What is the mono diet?
Well, it revolves around the idea of eating one single food.
Thanks to the crazy world of social media, mono diets are an increasingly popular weight loss trend – and today I want to show you why they’re total bulls**t.
Yep, this article isn’t written by “nice Russ” (you know, where I’m all “Come on! You got this!”)… it’s written by “angry Russ”, where I rip something apart in front of your very eyes. I know a lot of you like my angrier articles, because I tend to get pretty wound up, so you’re probably in for a treat.
Because today, the mono diet is gonna get wrecked.
So before we get caught up in the gimmicks and bold claims being made about mono diets, let’s just break this down for a second…
This is what’s known as a single food diet.
If you didn’t instantly enter depression at the thought of that, don’t worry, you will when you try it…
Because even if you find a mono diet based around a food you enjoy, you’ll quickly come to despise it once all other options are removed from the menu.
Example: I have a friend who works for Pizza Hut. At first she loved it. Free pizza leftovers every day! Four weeks in, however, she couldn’t stand the f**ing sight of pizza.
And that’s pizza, folks… probably the world’s nicest food.
Trust me, if pizza can’t pull it off, nothing can.
But a typical mono diet isn’t going to give you such a luxurious item to focus on. The majority of choices are based on foods which are bland as hell; bananas, carrots, eggs, etc.
An old friend of mine tried something called ‘The Cabbage Soup Diet’.
It was ridiculously popular a few years ago, and as the name suggests, it involved eating only cabbage soup.
I’d rather have my eyes poked out with a penis.
Whenever we went to lunch, she’d look at my food in the same way my dog would; drool forming at the side of the mouth, sad eyes, everything.
When I asked why she was punishing herself with this nonsense, she broke my heart in real time with her reply:
“I’m just so desperate to lose weight, I’ll try anything.”
Why The Mono Diet Sucks
When I was a kid, I made the dreaded mistake of letting my parents know that I enjoyed my macaroni & cheese packed lunch one day.
It was the worst thing I could have done…
Next meal? Mac & f**king cheese.
Next meal: F**king mac & f**king cheese.
Next meal: Motherf**king mac & b***ard b**ch c**k cheese.
I can still hear the screams from our childhood home as the microwave pinged.
This was basically an unintentional version of the mono diet, and it was not fun.
Ironically, I do it to my kids now! It’s a parent thing, I guess we’re so happy to find something they’ll eat, so we overdo it. A few weeks back my son mentioned he loved the home-made cookies I created…
… well, he doesn’t now!
But what really p***es me off about this thing, is that social media is choc-full with unqualified self-appointed fitness “experts” waiting to pounce on people when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Men and women who will try anything to see the scale tip in the right direction.
You could make a financial killing in the fitness industry if you don’t have a conscience…
Heck, last year, Freelee the banana girl released an e-book explaining her diet which consisted of, you guessed it, only bananas.
A goddamn banana diet…
Are people really that desperate?
“Don’t do this diet!”
In researching for this content, I discovered that the internet is truly littered with these things…
Turns out, the cabbage soup diet is only the tip of the iceberg.
F**k. I’ll be genuinely surprised if there’s not an iceberg diet.
Another popular mono diet meal plan recommends eating only carrots. One suggests eating Twinkies. There’s even the milk diet – created by two doctors, no less.
What a f**king disgrace…
Of course, it didn’t take long for this trend to spread to Hollywood.
Action star Matt Damon restricted his diet to only chicken breast during a desperate attempt to drop 60lbs for Courage Under Fire.
He combined this crazy mono diet with a total of 13 miles running each day, and looked ill as f**k for it.
In fact, his doctor warned he was running the risk of permanent damage to his heart.
Ashton Kutcher also fell victim to the mono diet craze…
Fruitarianism (where the user limits their food to fruit alone) famously hospitalized him back in 2013 when preparing to play Steve Jobs.
And then there’s Gwyneth Paltrow, whose unbearable wrongness was well documented in this article.
Despite no background in health and fitness, the actress is one of the industry’s top woo pedallers, pushing her bulls**t Goop products at her massive social following despite a severe lack of scientific evidence showing they do anything at all.
In 2017, Gwyneth was all about the raw goat’s milk cleanse.
The less said about this, the better.
There are two reasons a mono diet will return quick results (followed by regaining it all, but we’ll get into that later).
Reason 1 > Water weight loss. Most mono diets see us greatly reduce total calorie intake and, in turn, total carbohydrate intake follows suit. Therefore we flush tons of water from our muscle cells in the first two weeks.
Reason 2 > Massive reduction in calories. When you are using such a restrictive food list, you’ll usually eat much fewer calories per day.
But there are two EVEN BIGGER REASONS why a mono diet doesn’t work in the long-term.
Reason 1 > Lack of vitamins and minerals. By eating only one food, we are missing out on almost the entire spectrum. It’s like a modern day version of when sailors used to catch scurvy from eating nothing but rice while at sea for months on end.
Reason 2 > It’s highly unsustainable. The best diet is the one you can stick to, and this isn’t it. In a recent article I showed you why dropping calories too quickly resulted in metabolic adaptation and ultimately a lack of fat loss results despite being hungry all the time.
In another recent piece of content I showed you why following a restrictive food list typically leads to binge eating, depression, and body dysmorphia issues.
This diet basically combines both approaches to form one almighty f**k up.
Also, with the exception of Matt Damon’s near death experience, notice how few mono meal plans tell you to eat protein-based foods…
If you’re training in the gym and trying to get in shape, this is no way to build muscle tissue. In fact, you’ll be burning straight through it in your sessions.
While the majority of mono diet meal plans focus on total bulls**t, it sometimes crosses the border into dangerous territory…
I mean, let’s go back to that banana diet for a second.
I don’t know if the creator is talking c**p, but they claim to eat 50 bananas per day. At 105 calories per medium sized banana, that’s a whopping 5250 calories per day!
Not to mention the massive influx of potassium we don’t need, or the diabetes related problems our new 100% sugar diet is just asking for…
Time To End The Mono Diet Bulls**t
Let’s bury this thing once and for all.
When talking to anyone who promotes the idea of a mono diet, you’ll quickly notice they don’t cite a lot of scientific research to support their claims.
That’s because when we do look at the academic data, the “against” column stacks up considerably higher than the “for” column.
Practitioners say things like “Eating only one food makes it easier for your body to digest, so you won’t be bloated.”
This is literally a made up claim. There is no evidence supporting it.
Most of these diet plans appear to happily ignore the first law of thermodynamics. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
They act like calories don’t matter…
They’ll have you believe that you can eat as much of the miracle food as you like, without fear of gaining weight. This is not true, of course (as shown above with the banana example).
If you eat too many calories, you will gain weight regardless of whether they came from bananas, macaroni & cheese, or only blue M&M’s.
Mono diets also go hand-in-hand with scare tactics.
They love to strike fear into the hearts of the reader by promoting confusion about nutrition and demonizing individual food groups (usually carbohydrates).
They’re hoping you won’t look for any research…
… so I’ll show it to you now!
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the effects of several calorie controlled diets to see whether they could manipulate fat loss by tweaking macronutrients.
Protein made up 15%, while carbs were between 15%-85% and fat between 0%-70%.
Guess what… calories are king.
This research suggested that as long as total calories are controlled and protein is set to a sufficient level to build muscle tissue, you can experiment with your fat intake and carb intake to suit your preferences and build a diet plan you can stick to in the long-term.
This was supported by later research which came out of the University of Minnesota, which concluded that when calories and protein are controlled, there are no significant differences in net weight loss (under 0.1kg either way) regardless of the make-up of other macronutrients. (2)
Finally, a 2006 trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also confirmed that when calories and protein are under control, we can go higher in fat and very low in carbs or vice versa, and still there will be no significant differences in net weight loss. (6)
The bottom line I’m getting at with all of this research is that you need to build a diet you can stick to.
Even the NHS agree with me.
We want long-term success, not “30 Day Detox” bulls**t, right?!
This is how we get it.
A 2002 trial published in Appetite confirmed that following a rigid meal plan (so-called “clean eating”) led to far more frequent cases of disordered eating patterns, and excessive body dysmorphia issues compared to a more relaxed, flexible approach to nutrition. (7)
F**k that s**t.
The Mono Diet – Russ’ Final Verdict
The mono diet is a fast-track to an eating disorder.
Encouraging drastic calorie cutting, restrictive food choices, a lack of vitamins and minerals, and an unbalanced intake of all three macronutrients; this is like a who’s who of bad dieting techniques.
So the next time a pal tries to woo you into jumping on the next trend, whether it be carrot sticks, cabbage soup, or whatever else, I suggest taking a hard pass.
Because alongside that one single food they’re eating, they’re also gulping down a whole boatload of marketing bulls**t.
If you’ve enjoyed this breakdown on why The Mono Diet is total bulls**t, consider jumping on my free email list for more training tips in this style. You can download my exclusive training app to unlock dozens of workout plans and RD-approved nutrition templates.
- Leibel R.L., et al. Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition. Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)
- Golay A., et al. Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. (1996)
- Golay A., et al. Weight-loss with low or high carbohydrate diet. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1996)
- Luscombe-Marsh N.D., et al. Carbohydrate-restricted diets high in either monounsaturated fat or protein are equally effective at promoting fat loss and improving blood lipids. Am J Clin Nutr. (2005)
- Raatz S.K., et al. Reduced Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Diets Do Not Increase the Effects of Energy Restriction on Weight Loss and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Men and Women. J Nut. (2005)
- Johnston C.S., et al. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. (2006)
- Stewart T.M., et al. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. (2002)