It’s not as restrictive as the maple syrup fast that famously helped her shed nine kilograms in two weeks for her role in 2006’s Dreamgirls. However, Beyoncé’s new 22-day, 100-per-cent plant-based diet is promoting the same extreme messaging, observers say.
Last week, the pop diva posted a YouTube video, “22 Days Nutrition,” promoting a diet plan created by her trainer and “exercise physiologist” Marco Borges. (The singer doubled up and followed the diet for 44 days in preparation for her 2018 Coachella performance.)
The video opens with a barefoot and postpartum Beyoncé, who gave birth to twins in 2017, stepping onto a scale at 5 a.m. on the first day of the Coachella rehearsals. “Every woman’s nightmare,” the singer says before the digital scale flashes 175 (79 kilograms). “Long way to go. Let’s get it.”
In the video, Borges promises that a plant-only diet — Beyoncé reportedly shunned carbs, sugar, dairy, meat, fish and alcohol — will “definitely” improve energy, sleep and complexions. “Your mood is going to change completely,” he tells Beyoncé’s dancers in the video.
In the footage, Beyoncé does deep squats, battle rope training and other intense workouts, in between gruelling rehearsals. “She’s expending more calories than she’s taking in, so, yeah, there’s going to be weight loss,” says Joe Schwarcz, a professor at McGill University.
“I have absolutely nothing against a plant-based diet,” Schwarcz said. “A properly balanced, plant-based diet is probably the ideal diet. But it doesn’t have any special properties for weight loss.”
A properly balanced, plant-based diet is probably the ideal diet. But it doesn’t have any special properties for weight loss
Nor does it automatically equal healthy. It depends on what people eat within that plant-based regimen, said Dr. Valerie Taylor, head of psychiatry at the University of Calgary.
Taylor also seriously questions the claim that a plant-based diet can improve mood. When people come to her with symptoms of depression, one of the first things she does is a medical workup, which includes making certain they aren’t deficient in vitamin B12, which, among other things, is associated with not eating enough meat.
Vegetarians have to eat foods high in protein “to make sure you don’t get into these deficits that can lead to fatigue,” Taylor said. “And, so, it’s exactly the opposite: A restrictive anything is going to make you feel worse, not better.” (‘I’m hungry,” Beyoncé confessed in her Netflix Homecoming documentary released last year.)
Any restrictive eating plan is doomed to failure, Taylor added. People will lose weight, because they’re removing multiple food groups, including the foods most people gain weight from, namely high-fat or high-sugar snacks.
But celebrities can have a profound impact on dieting behaviour, said the University of Alberta’s Timothy Caulfield.
NFL quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen follow an 80 per cent alkaline, 20 per cent acidic diet. No white sugar, white flour or nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms). Almost no fruits (“I’ve never eaten a strawberry in my life,” Brady once famously told New York magazine), and no caffeine, MSG, iodized salt or dairy. The insanely restrictive diet, Brady has said, restores “balance and harmony through my metabolic system.”
Recently, Katy Perry revealed to an Australian radio show host that she’s been using “lots of enemas” for more energy, and to ward off aging.
A severe fast will drop weight after 22 days, if people can hold out that long. But most people will put the weight back on, Taylor said.
“People need to understand that Beyoncé’s job is to look a certain way,” Taylor said. “She has a myriad of trainers and personal chefs at her fingertips and, just like the Kardashians who promote weight-loss teas, these people are selling a product.” (The 22 Days plan costs US$ 14 a month.)
“People need to understand: You are not going to be Beyoncé by doing some sort of crazy diet,” Taylor said.
Beyoncé’s diet “also embraces a bunch of food myths — no carbs, no dairy, no meat — giving the impression that there’s a magical formula to lose weight and maximize health,” said Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy.
“This kind of celebrity noise can distract people from the science-informed, and more sustainable basics: lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains and healthy proteins.”
The singer, who has celebrated her “full curves” in the past, also starts her message with the idea that people should feel shame — every woman’s “nightmare” — about their weight, Caulfield said.
“This is hardly a body positive approach.”