Gone Bananas? Japanese Banana Diet Mania

by | Oct 21, 2008

This week Time magazine reports that the latest Japanese diet trend, the “Morning Banana Diet,” is causing extreme banana shortages throughout Japan. Banana shortages? Seriously, this is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Why all the rage? Apparently some famous Japanese actress lost 26 pounds trying this diet, and diet trends are incredibly popular in Japanese culture.

My favorite part though is how this diet supposedly works. Aptly named, the Morning Banana Diet requires eating a banana for breakfast, along with some room temperature water. If you are still hungry you are allowed to eat more than one banana.

That’s the whole diet.

You can eat whatever you want for lunch and dinner, and you are allowed to have a snack in the afternoon.

You should also go to bed before midnight.

One more caveat: no dessert and no sugary drinks.

Ahhh, now we are getting somewhere.

From what I have read, no one even pretends to offer a mechanism about how bananas are supposed to help you lose weight. But people are almost certainly experiencing weight loss on this plan or it wouldn’t be so popular. Let’s pause for a minute and think about why that might be.

First, I can say pretty confidently that this has nothing to do with bananas. In fact, bananas are one of the higher glycemic index fruits available, meaning they are more likely to actually increase insulin resistance and cause weight gain than other fruits. (Please do not assume I am against bananas, they can be a perfectly healthy part of a balanced diet). Moreover, bananas do not have some magic property that induces fat melting. Nothing does.

But if it is not the bananas, what is promoting weight loss?

Cutting out dessert is certainly a likely culprit. For most people, skipping dessert will eliminate a tremendous amount of calories from your diet each day and is a very effective way to drop pounds.

Another reason this diet may “work” in the short term, is because it encourages people to eat regularly. Keeping steady blood sugar and eating at regular intervals can curb hunger and help reduce your chances of overeating.

This diet also suggests maintaining a food journal. Food journals force people to pay attention to what and when they are eating, which almost always results in weight loss. When people ask me for help losing weight, the first thing I have them do is write down everything they eat for two weeks. Almost everyone loses weight during this period, even more quickly than when they start adjusting their eating habits!

Look at almost any diet study and you will see that both the control group (no diet) and the intervention group (test diet) lose weight over the course of the experiment. This is because people tend to avoid excessive eating when they feel they are being watched. I like to call this the quantum theory of dieting, because it reminds me of the wave-particle duality in quantum physics where the act of observing something changes its behavior. If you have to tell people (or even yourself) what you are eating, you are not going to eat as much.

Does that mean this diet is worth trying so you can lose a few pounds? Absolutely not. Diets are dangerous, especially when it reinforces the myth that temporary weight loss is beneficial. Worse, dieting is one of the best predictors of weight gain over a two year period. That’s right, there is absolutely no point in going on a strict weight loss regimen unless your goal is truly temporary. If you want to lose weight and keep it off you need to change your eating habits permanently to a more healthy dietary pattern. That is exactly what this blog is trying to help you accomplish.

What do you think about fad diets and dieting in general?

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11 Responses to “Gone Bananas? Japanese Banana Diet Mania”

  1. Anonymous says:

    One time I tried the chocolate diet- where there has to be chocolate as a part of every meal. I was literally putting chocolate chips into my cereal. It was really good at first, but took about a week before I felt sick and lethargic, bloated, and kind of disgusted with myself. But it did feel good stickin’ it to the man. College was great….

  2. Healthy08 says:

    Of course you still need to eat healthy food, but bananas do help weight loss. They contain resistant starch, which ferments in your large intestine, creating by-products that block conversion of some carbohydrates into fuel, so replacing ordinary carbs with the resistant starch in bananas can boost fat burning. And the fiber in bananas bulks up in your stomach, so you feel full for longer. A healthy way to do the banana diet makes sense and includes exercise. There’s a good example at http://www.dolenutrition.com/bananadiet/bananadiet.htm

  3. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone else go to the Time’s story to notice that the story started off with sub-100lb, size-XS wearing Keiko Akai who merely thought the diet was cool and wanted to try it. I don’t like her for so many reasons….. Loved the pic though.Weird though how stuff ‘goes viral’ so easily in Japan. You could make a fortune off selling toe jam as a facial scrub or something. The psychology behind this story is almost as interesting as the health aspects…..

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm, Dole website touting the banana diet- classy. Not the most non-biased, reliable source of info about bananas…..funny that the website doesn’t post any internet-links to the primary research for us to look at it. What is this ‘magical starch,’ and why doesn’t it come in a pill?!!!

  5. Steve Parker, M.D. says:

    You got me thinking about Dr. Seth Roberts’ Shangri-La Diet that was so popular in 2006. You drink 1 tbsp of extra light olive oil, or 1-2 tsp of sugar in water, twice daily on an empty stomach. It suppresses your appetite, you eat less and lose weight. Eat healthy meals of your choice. No calorie counting or portion control. No exercise. The simplicity of the program, like the banana diet, is very appealing.Read testimonials from true believers across the blogosphere, or at http://www.sethroberts.net.If it’s so effective, why is it fading out now? The banana diet will also be gone in 12 months.Einstein said something like, “Keep things as simple as possible, but not simpler than they are.” Shangri-La and the bananan diet over-simplify. -Steve

  6. Jed Wolpaw says:

    If we’re going to name diets after hip hop songs I think I’ll go with the milkshake diet. “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…”. I’m on it.

  7. Tim McIntyre says:

    The Japanese love trends almost as much as Californians do, don’t they? What a hilarious diet. I bet most of its success comes from the fact that it automatically eliminates the dieter’s ability to eat a high-calorie breakfast.

  8. Michelle says:

    That’s hilarious.

  9. Doug says:

    Apparently I have accidently participated in this diet. I often eat only a banana as I walk to Bart in the morning, then wait until lunch to eat again. I also don’t eat much desert or drink sugary drinks. Does this make me a famous Japanese Actress?

  10. kevin says:

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