The Pioppi Diet’s 21-day plan has been making headlines of late, but whenever a new diet comes along promising to transform your life in three weeks, it’s wise to be sceptical. Judging by Movember, it takes longer than that for most people to grow a decent moustache, so expecting to overhaul your health and lifestyle in 21 days is a tad unrealistic.
So when The Pioppi Diet landed on Coach’s desks we had reservations. Yet beneath the enticing 21-day promise there was, it seemed to us, a pretty solid healthy lifestyle plan – one chock-full of vegetables and that acknowledged the importance of factors outside diet and exercise, such as spending time with friends.
To check out the credentials of The Pioppi Diet, we asked dietitian Aisling Pigott of the British Dietetic Association for her verdict.
“On the whole, many of the principles mirror sensible healthy eating advice wrapped up slightly differently,” says Pigott. “There is a realisation of the complexity of diet intertwined with lifestyle. For example, the importance of sleep and mood on weight and well-being.”
“However, the demonising of foods and food groups is unhelpful and confusing for many people.”
The Pioppi Diet recommends avoiding refined carbohydrates entirely or drastically reducing the amount you eat. While keeping an eye on portion size is no bad thing, blocking out entire food groups is a bit extreme.
“Messages around carbohydrates and foods like bread and pasta in the media are so confusing. Carbohydrates have been demonised unfairly,” says Pigott.
“Restricting anything is not helpful, and only leads to guilt around food, which may lead to overeating.
“However, our portion sizes have increased drastically over the past 50 years, while our activity levels have reduced. Therefore, there is a need to be more aware of our carbohydrate portions, and eating them in the right amounts for our body. As for avoiding flour-based products, this is very much down to the individual, but restriction is likely to be unnecessary.
“Variety is key – enjoy carbohydrate-based foods from all sources, and be sensible with portion sizes.”
The 21-day plan also recommends fasting for one 24-hour period each week. Intermittent fasting isn’t necessarily a terrible approach, but it’s not one backed by long-term evidence.
“The authors of this book are likely to quote small studies to support their claim. However, from a scientific perspective, the impact of intermittent fasting remains unclear,” says Pigott.
“There are few long-term studies, with limited participants. It seems from the available evidence not to provide any additional benefits to traditional calorie restriction.
“As a dietitian with a passion for food, nutrition and health I would argue that it discourages us from enjoying and appreciating foods, and from listening to our internal cues and feelings of hunger.”
Finally, and you probably already could have guessed this, hoping for a magical transformation in 21 days is only likely to set you up for disappointment.
“The biggest issue [with The Pioppi Diet] mirrors that of any other fad diet. The promise of ‘transformation’ in 21 days sounds too good to be true. Because it is,” says Pigott.
For our money, the key messages of The Pioppi Diet worth adopting are to up your intake of fibrous vegetables and reduce the amount of added sugar you consume. That, and to spend more socialising with friends and family. That’s always a good thing.