A Guide To All Those Diets You Keep Hearing About

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Xsandra / iStock

When you were a kid, your mom may have gone on a diet. This meant she counted calories so she could lose weight. If she was really dedicated, she went to some group in the church basement where they weighed in and discussed their weekly food choices.

Now, well, hold onto your panties, Mary Jane: Dieting means — well, you’re probably not sure what the fuck it means anymore, but it ain’t as simple as counting calories anymore.

It’s 2017, people. Diets are for health. Diets are for lifestyle change. Diets are for lots of different shit, depending on who you follow on Instagram.

1. Gluten-Free

Most people are familiar with this one. It’s mandatory for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the small intestine when someone ingests gluten, “a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.” But most people aren’t going gluten-free because of celiac disease. There are the people who may have “non-celiac wheat sensitivity” or some of the symptoms of celiac disease without testing positive for it.

Then there are people who believe David Perlmutter, MD, author of Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar; Your Brain’s Silent Killers, a title that is fairly self-explanatory. All of these people avoid anything made with wheat, rye, or barley, like, anything made with flour, which is pretty much everything when you include battering, poor souls. Plus beer. This is basically food purgatory.

2. Paleo

In essence, paleo people believe that “if a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you.” Nerd Fitness says the paleo diet includes “meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, and seeds.” Carbs are out, bitches, and coconut flour, coconut oil, and coconut every-fucking-thing is in. It’s good for diabetics. It’s good for losing weight and building muscle mass, because hello, you can scarf all the meat you want (as long as you aren’t fussed about the losing-weight part). Like any diet, people can get really, really into eating paleo and really, really, really proselytize-y about it. It’s really hard to listen to them when they tell you that you can’t eat cheese.

3. Ketogenic Diet

When your friends start posting pics of pizza made of literally nothing but cheese on top of hardened baked cheese, you know they’ve gone keto. Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet that intentionally puts your body into ketosis, or a state where your body burns fat and turns it into ketones. This process gets super-complicated, but basically proponents claim it makes you burn fat like crazy, plus it fights disease and really helps diabetics.

4. Macrobiotic Diet

If you’re into Eastern philosophies, this one is for you. According to the Kushi Institute, “Not simply a diet, macrobiotic recognizes the profound effects food, environment, activities, and attitude all have on our body-mind-emotions.” Meditate on that, people (if you can parse if out). It’s plant-based and rooted in ying-yang theory, says Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic, and clinical nutritionist. It’s all about being vegetarian, staying low-fat, balancing nutrients with “different energetic qualities,” and being really obsessed with locally grown organic food. A lot of these people probably live in Portland.

5. Vegan

You know what this is, basically: not eating anything that comes from animals. However, that includes eschewing eggs (chickens), cheese (cows), and wearing leather (anything with skin). It also means avoiding milk, which leads to the interesting conundrum over whether or not breastmilk is vegan (it is, according to PETA and PETA wins all the vegan arguments). It’s the extreme end of vegetarianism, which itself has shades of gray: Some think it’s not okay to eat eggs, but okay to eat cheese. Others think animal products are acceptable, but animal meat is not. Then there are people who think we should avoid even honey, because it’s cruel to the bees. They’re disappearing at an alarming rate, but at least when they do, we’ll have one less thing to argue about on internet message boards.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

Okay, so this seems too easy, but allegedly promotes gradual weight loss, and as VegKitchen says, “If you lose weight quickly, your body will […] make it more likely this weight will slip back on in no time. But if you […] do not expect instant results, your fat cells will adjust to their new size.” Basically, you drink apple cider vinegar before meals. It has to be “organic, raw, and naturally fermented,” so it likely tastes like the tepid sweat of the devil’s own taint. Since one of the ads that popped up was “Are you looking for ways to make the apple cider vinegar diet more palatable?” I suspect I’m right.

7. Mediterranean Diet

The Mayo Clinic notes that a meta-analysis of 1.5 million people showed that those who follow the Mediterranean diet were less likely to croak of a heart attack, or keel over in general, though you might die of a craving for butter, salt, and good ol’ red meat. This diet emphasizes fruits and veggies, poultry or fish at least twice a week, and replacing that sinful, dirty butter with more healthy fats like olive oil. Oh, and don’t put salt on shit. You can also eat whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and you are ordered to enjoy meals with family and friends. You might perhaps want to exercise. I’ll take my steak, butter it, and go gnaw on it in the corner, thanks.

And if you don’t know, now you know. Be thankful the Cabbage Soup Diet has fallen out of favor, and you’re not following the Bible Diet, which okays food based on their “clean” and “unclean” status and orders you to pray each time you experience hunger. As always, none of this information should be construed as medical advice, and if you’re thinking about dieting for aesthetics, ask yourself why. If you’re thinking of dieting for health reasons, talk to your doctor first. And not Dr. Oz — his pronouncements are only backed by medical advice about a third of the time.