The Mono Diet Explained by a Dietitian
After seeing that the Mono Diet was recently trending on Google, I did a little research to find out what it’s all about. Is it worth trying? Is the Monotrophic Diet healthy? Read on to see what I have to say about it.
What is the Mono Diet?
Put simply, the Monotrophic or ‘Mono Diet’ is a type of diet that involves eating only one food item (like potatoes) or one type of food (like fruit). Yes, you read that right. Now there is also an extension of the diet called ‘Mono Meals’, where participants eat just one type of food at each meal. For example, they might eat only protein at breakfast, fruit at lunch, and vegetables at dinner.
To be quite honest, there isn’t one standard definition for the Mono Diet online. It appears that those who participate in ‘mono’-style eating are really making it up as they go.
According to Women’s Health, it was one of the most searched diets in 2016. More recently, the diet has been trending on Google again.
How was the Monotrophic Diet started?
From what I’ve gathered, the Mono Diet gained popularity in 2016 and 2017 thanks to YouTubers like Freelee the Banana Girl. Freelee is known for going several days at a time only eating bananas, as well as some pretty interesting ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos where she eats smoothies containing 10 dates and 15 bananas (or something like that). Of course, all of this ridiculousness is documented on her YouTube Channel.
‘Mono’-style eating also gained some traction thanks to comedian and illusionist Penn Jillette (I believe he has or had a popular show in Vegas). Jillette credited his 100-pound weight loss in 2016 to kicking off his journey by only eating potatoes for 2 weeks straight, followed by only eating vegetable soup for several months. He has since written a book about it (of course) titled “Presto! How I Made Over 100lbs Disappear and Other Magical Tales”. Oh, diet culture.
Is the Mono Diet Healthy?
Let’s be straight up. There’s nothing healthy about restricting yourself to one food, one type of food, or even one type of food at each meal. The Mono Diet is purely a fad diet that promises weight loss and that’s about it. In fact, for that I give it props, because there are already enough fad diets pretending to be “healthy lifestyle changes” these days anyways.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper in to why this dietitian isn’t a fan.
Will the Mono Diet help you lose weight?
I don’t doubt that you’ll lose weight on the Mono Diet. The idea with Mono-style eating is that you’ll get tired of eating just one food that you’ll eat less as time goes on. There’s nothing magical happening, you’re just taking part in a really boring caloric deficit. So yes, you will probably lose weight on this diet.
However, like most fad diets, the majority of participants will see success…until they don’t. My point? My problem with ultra-restrictive dieting (and dieting in general) is that it’s simply not sustainable. How long can one person really go either starving themselves and eating one single food? Eventually it ends, and the weight comes back.
A Dietitian’s Concerns About Mono Eating:
As a Registered Dietitian, I have several concerns about the Monotrophic Diet:
1. Risk for Nutrient Deficiencies
There are essential nutrients necessary for good health and only eating a limited number of foods makes it much more difficult to get them. This is why Health Canada recommends we eat a balanced, varied diet. When you lack important nutrients, your risk unfavourable health outcomes like muscle loss, poor digestion, fatigue, and a compromised immune system increases.
2. Risk for Disordered Eating/Eating Disorders
This is a restrictive diet if I’ve ever seen one. Diets like this will leave you feeling hungry and so restricted. Eventually, this can lead to binge eating, constantly thinking about food, and a poor quality of life. Because quite frankly, you can’t live life normally and follow this diet.
Restricting your intake to one food or one food group is a disordered eating habit, and should not be normalized. Dieting is a common (but often overlooked) symptom eating disorders. I fear that Mono-style eating will perpetuate food fear, binge-restrict cycles, and other disordered eating habits.
3. No Scientific Basis
Oh, did I mention that there is literally no scientific basis to the Mono Diet? There is not one research study evaluating the benefits or effects of this style of eating. So please keep that in mind.
So, is the Mono Diet Worth Trying?
I say this with the utmost kindness and compassion, but no. There is nothing health-promoting about the Mono Diet and in my opinion, the risks far outweigh the benefits of this diet (of which there are none).