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Why You Shouldn't Attempt the Grapefruit Diet, According to a Dietetics Major

Spoon University logo Spoon University 3/17/2017 Georgia King

As college students, especially with bikini season just around the corner, there is a lot of pressure to have a perfect figure. People will do just about anything to reach their weight-loss goals, whether it be exercising for obscene hours at the gym, taking diet pills, or eating next to nothing. 

As the generation with the world of knowledge at our fingertips, it's our job to decipher all of the information being thrown at us, and filter out what is actually true and safest for our bodies. The notorious "Grapefruit Diet" has been around since the 1930s, making it one of the oldest fad diets out there. But does it work? Is it safe? Is it realistic? As a dietetics student, these questions intrigued and concerned me, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

Grapefruit Diet plan lemon citrus © Diana DiGasbarro Grapefruit Diet plan lemon citrus

What is it?

The basic premise behind the Grapefruit Diet Plan is that eating a crazy amount of grapefruit (around two of these huge fruits a day) will help you to burn fat away. It has been claimed that grapefruit has a certain enzyme that acts as a catalyst when the body is getting rid of fat. The grapefruit diet plan promises you immediate results, claiming that you will easily lose 10 pounds in 12 days.

In a society where immediate gratification is near and dear to our hearts, this claim can quickly lure people in. But I encourage everyone to take a closer look at what they're getting themselves into. The Grapefruit Diet Plan has many other "rules" besides eating a heck of a lot of grapefruit.

Generally, one is expected to significantly limit carbohydrate intake and increase protein intake. The diet also suggests not eating extremely cold or extremely hot foods, not preparing anything in aluminum foil, and eating "starch meals" and "protein meals" four hours apart. These things apparently interfere with the grapefruit's enzyme.

The typical daily calorie intake for someone on the Grapefruit Diet is about 1,000 calories. An example of breakfast on this diet is eggs, bacon, and of course, grapefruit. A typical lunch and dinner include a salad topped with meat, occasionally accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea. You are also allowed a bedtime snack of skim milk or juice. 

The Skinny on the Grapefruit Diet

A big issue that I had when first looking into the Grapefruit Diet Plan was the severe restriction of carbohydrates. What people are failing to realize is that many essential fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates. And even so, other carbohydrates such as breads or pastas will not destroy your diet. Ask any dietitian, and they will tell you that regularly consuming some whole grains will not lead to weight gain. 

It's the unhealthy habits, such as eating excessive sweets or not balancing your intake with exercise, that will lead to an increase in weight. But this alone is not the issue. In fact, carbohydrates are our main source of energy, which encourages the body to be more active. 

Let's face the facts here. Anyone who's only eating 1,000 calories a day is going to lose weight (and definitely not in a healthy way). According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, adult women and adult men should be getting between 1,600-2,400 and 2,000-3,000 calories per day, respectively.

So this diet already goes against years and years of research done by professionals. There are minimal studies that show the Grapefruit Diet itself leads to weight loss. And even those studies lack the sufficient evidence to show that the weight loss is due to an enzyme in grapefruit. I think it's safe to say that there are more reasonable ways to take off a few pounds.

Most health professionals would agree that losing that much weight in such a short period of time (up to 10 pounds in 12 days) is not healthy. And considering how restrictive this diet is, it is not realistic for consistent weight loss. You will likely gain it all back within the weeks following your diet.

As a dietetics student, I'm currently learning a lot about healthy eating habits and the best ways to get in all the nutrients your body needs. In my opinion, there are much better ways to go about losing weight. There's no one food that's the key to getting the body of your dreams. What many people like to overlook is that the body needs a variety of foods. Though we need some food groups more than others, it's never a good idea to severely restrict yourself, unless you have some sort of allergy or intolerance.

Unfortunately, there is no secret formula for weight loss. But it's completely attainable with a balanced diet and regular physical activity. As for the Grapefruit Diet Plan, why deal with all the restrictive eating and crazy amounts of citrus? I would personally prefer to lose weight by eating a wide variety of foods that will fuel me with energy and give me the nutrients I need. But hey, that's just me.

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