The Mono Diet says you can eat as much as you want — but only of one food, such as bananas.
When Alicia Hunter, 49, heard about a diet where she could eat as much of her favorite fruit as she wanted, the Upper East Side woman was hooked. There was one small catch, though: It was the onlything she could eat.
“In an attempt to lose weight for the holidays, I ate only melon for almost 30 days after I heard about the Mono Diet,” says Hunter, an eyelash-extension professional. “I lost 7 pounds, but I never want [to eat] melon again.”
The diet dictates that you eat only one food for several weeks to lose weight fast, something that many experts warn is dangerous and only successful in the short term. Hunter, however, used it to kick-start a long-term weight-loss plan to shed the pounds, and raved about the benefits.
“I kept the weight off and actually lost another 8 pounds since then on other diets,” she says.
The Mono Diet (sometimes referred to as Banana Island or Monotrophic Diet) has become increasingly popular since a YouTube star nicknamed “Freelee the Banana Girl” (real name: Leanne Ratcliffe) boasted about her weight loss in 2014. She claimed to have lost 40 pounds eating close to 30 bananas a day.
‘It’s an incredibly restrictive and unbalanced diet and I do not recommend that anyone follow it.’
Since then, a new version, the Sweet Potato Diet, was released in April, touting how the spud can help you lose 12 pounds in just two weeks. Meanwhile, the hashtag #monomeal on Instagram, which highlights pictures of people’s meals containing a single food, has more than 38,000 posts, and the diet was one of the most searched in 2016, according to Google. Comedian and magician Penn Jillette even wrote a book last year about how he lost 100 pounds by eating nothing but potatoes for two weeks to kick off his diet. And Matt Damon revealed he ate only chicken breasts to drop weight for his role in “Courage Under Fire.”
“Yes, this diet can produce weight loss,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, registered dietitian and author of “Eating in Color.” “But, the weight loss is a result of caloric restriction — not because any particular food is magically producing weight loss. It’s an incredibly restrictive and unbalanced diet and I do not recommend that anyone follow it.”
In addition to a low caloric intake (Hunter estimates she ate about 800 calories a day worth of melon), which can cause symptoms like dizziness, a Mono Diet can also lead to some serious health problems. The diet landed Ashton Kutcher in the emergency room in 2013 after he followed the “Mucusless Diet Healing System,” and based his diet solely on fruit.
“I ended up in the hospital two days before we started shooting [‘Jobs’],” he told reporters at the Sundance Film Festival. Months later, at a press conference, he said that, “My insulin levels got pretty messed up and my pancreas kind of went . . . crazy. The levels were really off, and it was painful.”
Amy Gorin, a Jersey City-based registered dietitian and nutritionist, says such diets can have “a negative effect on your metabolism and may cause muscle loss. By eating just one food, you’d be taking in too much of certain vitamins or minerals — for example, potassium from bananas. Additionally, it will be very hard to maintain any weight loss once you go back to eating a normal diet.”
While Hunter didn’t have an issue keeping off the initial weight she lost, and raved about her glowing skin, others who tried it didn’t have as great an experience.
“I was desperate to lose weight, so I decided to eat only carrots for an entire month,” says New Jersey music teacher Beth Glickman, 58. “I lost about 10 pounds in one month, but the palms of my hands turned orange! Needless to say, the diet didn’t last much longer than that.”