What the Morning Banana Diet Is. And Isn’t.

by mango on November 5, 2008

It must be the gimmicky name. “Morning Banana Diet.”

Something about it seems to trigger the “Hit F11 for the prewritten fad diet rant” instinct among health writers, dietitians and other nutrition pundits. They pigeonhole it without even looking into the details.

Here are some recent criticisms of the Morning Banana Diet that have crossed our desk:

“It’s a crackpot fad diet because it doesn’t require exercise!”

Walking is encouraged. Exercise beyond that is optional. But remember that this is a weight loss diet program, not an overall fitness program or a create world peace program or a land a man on the moon program.

There are many worthwhile goals in life, and we encourage people to follow their bliss, and getting fit in the aerobic sense is certainly worthwhile. It’s just that it’s not necessary to be aerobically fit to lose weight, and weight loss is the single, limited goal of the Morning Banana Diet.

Karen Collins reports on research that found that “weight loss during programs focused on dietary change produced two to three times greater weight loss than programs focused on exercise.” And the New York Times reviewed the literature and found that “few people, an overwhelming body of research shows, achieve significant weight loss with exercise alone,” although “exercise has benefits beyond weight reduction.” Individual nutrition and medical experts may or may not agree with this accessment of exercise, but it’s an area where educated, knowledgable people in the field have different opinions and interpret research results differently, so a weight loss program that does not emphasize exercise may be controversial, but it is not completely irrational or outside the mainstream.

“It’s a crackpot fad diet because you can’t continue it for the rest of your life!”

Or putting it another way, “You’ll get sick of bananas.” Or “Diets that limit you to a few foods aren’t sustainable.”

As anyone who reads our forums or the comments on the diet on other sites knows, you can in fact continue it for the rest of your life, if you wish, because many people have been eating bananas for breakfast for their whole lives up till now. “I’ve been accidentally doing this diet!” is the sort of thing we constantly hear.

If bananas are not for you, the diet permits other fruit. Granted, bananas are really cheap, and don’t require cutting up or dishwashing, so are perfect for getting you out of the house quickly in the morning, but other fruits fit the diet fine, as the rules make clear.

Is the diet monotonous? We chuckle at this, because it directly contradicts another criticism, that the diet allows you to “eat anything.” You just can’t win, can you. Folks, you’re only eating a couple of hundred calories in bananas a day. Is eating fruit everyday as part of an otherwise varied diet monotonous? Tough.

Of course, the diet in fact allows not only other fruit, but any other food you want for breakfast, as long as you eat it 30 minutes after the bananas. This is in line with standard advice from American dietitians to wait 20 minutes after eating to let your sense of satiety catch up with what you’ve eaten. (The punchline here is that if you’ve eaten yourself 80 percent full with bananas, 30 minutes later you in fact aren’t usually going to be hungry.)

“It’s a crackpot fad diet because it lets you eat pizza and fries for lunch!”

The Morning Banana Diet has some soft edges that seem to unnerve many critics. It seems to allow you one or two extra snacks during the day if you want them. It seems not to limit the quantity of food you eat at meals. It seems not to limit the types of food you can eat for lunch and dinner.

But let’s look at what the diet actually says.

You can eat “normally” for lunch and dinner. The diet doesn’t say you can eat “whatever you want” or “as much as you want.” It says “normally.” But quantity is in fact limited. You can eat until you’re starting to feel full. That’s called “80 percent full” in Japanese, or “7 out of 10 on the fullness scale” by American dietitians. If you normally eat pizza and fries for lunch, you can continue to do so, as long as you remain cognizant of your feeling of satiety and stop when you reach a 7. Will you lose weight? If you were maintaining a particular weight before, you probably will lose weight. You’re still eating crap food, but less of it. Remember, the Morning Banana Diet is to help you lose weight, not make you fit, unclog your arteries, or whiten your teeth.

But in fact, the Morning Banana Diet gently encourages you to eat better. The Japanese version of the diet suggests cutting your rice serving in half and finding substitutes for fried foods (the shogayaki ginger pork set menu rather than the karaage fried chicken set menu at your lunch counter). In our rules and our members’ forum posts you will find similar suggestions, internationalized for the non-Japanese dieter. But is there an absolute rule about eating better? No.

All this softness, all this leaving it up to the dieter to make decisions, all this Japanese subtlety, it seems to freak some people out. If you can’t cope with this, and you need guidance to the gram on how much to eat and specific menus telling you what foods to eat, you’re going to need to look for another diet. As the Morning Banana Diet Rules page says, we’re all different, and no diet works for everybody.

“It’s not magical!”

This is the number one “complaint” about the Morning Banana Diet among its critics. That the diet isn’t magical. That it works because you eat fewer calories, not because it’s magical. That there’s nothing magical in bananas. That there’s nothing magical about not eating after 8:00 p.m. That you lose weight simply because you eat less.

Well, duh.

Sorry we didn’t come up with a magical diet. Again, quoting from the often cited but apparently not read Rules page, first paragraph no less:

Every diet has rules. If a diet works for you, it’s simply because the rules have had the effect of making you eat less food (nothwithstanding whatever magical claims a diet may make). Diet rules generally do this by making eating a little harder or less convenient, through restricting when or what you can eat. Throw in a little “scientific theory” for motivation, and you have a diet. And remember, no diet works for everybody. So what are the Morning Banana Diet rules? Here’s a synopsis collected from various sources …

How can someone complain that the Morning Banana Diet is not magical and imply that we are claiming it is, when the very first paragraph of the most prominent page on the Web site is the above?

Bottom line

So what conclusion is to be drawn from all this? The Morning Banana Diet is a healthy, sustainable diet for weight loss and weight maintanance that asks you to eat fruit (you know, the stuff that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Ameicans also asks you to eat — in greater quanitity than the Morning Banana Diet asks you to eat?) to fill yourself up, be conscious of your satiety, and regularize your meals and bedtime. It doesn’t spell out everything you put in your mouth to the nth degree, and if you don’t have the judgment to fill in the blanks, then your eating difficulties are not the sort that this diet can effectively deal with, so you need to keep looking. The diet is a bundle of behavioral rules of thumb and motivational techniques whose goal is to get you to eat less, as measured in calories. It works for some people and doesn’t work for others, which unfortunately is a characteristic of any diet.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Conor Kelly 11.07.08 at 5:56 am

Overly restrictive diets cause your body to slow down metabolism to protect you from starvation! In order to see lasting results you must raise your metabolism through supportive eating, cardiovascular exercise, and resistance training.

mango 11.08.08 at 3:23 am

Conor, you need to define your terms. I’ll help you out. By “overly restrictive” I assume you mean a very low calorie diet, say 800 calories or so? I’m happy to inform you that the Morning Banana Diet is not a VLCD.

When you say “slow down metabolism to protect you from starvation,” how much, in numbers, are you talking about? In a practical sense your metabolism can get about five percent more efficient when deprived of food, and only temporarily. That’s 100 calories more efficient per day. Who does a diet that is only 100 calories below their normal metabolism? That would be stupid. Diets usually shoot for 500 to 1,000 calories below their maintenance calorie needs, in order to obtain one to two pounds of fat weight loss per week. Given those numbers, an efficiency difference of 100 calories per day is a rounding error.

The Morning Banana Diet generally saves you a couple/three hundred calories at breakfast, and one or two hundred per lunch, dinner and snacks. This ends up in the 500 to 1,000 calorie deficit range. This assumes that you’re the sort of person that this kind of diet works for. Read the top page for the type of person the diet is appropriate for, and read the post above for the “no diet works for everyone” disclaimer.

kushaba 11.18.08 at 3:41 am

this diet seems very cheap and easy to maintain. being an american college student weighing in at 200 lbs. this seems easy enough to do, even on my budget.

katari 11.23.08 at 7:22 am

Finally, a diet i can afford! And i dont have to measure portions or count calories… just use a little common sense. I’m ready!!!

dietitian 01.27.09 at 8:52 am

if you want to lose weight banana diet is not a solution you must follow the balance diet because if you have a kidney problem high intake of food rich in potassium may result in danger. use your common sense you will lose weight because you eat only banana in the morning… take note that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Michelle 06.12.09 at 6:10 am

Dietitian: That’s kind of a common sense thing, naturally if you’re told by your doctor that your diet shouldn’t be rich in potassium, then obviously this diet isn’t for you with it’s bananas. I mean c’mon, if you don’t know bananas are big in potassium- then you probably also the lack the obvious in exhaling after inhaling… which means you have bigger problems at hand than some diet. :P

Angelo: I think the point of the banana is more as an easy, healthy filler than anything. It’s healthy, makes you feel full, has a low calorie amount, and you don’t have to measure or count calories with them. In fact, you can take them anywhere- so it makes them a perfect substitute in replacement of having a breakfast say, at McDonald’s. You could be full from 2-3 bananas and have much extra calories free, so after eating your regular meals the rest of the day, you’re still coming out under the amount of calories you used to eat, hence losing weight. Plus, if you’re full, you’re less likely to find yourself snacking on junk foods. Hopefully that makes sense. Sorry, I suck at describing. :(

Bebe 10.06.09 at 11:59 pm

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but the underlying theory to that is, breakfast if the meal that dictates how you are going to eat for the rest of the day. Have you ever tried eating a McDonald’s breakfast, only to find yourself wanting to eat greasy foods for lunch and dinner as well? If you ate a huge breakfast, don’t you just want to eat huge for the rest of the day too? I think the point of this is that if you consciously train your body to eat healthy and portion-controlled (remember the 80% full rule) at the beginning of the day, then your body will follow that for the rest of the day as well. I think this diet encourages a healthy lifestyle. I mean, what have you got to lose? Bananas are good for you anyway. With other diets, you deprive yourself of the foods you like, which leads to bingeing later on. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Jack 02.11.10 at 10:45 am

The problem with most diets is when you stop the diet program and do not change the way and amount of food you eat the weight lost will be put back on + more some times.
The eating cycle needs to be changed and the type of food as well the amount.
Dinner is not a night time meal. Most of your calories are consumed without some exercise and close to bet time.
If you eat good morning meal and have more than a snack type meal at noon then have a salad or fruit for your evening meal with some exercise you will lose weight faster than the other way.
Be moderate in the amount. Start with a small cup of soup of any kind.
do not gulp it down, savor it.
It is okay to leave the table a little hungry.
Get away from processed products.
Fruits and veges and nuts work good.
check out other health sites for a full view of healthy foods.

mukri 05.19.10 at 5:14 pm

i am 110 KG i want to start i diet to reduce my weight but how should i start please let me know ?????????
thanx

Jasmine 07.12.10 at 8:29 am

What I have noticed with my recent eating habits is that I’ve been losing weight. I usually have bananas on top of my cereal; a small lunch, if not any; and a light dinner, typically a salad, or mostly vegetables. I’ve been eating like this for the past two weeks, and have lost five pounds. But if you eat more than necessary, then your weight goes back up. The banana diet isn’t really a diet, it’s just another one of those popular eating styles that everyone has to try. But eating bananas does have it’s benefits: high in potassium, carbohydrates, protein, etc. And supposedly it helps strengthen the hair, stimulate the digestive system, and boost the mind. I guess I would recommend the banana diet, but again, it’s just some trendy “diet” that will quickly be replaced by other “diets”.

basille 09.14.10 at 7:53 pm

right now i’m not actually going on a diet,its more of maintaining my weight and health.coincidentally,i almost always eat banana in the morning after drinking 1 or 2 glass of water followed with 1 cup of capuccino. then i go to the gym for 1 or 2 hours of cardio exercise and some weights exercise. after that i have my breakfast,usually its a mix of 60-40% protein-carbs sandwich (i.e chicken egg cheeese sandwich ) but when i feel like having sweet things like pancake, i go get myself one.
i couldn’t agree more to this diet,i have followed similar way of eating and it works for me.with the banana in the morning and exercises after that,i can’t eat as much breakfast like i used to.not because i restricted myself to a certain amount of food,but i stop eating because i feel full already.
its also a habit of stop eating when i feel 80% full.after a while the stomach will get used to it and i actually feel so much better.there is none of that drowsy after lunch feeling when u get after eating big meals.i feel energized instantly because my stomach is not demanding extra energy to digest my meal.
the goodside is i get to eat whatever i want,because even fried food,when u eat it in a reasonable amount,will not make u gain weight.what makes u gain weight is when u consume more calories than the calories that is burned.say,u dont eat fried food and only eats steamed vegetables for the whole day.but the amount of vegetables that u consume is enormous,adds up way more than the calories u burned during the day.this will makes u gain weight.i think the point is to be reasonable,listen to your body and never ever deprive yourself of a certain food(except if its for health reasons)

Jane 10.18.10 at 11:28 pm

How much calories does one banana have, if we are to count calories, how harmful is the calories one eats in about 6-8 bananas a day, let me know am keen on starting this diet, as I love bananas, i dont mind having them for breakfast

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>