Earlier this month, in making public her desire to have a third child, Brisbane radio presenter Abby Coleman said she had turned to the controversial 101 diet to help her chances of conceiving.
In an interview with News Corp, the 34-year-old said she was initially inspired by TV host Eddie McGuire, who shed more than 20 kilograms on the extreme diet where he did not eat for two weeks, but survived off a concoction of Chinese herbs.
“It came up because of Eddie McGuire. It worked for him and I just went into a bit of a worm hole reading about it,” she told the news outlet.
“I do want to have a third (child) and I just haven’t had any luck with it. It hasn’t been a good year.
“I just felt that I needed some sort of cleanse… from minimal sleep, getting up early in the morning relying on coffee, I eat way too much and I drink too much alcohol.”
Coleman suffered a miscarriage between the births of her two sons – five-year-old Finlay and three-year-old Jaggar.
The 12-week detox program, designed by Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner Dr Shuquan Liu, promises to provide an “overall improvement in your health, greater ease in maintaining your weight, a better quality of life, lower stress levels and an ability to function at a high level without relying on medication”.
It can cost between AUD $4000 to $8000, where those partaking in the program pay to eat nothing. The program also includes daily treatments of acupuncture, cupping, reflexology and massage.
In an interview with Mamamia, author Brigid Delaney – whose book, Wellmania documents her time on the diet – said the idea behind paying for, well, nothing is all about having someone hold you accountable.
“You are paying for this absence to be enforced. I’m sure you know how many times you’ve been on diets where what you eat or don’t eat is about you. It’s very hard to be disciplined.”
Coleman’s admission comes in the same year fellow radio presenter, Zoe Marshall detailed on her blog she was taking a similar path to conception, putting her body through the gruelling diet and crediting that change to her pregnancy.
So how credible is it? Can starving your body help your chances of fertility? And is it something we should be endorsing publicly?
According to dietitian Susie Burrell, health experts would “never” endorse “extreme fasting diets” as a means of, first and foremost, losing weight.
“[They’re] not a sustainable way to lose weight and promote metabolism long term. Whilst initial weight loss may be significant, the average person will find it extremely difficult to stick to; for anyone with underlying hormonal issues such as Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance there can be side effects such as low blood glucose and a significant amount of muscle mass will be metabolised which will reduce metabolic rate,” Burrell tells Mamamia.
“There are much better, proven ways to lose weight, and most importantly be able to maintain this weight loss.
“[For women trying to fall pregnant] the diet isn’t necessarily dangerous, but anything extreme will have side effects. For example, extreme fasting will mean that a mum-to-be is not getting important nutrients such as folate, which is important to help prevent neural tube defects so you are increasing risks in some areas.”
Although she says an extreme diet like 101 isn’t one you will see dietitians recommending to eager-parents-to-be, there are benefits to changing your diet can, for many women, help fertility.
“It is known that reducing carbohydrate and sugar intake is important, as is getting your fat balance right is important. Controlling caffeine levels too and losing weight will increase fertility in some people but it is individual and as such anyone struggling with fertility needs to be working with a qualified health professional such as IVF specialists, endocrinologists and dietitians.”
Debate surrounding the diet itself does pose interesting question about cleansing as a concept. Do we actually need to cleanse our body? Is it an important path to good health? According to Burrell, the answer is no.
“The body’s organs such as the kidneys and the liver are very good at getting rid of what we do not need. But in many cases, losing a few kilos will be beneficial as long as it is done the right way without compromising nutrient intake.”
Listen: Exactly what the 101 diet entails, from someone who’s been on it.