When you hear about a buzzy new diet that promises to help you lose weight fast, it’s easy to be tempted (even when it’s clearly a crash diet that’s not worth your time). Take, for example, the Mono Diet—one of the most searched diets in 2016, according to Google. This over-the-top weight-loss plan involves eating only one food item (say, apples) or type of food (usually, fruits or veggies) and nothing else. Like, at all.
The diet gained recent popularity thanks to a YouTuber known as “Freelee the Banana Girl,” who—you guessed it—eats close to 30 bananas daily.
Sure, back in the day (okay, last year), illusionist Penn Jillette credited his 100-pound weight loss to eating nothing but potatoes, while Matt Damon allegedly once ate only chicken breasts to drop weight for a role.
But just because the cool kids are doing it—and shedding pounds like crazy in the process—doesn’t mean Mono-meals are where it’s at.
How Does It Work?
Do a quick search on Instagram or Google, and you’ll notice that people have created the Mono Diets out of almost every type of fruit and veggie—watermelons, mangoes, cauliflower, spinach, and even non-produce like pizza. “Proponents of the diet claim that eating just one food for a period of time aids in digestion, as there are fewer nutrients for the body to metabolize, and therefore, fewer digestive enzymes needed for the process,” says Pauline Hackney, RD, clinical nutrition manager at Westchester Medical Center in New York. The body doesn’t have to work as hard, which allegedly decreases bloating and maximizes nutrient absorption, satisfying your body’s needs with fewer calories and, maybe even putting the kibosh on junk food cravings. “However, I’m not aware of any scientific evidence to back up these claims,” says Hackney.
Can It Lead To Weight Loss?
One of the most attractive things about the Mono Diet is that it typically leads to significant weight loss at lightning speed, as the caloric intake tends to be very low. Some also believe that the severe restriction in variety can squash your cravings for processed sugar, salt, and fat. But it will cost your body, says Hackney. “Depending on the food, you body’s chemistry can be altered significantly, even after only a week or two on such a severely restrictive diet,” he says.
Is It Safe?
“Though you may lose weight on this diet, you’ll almost certainly suffer from malnourishment and muscle loss, and that muscle loss will translate into a slower metabolism,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center. “That means you’ll have more difficulty losing weight in the future, and whatever you lose on the Mono Diet will be gained back once you resume eating normally.”
By eating only one food item, such as bananas, you’re depriving your body of a bevy of important nutrients, says Gillean Barkyoumb, a registered dietitian based in Gilbert, Arizona. A healthy diet should be comprised of all three macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
On the flipside, noshing on a single food can cause you to get too much of certain nutrients, some of which can have serious consequences, says Barkyoumb. Too much potassium from bananas, for example, can lead to cardiovascular complications (such as cardiac arrest), and the excess sugar can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes and mess with your insulin levels. That could cause a spike in both your appetite and junk food cravings. And once you’re tired of eating the same food day after day, odds are you’ll start bingeing on the very foods you’re trying to stay away from, says Barkyoumb.
Will You Gain Weight When It’s Over?
“Another big consideration is whether weight loss from these radical diets really lasts,” she says. “If you don’t adopt a healthy way of eating after coming off a Mono Diet, it’s very likely that you’ll go back to your original weight—or even heavier.”
Even if you do manage to eat only one food for a couple of weeks, you’ll face the same problems once you resume your normal eating, says Apovian. A better strategy would be to wean yourself off foods you love that aren’t helping you reach your weight loss goals and finding healthy substitutions. “Try a variety of fresh fruits or dates instead of added sugars, or try adding some garlic, onions, and herbs instead of salt,” she says. If you turn to food for stress relief, find something else that works as a soother and burns a few calories in the process, such as yoga or walking.
Bottom line: Most of us don’t like diets that involve a lot of prep work, high-maintenance recipes, or constantly counting calories. The simplicity of the Mono Diet is what makes it so attractive, but in the end, losing weight at warp speed isn’t a sustainable way to shed pounds or keep them off. Instead, try to find a diet that minimizes difficulty and promotes lasting change, suggests Apovian. “While you’ll need to do more preparation than what’s involved with the Mono Diet, plans like these teach you how to eat well,” she says. “After a few weeks of adjustment, the hard work will be finished, and you’ll have a new, healthier lifestyle.” Bam.