Everyone is looking for a ‘quick fix’ when it comes to their weight loss. When we’re presented with reams of information on diet, nutrition and exercise, most of us find our eyes glazing over and our heart rates increasing. It’s called ‘information overload’ or ‘options paralysis’ and it’s a real concern. No one has time these days to learn a complex diet or to work out how to fit it into their routine.
What people want, or so it seems, is a clear, simple and easy diet that they can follow precisely without having to think. Even if it’s extreme, as long as it’s simple and it seems likely to get results, then we’re likely to follow it.
As you might imagine though, this is not necessarily the healthiest approach to take when trying to lose weight or improve your wellbeing generally. Unfortunately, nutrition and exercise are complicated topics and in order for a new workout routine or diet to be effective it also needs to be carefully tailored to your own lifestyle, habits and body type.
Diets that are incredibly simple and/or extreme, are often likely to do more harm than good. And a perfect example of this is the ‘mono diet’.
What Is the Mono Diet?
The word ‘mono’ means ‘one’. Something that is ‘monochrome’ is only one colour, while someone with a ‘monotone’ speaks at only one pitch.
Thus, the ‘mono diet’ means the ‘one diet’. And this is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a diet in which you eat only one type of food. Also called ‘monomeals’, this ‘eating plan’ is as simple as it gets. For ‘N’ number of weeks, you simply eat just one type of food.
This worrying trend was propelled to fame via a YouTuber going by the handle ‘Freelee the Bana Girl‘. As you can imagine, her version of the ‘mono diet’ involves eating just bananas. Reportedly, Freelee will eat up to 51 bananas in one day and says she once went for three weeks eating just bananas.
She lost 23 kilos over seven years and she looks pretty good. As you can imagine though, she’s also pretty controversial…
The Dangers of Mono Diets
Nutritionists have taken no time in advising people not to follow in Freelee’s advice and not to use mono diets and rightly so. Hopefully, you can already guess some of the problems with eating just a single type of food, but just in case, let’s go over some of them here.
Well for starters, no single type of food is going to be able to provide you with the wealth of nutrients that your body needs to function optimally. If you only eat bananas, then you won’t be getting the protein that your body needs in order to build muscle and other tissues, to support healthy brain function or to aid with the repair of tissues throughout your body.
Likewise bananas contain only tiny amounts of calcium (though they do aid with consumption), tiny amounts of sodium and no B12 among other things. Fail to get enough selenium for instance and you can suffer from mood disorders. Don’t get enough vitamin C and you’ll likely get a lot of colds and other illnesses. Fail to get your calcium and you can suffer osteoporosis.
Moreover, if you are only eating one type of food, you can end up overdosing with other ingredients. Bananas for example are very high in sugar and eating that much sugar regularly can not only damage your nerves but also your teeth and actually isn’t very good for weight loss. Spiking your blood sugar that much by eating 51 bananas in a day could well increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand if you were to eat too much tuna, you could end up getting mercury poisoning. Live on just raw eggs and you might get a biotin deficiency. Get too much vitamin B6 and you can end up causing nerve damage. Ever heard the term ‘everything in moderation’?
It’s only fair to point out at this stage that even those promoting mono-diets don’t recommend you use them indefinitely. Rather, these are diets intended to be used for a week to a month at the start of another type of diet (Freelee recommends a raw-food diet). While you might not think you can do that much damage in a month, you’d be surprised what the effects of an iron deficiency or a lack of protein can be even in the short-term.
The Impracticality of Mono Diets
Moreover, mono diets are incredibly impractical and extreme to the point where you’re likely to struggle to maintain the diet and to live a normal lifestyle while you’re on it.
Tell your friends you plan to eat only bananas and they’ll (rightly) look at you as though you’re crazy. Then, when they invite you out for dinner, you’ll have to turn them down because there are very few restaurants that serve any meals consisting entirely of bananas…
Likewise, eating only one type of food will very quickly get boring and you’ll find yourself craving other things. When we’ve eaten something sweet, we naturally tend to crave something savoury to follow it up with. There is nothing savoury on a banana-only diet.
Eating a mono-diet will also upset your body clock as our bodies regulate themselves at least partly based on the timing of our meals. When you eat a big meal in the evening, your body sees this as a sign that it’s coming up to bedtime. When you eat only bananas all day, it struggles to know what it should be doing at all and your sleep can suffer as a result.
Not everyone on a mono-diet has an unhealthy relationship with food or an eating disorder. That said, this is certainly a psychologically unhealthy way to eat and it could very easily lead to issues with body-image or to an eating disorder.
Why Is Freelee so Slim?
We can bash mono-diets all we like but the fact of the matter is that Freelee has a great body and flaunts it regularly on YouTube. In the face of such evidence, it’s no wonder that so many people have switched to banana diets against their better judgement and common sense.
So if banana diets are so bad for you, why hasn’t Freelee collapsed yet?
Well firstly, it’s important to recognize that ‘skinny’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘healthy’. While Freelee might not have much fat on her, she also has barely any muscle and if you look at her boyfriend (who appears in some of her videos) it’s abundantly clear that their diet doesn’t provide enough protein – particularly for a man. Freelee looks good because she has no fat on her, but you’ll also get that thin if you stop eating entirely… and that doesn’t mean that that’s a healthy way to live.
Likewise, remember that Freelee was only on the banana diet for one month and that she has since been following the ‘raw ’till four’ diet (which is the topic for a whole different article). Freelee’s current body is not the result of a banana-only diet.
Recently I read a post on a forum from a guy who had dropped his Galaxy S5 into a glass of alcohol in an ill-advised attempt to fix his screen. When everyone responded with ‘why would you ever do that?’, he followed his post up with a video of someone else dropping their phone into a Tupperware of alcohol and pulling it out with a repaired screen. He just couldn’t understand why his phone broke and the other guy’s didn’t.
The moral of that story? Just because something works for someone once, that doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone, every time and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should necessarily copy them. It’s always crucial that you use your common sense and that you avoid using extreme measures to try and lose weight. Just because Freelee didn’t have any negative effects from living on bananas for a month, that doesn’t mean you’ll be so lucky.
Ultimately, there are countless different diets and training routines available online to help you lose weight in a healthy and safe way. Really then, there’s no reason to use extreme methods that will most likely do more harm than good.
What would you rather do – follow a diet that’s a little more complicated and takes a little more time to understand… or risk seriously damaging your health permanently by eating just one type of food because it’s simple?