Season 10 Episode 3

The Absurdities Behind Fad and Cult Diets!

Something most of us dread is the thought of having to ‘diet’. Today we take a look at all the different types we’ve come across, including some of our own experiences with dieting and what the results were. We delve into the world of ‘fad’ diets and celebrity-endorsed trends and discuss the scientific and research-led approach to dieting as a lifestyle. But the big question we have is why do we see such a cult following in certain diets? We really cover it all in this episode. From the weird to the wonderful, we want you to tell us about your experiences with diets – have you found success from following a diet or lifestyle or do you just not care? What is the craziest diet you’ve ever heard of and have you given it a try? Comment below!

Best soundbite: “Ebbers! You can’t go to the theatre without having half a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in between each act.” – Jamie Spafford

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Something to make you think...

Should you trust a celebrity or influencer? So many influencers are now self-professed ‘professionals’, but do they really know what they’re talking about and do they really care what they promote? A celebrity lifestyle is often very different from a ‘normal’ lifestyle, so is their diet and lifestyle advice really applicable?

What We Read Ahead of This

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop:

Article from BBC on Goop:

The Angry Chef:

What would you like to feast your ears on?
If you want to contribute ideas or want to hear us discuss a particular topic then email us at


  1. Taheera

    Relistening to this and watching some related Sorted content got me thinking. Since Ben supposed still has Mike’s DNA test, if Mike isn’t aware of his results, it would be interesting to see Mike create a dish (maybe with James’ help) that he thinks is a good one based on his genetics, without knowing the results, just based on his thought; and for Ben to then create one based on the actual results, and compare the two. It might bring some awareness to what we think we should be doing with our diets versus what we should actually be doing.

  2. GingeSarah

    This was a really interesting discussion on dieting. I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life before being diagnosed as having an under active thyroid. Most people scoff at fad diets and say eat less, move more but this is painfully slow for people like me, and others with more chronic conditions. Interestingly people can be referred to Slimming World by their doctors, does this mean this diet is medically researched, recognised, proven?

  3. amyatkins

    Eee, I got stressed listening to this hearing you three discuss things you openly admitted you don’t know. But, well done for making it a conversation for everyone to join.

    Here are my informed two cents (informed through books by food scientists and qualified nutritionists with references from peer viewed journals).

    1. When selecting a book to read about health and diet make sure you check the back of the book for references, not just a ‘bibliography’ but actual references. Then check that these references are from places like England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Clinical etc., European Journal etc. because it means the science being referenced will have been checked by scientists who did not write the article.

    2. ‘Juicing’ programmes mean you are consuming pure sugar with none of the benefits of fibre. Your body processes fructose, sucrose, and glucose etc all the same way. “Glucose causes an insulin response… fructose goes to the liver to be converted into fats” and long term sugar intake results in insulin resistance and high blood sugar, which is really bad (quote from ‘What the Fat?’).

    For those of you who would love a well-sourced book that in a nutshell explains the good the bad and ugly…

    I recommend “What The Fat?” by Grant Schofield, Dr Caryn Zinn, and Craig Rodger. They are a food scientist, nutritionist, and chef who have come together and written a comprehensive ‘diet’ book to kick start your new food lifestyle. I am not trying to lose weight. I am not insulin resistance, nor suffer from genetic weight gain but still loved the science in this book and follow some of the guidelines for a happy belly.

    Buy it online and read it. You will not be disappointed, especially you Mr Spaff! And you, Mike!

  4. Sunanda_K

    Detox is BS, though. “Toxins” are flushed out by our liver and kidneys. Too many diets oversimplify. Like Ben said, a holistic approach and especially a personalized approach tends to work so much better.

  5. pamdick58

    I’m with Mike on the low carb dieting. I do low/no carb for several weeks and then when I can’t stand it anymore I will do a couple of days eating whatever I want (bread) and a few weeks of eating in moderation. Over the long haul I am losing weight so it works for me. I try to make the low carb part healthy by eating mostly chicken, fish and eggs and keeping the veg green. My trick for staying on the low carb diet as long as possible is dark chocolate. I have a little with my tea in the morning or at night for a snack when every one else is having ice cream.

  6. IsiIjii

    Mike I agree with juicing, so fruit is amazing (even if ur diabetic) as coz of the fiber etc it breaks down slower in your stomach so it doesn’t spike ur sugar. Also, don’t detox please!! Your liver is there to detox and you do this you damage your liver.

    My bro introduced me about “low calorie, high density” foods, how 100cal of grapes has way less sugar than 100cal of raisins and will keep you fuller longer.

    Also! Stop drinking fizzy drinks or alcohol (in large quantities, or full sugar etc) coz I was 69kg for a while and in 3-4months I gained 4kg of all belly fat. I thought my diet was amazing coz I ate loads of veg and low fat and didn’t snack, but my soda and super sweet coffee was my down fall.

    I love PickupLimes as she is a trained nutritionist and says all food is fine in moderation plus says it’s not “a diet but a life style” for the best results.

    I’m currently on a diet, basically 1200 (slightly more if I work out) plant based, this is not for the long run, this is to get my weight down (73kg-68kg in 6weeks, trying to get to 65kg) this is something I found worked for me, I feel full and have so much energy in the morning.
    My day looks like this
    Breakfast – Banana oat pancakes, with a banana and coffee
    Lunch – Soup and crackers
    Snack – veg and dip or cake
    Dinner – stew, sweet potato etc
    Drinking lots of water (with a little sugar free squash)

    But once this is over I will eat the same food, but just in a slightly bigger portion or same portion as I feel full, but maybe a snack.

    • IsiIjii

      I’m also gonna add, try cutting something out for a month and see how you feel, I cut out milk coz it makes me feel bloated and ill, but I just thought it was normal. I by accident ordered a high dairy pasty dish and it put my into a food coma. Food really does effect how you feel.

  7. Craigs

    I’m playing catch up on these podcasts as a relatively new member, but a great podcast to listen to, very fitting as right now i’m trying to ‘diet’ without actually using any type of fad diets that are practically celebrity branded. Done them all before in the past and they’ve never stuck, so trying for a fundamental change rather than a time sensitive one.

    Calories in, Calories out is what its about..but now it’s a little less about the ‘Carb free’ or ‘Keto’ and more, buy a weekly shop, use sorted to help me transform my meals into something I can consistently manage! I’m still terrible at cooking but baby steps (not your guys fault – human error).

    P.S – Still going through all the podcasts, but haven’t come across a podcast discussing the controversial use of haggis in a full English in a video many moons ago. Maybe get a Scotsman on to argue the case of a Full Scottish breakfast being better than a Full English breakfast? I’ve got my bias, so i’ll stay out of it. Though, clearly its obvious.

    Take care – Peace and love from Scotland.

  8. binkypig

    I’ve struggled with my weight for the past 5 years due to illness. In that time I’ve tried various fat clubs, keto, 5:2, special k. But now embarking on the fitness chef which is essentially caloric deficit I love how he busts diet myths.
    Worse diet I ever tried was terri ann 1 2 3.

  9. Taheera

    This more life-style based than diet per say, but I once heard a nutritionist say that you should aim to eat well 90% of the time, so that when you do indulge in that 10% (cronut, cake, ice cream, etc.), you aren’t necessarily cheating on your diet or rewarding yourself for eating your veggies, it’s just part of your lifestyle and it balances itself out.
    On a side note, if you learn to love your veggies, fruit, healthy carbs, proteins by finding a way that you love eating them, then eating well doesn’t become a chore, it becomes a joy!

    • Bebbrell

      A really nice angle with the 90/10% split of time. I’m all for balance and diversity and we shouldn’t deny ourselves the foods we love occasionally. We can love them even more if it’s the occasional treat.

    • Sunanda_K

      Agreed. everything in moderation works far better than extreme diets because eventually, those diets will feel like a punishment. And instead of restrictions, my way of doing stuff is to challenge myself to eat more “good” stuff.
      So I don’t tell myself that I can’t eat chocolate, I challenge myself to eat more fruit and greens. I fill myself up with fresh fruit, and it never feels like a restriction. (And I don’t have to beat myself up if I do eat chocolate).
      That said, I’ve not gone a “diet” since I was 20- I find that as a person with anxiety, it just makes it worse and “failing” at a diet just adds to the negative self talk.

  10. Anita

    Just a few things I’d like to add to what you guys discussed here (which was a discussion I loved – almost a bit too much:D ). I’ve been experimenting with diet and lifestyle changes for 5 years now to see how my thyroid condition and – what’s more important – my overall sense of wellbeing reacts (I haven’t really cared about my weight; even though, I’ve lost five kilos and gained back ten since I started). I’ve read a LOT about diets and become quite opinionated about them 😀 I totally believe in personalized nutrition and the concept that there’s no miracle diet that will all of a sudden make everyone pretty and healthy. And yes, if a diet helps you lose weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy, too.

    On Jamie’s keto journey, I, myself never went full-on keto (it’s not really recommended for thyroid conditions), but I’ve learned that – as is the case with a lot of other things in life – it can be done horribly wrong (just eat bacon with mct oil and call it a meal), and it can be done in a more balanced way. In the latter case, you increase your fiber intake with loads of non-starchy, low NET carb veggies (making them the bulk of your diet because you have to watch net carbs, I believe, i.e. total carbs minus fiber), this way you fill your tummy with important micronutrients, keeping your protein and fat intake within a more reasonable range. If I were considering a trip to ketoland, I would definitely give it a try in a more plant-based way 🙂

    I don’t like juicing. Because it’s not only blending the fruits and veggies (blending results in smoothies where the fiber is still in the game) but removing all the fibers that would slow down the sugar absorption. Quickly skyrocketing blood sugar levels are not for me, sorry. Even if you drink veggie-only juices, the amount of sugar you ingest can be shockingly high. I wouldn’t say it’s the healthiest thing to drink blood sugar stability-wise.

    I know there is no perfect diet but I do love me some plant-heavy, paleoish approach. Considering Ben’s life expectancy remark, I’d like to add that life expectancy isn’t determined solely by the food we eat, there were those nasty diseases affecting mainly infants and young children back then, dangerous predators, suboptimal living conditions, fights between tribes that would kill the young lowering that average; also, the life expectancy in the US has now been declining for three years, I believe, again, due not only to diet-related reasons. Now, this little life-expectancy rant of mine clearly showed that I have a soft spot for the whole modern paleo, back-to-our-roots movement, along with its open-ended questions, flaws, and shortcomings 😀

    My go-to diet ( as in the way I eat, not in the dieting sense of the word) these days consists of small amounts of high-quality protein with tons of colorful veg because I want to be made happy when I look at my plate, and I want to feel content after having my meal (if it’s not varied enough, I just cannot eat myself to a comfortable level of satiety). It looks like a paleo kinda diet with some grains and legumes here and there. This is what makes me happy and well-fed now. Of course, every meal is different, and every meal makes me feel different. I like experimenting and taking what I need, leaving what I don’t, trying to be receptive to sensing the difference between the two. I must say I’m very happy that now I’m at a point where I can play with food without having to experience serious health setbacks. The Sorted community is a great inspiration in my food game!

    And the juicy celebrity diets… If it’s about a product, my starting point is: avoid like the plague, if it’s about ideas, I might listen to them but, as you said it, it’s you that has to put the work into it, there’s no magic pill or formula. We’re complicated little creatures with complex and ever-changing needs. In all this complexity, however, it should be really simple; we, as a species, spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving eating what we’d evolved to eat, coevolving with our food, and now we confuse food with skittles 😀 We might need a few more years to be able to adapt to and thrive on tons of sugar, salt, and chemically processed oils, in my humble opinion.

  11. Amy

    I always felt like I couldn’t discuss diet, because I’ve never been in a position where I’ve struggled with weight (more than the typical worried over the years). My friend recently got me thinking of this when she said I’m just lucky for not putting on weight. When I think about my diet, since I was in my early 20s I have worked out several times a week and eaten a fairly balanced diet, not beaten myself up over having a cake, or glass (read bottle) of wine from time to time. I think to a large extent the boring stuff, of eating less processed food, things in moderation and lots of salad, veg, fruit and healthy fats/ proteins/ carbs paired with staying active has worked well for me. Whereas my friend has always yo yoed in weight, in part because when they come off a diet, they really come off it and have a period of months binging before feeling guilty and crash dieting.

  12. BlondeBethan

    I’ll be honest this one made me feel a bit funny. I’m only 21 but my weight has been an ‘issue’ in my life since I was about 9. When I was a kid, I was about a foot taller than everyone else with broad shoulders, simply I hit puberty at a really young age. How people reacted was I was constantly called ‘big’ – they were referring to my height mostly, but I took the word big to my weight. And my 10 year old fix? Comfort secret eating. Ever since then I’ve don’t every diet. I’ve starved myself at school, particularly during GCSES when I was under intense pressure and all it did was cause my hair to start to fall out and severe migraines. Mental health has definitely been a real connector with this – hospital intervention needed. University then came along where I had complete control over my food and it spiralled out of control. Since September 2019, I have been a paying member of Slimming World, where I saw success. I lost 2 stone by Christmas and had gone down two clothes sizes and I was feeling amazing. And then over Christmas I loosened the reigns, then my 21st boozy birthday came along…I lost and gained the same few pounds every week. Then lockdown hit. I’ve put on most of that weight back on really seeking comfort in food. My SW consultant keeps trying to contact me but I’m ignoring her and I don’t know why?? SW was working for me until I lost self control and now I just feel a bit lost where to turn? This podcast has really set my my mind spinning to be honest. It’s reminding me of those fad diets I did, at 13 I did the 5-2 diet, those two days on I only consumed Diet Coke that was it, and I don’t want to go there again. It’s food for thought truly at especially such an unprecedented time like now I don’t quite know what to do. But we will see. Truly wonderful podcast guys – hope everyone at Sorted is safe and well!!!

    • Bebbrell

      Thanks for sharing your story Bethan. There’s no doubt we’re in very strange times right now and food can be a pillar we rely on. We all have to try and find out what works for us… the 5-2 might work, but you still have to concentrate on what we are giving your body, not what you’re avoiding. Even the 2 days should allow for lots of natural vitamins and minerals within the restricted calories. Plenty of fruit and veg for instance.

  13. Annie1962

    Oh and Jamie just reminded me of this fad rubbish..
    Someone on facebook is selling bracelets that apparently make you lose weight. According to this facebook seller, there is ‘scientific’ evidence to back it up. But the stones in the bracelets are actually fake and dyed to say, imitate lapis lazurite.
    Go figure. Mind over matter huh.. she sells these bracelets for over 300 dollars from her site. She gets them from a site which sells them for about 6 bucks a bracelet. Yep

    • Sorted

      We can’t believe people actually fall for this rubbish – madness!

  14. Annie1962

    33 million bucks spent on diet rubbish and America has the most obese people. So basically diets make you fat?
    OH I could talk for hours on food… and dieting.
    I’ve discovered that it’s all about swallowing and the gratification of the act of swallowing. Taking it in rather than chewing.
    Don’t believe me? Eat ….eat something and then spit it out. Do it to a whole sandwich and you won’t be satisfied.
    Currently I’m eating gluten free – not carb free.. as I am not a happy camper if I eat wheat.
    I don’t believe in having food come to you which is made by other people. You need to take care of everything you eat – take responsibility for it. Make your own bread, cook your own meals.
    Preparation is the answer. I’m about to eat as I’m hungry and it’s midnight – so out comes the cucumber carrots and celery, dipped in organic apple cider vinegar

    Fad diets are only temporary solutions as they don’t teach us how to eat.. it’s just a quickie solution but doesn’t show us how we need to change our current way of eating

    I’ve lost 49kg and have found it creeping back on due to boredom so back on the wagon again

    • Sorted

      Congratulations on the weight loss, that’s incredible!

      We totally agree on the diets, a proper healthy and sustainable diet needs to teach people how to eat for the future and the long term, not just the now. If this doesn’t happen then the weight will nearly always come back, it’s a vicious cycle.

  15. tjmarskbb

    I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, and I love food. I’ve tried diets and this is what I’ve come to realize. Like Ben said, the word diet just sounds restrictive, and one of the things someone told me years ago is that by using the word ‘dieting’ you are setting yourself up for failure because its nothing you want to sustain for a long period of time. The other aspect with ‘fad diets’ nearly all of them start with drinking tons of water, and if your a person thats not good about drinking your water, then yeah your going to drop a lot of water weight very fast so the person thinks it going great, when it reality its not.
    There is also the the reality that a celebrity has money to pay for services that help them lose weight that most people can’t afford.
    The only thing that works is accepting you need to do a lifestyle change that includes being active. Also accepting there is no one ‘diet’ fits all lifestyle. Some people are genetically able to absorb higher amounts of fats, or more carbs, there are people who get sick from going vegan, and there are people who thrive from being vegan. You have to find a lifestyle that works for you, and ask yourself what changes you find manageable to make because if your not willing to make those changes for long term you are setting yourself up for failure. Ultimately its most things in moderation, minimal processed foods, calories in and calories out, and making sure you are living a moderately active life.
    There is also the reality that a lot of people want the ‘cure’ for their health problems, it’s really apparent with illnesses. I have Hashimoto’s disease and I see it often in the autoimmune disease groups all the people trying books claiming to cure them by trying a 30 day diet (which is not to be confused with AIP). You have to take food documentaries with a grain of salt too because they are skewing the statistics with the intent to scare people, and you need to educate yourself, and stop listening to anything that starts with: Have you always struggled with losing weight? Well I’ve got the answer for you, all you need to do is buy…
    As for juice cleanses….well every Dietician or Nutritionist I’ve ever met has said the same thing: they can be very dangerous and often do more damage then good. If you want to cleanse your colon, eat ruffage.
    Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

    • Sorted

      We very much enjoyed your TED Talk! You sound like you have a healthy attitude when it comes to this topic, thanks for sharing with us.

  16. Powerfulweak

    As soon as you guys mentioned Huel, I had to laugh.
    I had never heard of it until you guys mentioned it on a podcast and out of curiosity I tried it.
    I did appreciate that it was more balanced nutrition, but it didn’t feel like a meal. It was more useful as a way of getting lunch cheap and easy that isn’t fast food (especially when you’re on the go at work). Other than that, I have trouble with Huel, even finishing my drink. I wasn’t intending to lose weight on it, but I actually did since I couldn’t do a whole shake.

    Jamie, I feel you in the “needing actual food” thing.

    • tjmarskbb

      The process of eating, chewing, makes your body produce enzymes that your body needs to break down food. So the needing actual food thing, is very real.

    • Sorted

      Haha, yeah Jamie has tried it all! We all love to chew.

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