that different foods can cause chronic low-grade inflammation which contributes both to weight gain and to various ailments.

(According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there is no evidence that food allergies contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation.)

Nevertheless, Lyn-Genet has had “thousands” of clients lose weight and feel that their health has improved as a result of “The Plan.” Some of the foods that she believes cause problems for a lot of people include:

shellfish (with the exception of scallops), turkey, pork, eggs, Greek yogurt, roasted nuts, asparagus, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, oatmeal, salmonthe list goes on.

Each person is “chemically unique,” says Recitas. Therefore, according to her, scientific research can’t tell you what foods are healthy for you or not–but her cobbled-together anecdotal evidence can:

“I’d estimate that 95 percent of the people I work with can’t eat oatmeal without gaining a substantial amount of weight. It can cause two days’ worth of constipation and particularly affects my migraine sufferers.

So people going on the plan go through a three-day “cleanse,” and then through an elimination diet rotation, weighing themselves daily and taking detailed notes on how they’re feeling. Lyn-Genet claims that participants should be losing a half pound daily.

There are so many things that are distressing about this article and this “Plan.” For the sake of clarity, I’m going to tackle them bullet-point style:

1. Focus on Weight Loss/Thinness

The article notes that Lyn-Genet, who is 46 years old, has 11% body fat. That is shockingly underfat. 11% body fat would be considered “underfat” for a man of her age–let alone a woman. Being that underfat is associated with its own risks, not least osteoporosis.

Any diet that involves daily weigh-ins encourages obsession with the scale–which is not where the focus need be. Responsible nutritionists recommend weekly weigh-ins and emphasize that results cannot be judged by the scale alone.

2. Tons of Introspection: e.g. “How am I feeling after this meal?”

I think we can all benefit from paying attention to what’s going into our mouths. But this? This is a recipe for an eating disorder. Remember my gluten-free confession? Based on the same kind of thing. This is not to say that if, you know, jalapenos make you sick every time you eat them, that you shouldn’t avoid them. Of course you should. But eliminating whole swaths of foods because of perceived “intolerance” within your body? Bad idea.

3. (related to point #2) Hyper-individualistic

Lyn-Genet seems to think that the most “revolutionary” part of her diet plan is the fact that it encourages YOU YOU YOU to figure out what’s good for you based on your own reactions to everything that goes in your mouth. But really, this is just Burger King philosophy (“have it your way”) with a health-and-weight conscious twist. This is an eating plan that cuts people off from one another and makes communal eating a real pain in the, well, you know. To my mind, that’s never a good thing.

4. (in case it wasn’t clear from above) JUNK “science”

Piecing together anecdotal evidence from clients in a neighborhood practice is NOT research, and calling it “research” is irresponsible.

Shame on More magazine for giving these quack theories a voice and using a specter of extreme, unhealthy thinness to help advertise yet another fad diet masquerading as an approach to health!

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