Ah Instagram, the land of dank memes, duck faces, and… dubious diet advice.
Instagram has transformed over the years from a photo-sharing app to a bonafide marketplace, and with that comes the promotion of some seriously sketchy diet products. With a few well-placed celebrity endorsements (and innumerable unpaid, un-celebrity endorsements), diet product makers can catch the eye of millions.
Here, Revelist has rounded up the five most questionable Instagram diet fads, and examined the "science" behind them. Get ready to have your #mindblown.
Admittedly, the clean-eating craze is no longer confined simply to Instagram: You can spot it on Panera Bread bags and obnoxious gym tanks across the country. But there’s no doubt that the trend had its profile boosted by all those photoshopped Instagram models tagging #eatclean in every one of their pictures.
The philosophy behind clean eating isn’t a bad one: Eat whole, unprocessed foods, with as few artificial ingredients as possible. Research shows that a diet following those general guidelines is probably the best for overall health.
But clean eating can also be taken to the extreme, like in the case of lifestyle blogger Jordan Younger. Younger became so obsessed with having a “clean” diet — and eliminating everything that might be “dirty” — that she developed an eating disorder. After losing her period and suffering various nutrient deficiencies, Younger finally admitted to having orthorexia.
That’s why nutritionists warn against basing your diet plan around Instagram fads in the first place: They’re simply not realistic.
“Social media accounts have a tendency to promote everything as being perfect and rosy,” nutrition consultant Kacie Carter told The New York Times. “That stress can and does offset the benefits from the healthier lifestyle they are trying to create.”
So go ahead, whip up a Whole30-approved egg white omelet for breakfast. But if you’re really serious about changing your diet, talk to a doctor first.
These little guys are easily spotted on the Instagrams of suspiciously ripped dudes, or women who spend a concerning amount of time posing poolside. Also, for some reason, they’re always being consumed out of abnormally large, plastic water bottles.
In reality, not all of these shakes are necessarily bad for you. Some of them contain a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals, and make a convenient, on-the-go snack.
But according to experts, most of these shakes can’t back up their miraculous weight-loss claims. The 310 shake, for instance, promises to “boost your metabolism” and “maximize weight loss.” But nutritionists say there’s no one food that will magically spark your metabolism — at least, not enough to make any meaningful difference.
Protein World, the diet shake promoted by Khloe Kardashian, claims most of their customers lose two to four pounds per week. But doctors say one to two pounds is what most people should expect from any healthy, sustainable weight-loss plans.
Will drinking a protein shake every now and then hurt you? Probably not. Will it give you Jennifer Lopez-status abs? Definitely not.
No, these aren’t technically a diet, but they’re so prominent in weight loss-centered Instagram communities that they merited a mention.
You’ve probably seen waist trainers before on one of the Kardashian’s Instagrams. They’re the corset-style devices that promise to give you Coke-bottle curves with no diet or exercise involved. All you have to do is sit in pain for hours each day with a medieval torture device strapped to your waist. Simple, right?
Not so much. Doctors say the trainers can not only restrict your ability to breathe (and possibly make you pass out), but also crush your internal organs. And, oh yeah, it doesn’t actually work.
"You can't reduce the collection of fat in any one particular area of your body,” Dr. Christopher Ochner told Marie Claire. “If you push your stomach in, all the fat will go right back to where it was no matter how long [you wear the corset] for."
General discomfort, internal injuries, and zero results? We’ll pass.
Let’s admit it: Juice cleanses make for the perfect Instagram shot. They’re brightly colored, come in a rainbow of shades, and practically scream "I’M HEALTHY." But the claims of juice-cleanse manufacturers — namely, that they will “reset your body” or “detox” your system — don’t actually hold up to science.
First of all, studies show that drinking juice is no healthier than simply eating whole fruits and vegetables. Also, these cleanses are highly lacking in things like protein and electrolytes, which can cause you to feel lightheaded, and even pass out.
More to the point, doctors say your body doesn't actually need “cleansing” or “resetting” — it’s designed to do that perfectly well on its own.
The scariest thing about juice cleanses, however, is how easily the restrictive diet plan lends itself to eating disorders. Debbie Westerling, director of nutrition services at an eating disorder recovery clinic, told Marie Claire that at least half of her patients now report experimenting with juice fasts. Dr. Pauline Powers, another eating disorder expert, called juice cleanses "the perfect pathway to disordered eating.”
The message from doctors? Lay off the juice. You’ll feel better for it.
If you’ve only run into one Instagram diet fad, it’s probably these nicely packaged, heavily celebrity-promoted teas. They pop up everywhere from Britney Spears' to Kylie Jenner’s Instagram, and promise to be the magic ingredient for diet success.
The teas usually come in 14- or 28-day packs, meant to be consumed once in the morning and once at night. The more ambitious ones, like TeaMi, promise to “completely change how your body looks and feels in just 30 days!” Others just promote medical dubious claims, like how they will “cleanse your colon,” or “flush away unwanted pounds.”
In actuality, all these teas will really do is make you poop. The vast majority of them contain senna leaf, an herb known for its potent laxative effect. The US National Library of Medicine cautions that using senna leaf for more than two weeks (aka that 28-day teatox,) can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally.
The makers of these teas generally combine them with tons of caffeine and guarana to keep people alert and happy while they’re pooping their guts out. And while it may give you a pleasant rush of energy, all those energy boosters can also cause nervousness, restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, agitation, ringing in the ears, and rapid heart and breathing rates.
And after all that, experts say these teas won’t do anything to cleanse your body, anyway.
"Any tea that claims to detoxify your system is pure hype," registered dietitian Karen Ansel told SELF. "Your body has its own built-in detoxication system that works 24/7 — your liver, which dismantles toxins, and your kidneys, which flush out these waste products."
Moral of the story? Take anything you see advertised on Instagram with a grain of salt. Your body will thank you.