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.
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?
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.