This New Eating Habit Is Unsurprisingly Terrible For You, Says Dietitian
The Netflix reality series, Cheer, has left a lasting impression on viewers' perceptions of how much determination and athleticism is required of cheerleaders.
Fans have been eating up season 2's honest look into the cheer team from Navarro Junior College, and the most recent season of the show has revealed a controversial eating habit practiced by one of the main athletes, Gabi Butler.
In a recent episode, Butler revealed that she goes on a watermelon diet whenever she feels her body needs a cleanse. And unfortunately, this diet consists of exactly what it sounds like: nothing but watermelon.
Butler hasn't revealed many details about her version of this diet, but in a recent interview with Extra, she tells Katie Krause, "It's basically a watermelon fast, so you're not actually fasting, but you're getting like something in your stomach…I will do it every once in a while when I feel like I've been eating really bad."
Since the episode's release, dietitians and nutrition experts have been open about their disapproval of this diet, warning viewers of the show that it's not a safe or effective method of losing weight and is unsurprisingly terrible for your overall health.
To learn more about the risks involved, we talked with sports dietitian Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, and a member of our medical expert board.
What's the deal with the watermelon diet?
For a few days, Butler and some of her other teammates will eat nothing but watermelon. Goodson warns that the negative side effects of this way of eating far outweigh any positives.
"Any diet that relies on one food as your source of nutrition should make you run the other direction," says Goodson. "Because let's face it, different foods give us different nutrients that our bodies need and require to function and live."
For example, Goodson warns that you can't function on fruit alone because it's not a complete protein, which means "it does not give you all the essential amino acids necessary to build and maintain lean muscle mass."
On top of that, she says it's impossible to get enough recommended daily fiber from watermelon alone, and this fruit has almost zero fat, so you're essentially stocking up on only one macronutrient: carbohydrates.
Are there any benefits to a watermelon cleanse?
Honestly, no. Some people may assume that this sort of cleansing will give them more energy throughout the day, but Goodson says it has the opposite effect.
"Watermelon is primarily comprised of carbohydrates, which spikes your blood sugar when eaten alone," she says. "So, if all you eat is watermelon, it's likely your blood sugar will spike and drop all day long. Your energy levels follow your blood sugar levels, so if your blood sugar is going up and down, so will your energy. And when your blood sugar drops, it's likely you will feel tired and maybe even light-headed, dizzy, shaky, and nauseous."
She also mentions that yes, you could possibly lose weight with this cleanse. But Goodson strongly believes that "just because something can lead to weight loss does not mean it is good for you, healthy, or a plan you should follow."
Should athletes like those on Cheer do it?
You can see how the watermelon cleanse could be risky for anyone, but it's shocking to consider the fact that it's athletes who are promoting it in the first place. Goodson warns that this diet is especially dangerous for athletes because "watermelon alone does not provide your body with enough calories or protein to support exercise."
Butler tells her mom in one of the show's episodes that she saves her fruit cleanse for days she knows are going to be "lighter," but it's clear that she still isn't giving her body enough of the nutrients it needs.
"It's likely to leave you feeling run down and not recovering well after exercise, and while watermelon can be a nutrient-rich component of an athlete's diet, it should be included with an eating plan of high-fiber whole grains, high-quality proteins, healthy fat, calcium-rich dairy foods, and veggies," says Goodson.
The bottom line
Watermelon can be a delicious, healthy addition to your daily diet. In fact, eating watermelon as a snack has been shown to reduce body weight, as well as help regulate blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
"Watermelon is also 90% water, making it a fantastic, hydrating fruit and great for post-workout and on hot days, and it provides nutrients like the antioxidant lycopene, vitamin C, potassium copper, and vitamin A," says Goodson.
However, it should never be consumed as your only source of food or nutrients. "When you cut out entire foods or food groups, you cut out a variety of macro and micronutrients your body needs to survive and function well," says Goodson, "which means eating just one food is a terrible eating pattern, even if the food is good for you."