Find out why the trending "egg diet" is a recipe for disaster

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published March 10, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The “egg diet,” a diet where users primarily consume hard-boiled eggs, is trending on TikTok.

  • Dietitians warn that the diet does not offer enough calories or nutrients to sustain adults—or toddlers—and they encourage doctors to talk to their patients about how social media influences their eating habits.

If a patient reports engaging in trending diets like the egg diet, you may want to direct the patient to a dietitian or eating disorder specialist. Due to the extreme lack of calories in this diet, it could be that your patient had already been restricting calories for some before undertaking the egg diet, says Johnson.

TikTok’s new weight-loss trend isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Known as the “egg diet,” the trend showcases a 10-day, low-calorie meal plan that predominantly consists of (surprise) eggs and tea. But according to doctors and dietitians, the diet isn't sustainable—and could put followers’ health in jeopardy.

“This ‘diet’ is a basic caloric deprivation diet that adds caffeine presumably to curb appetite,” says Monika Ostroff, LICSW, CEDS-S, executive director at MEDA. “Asking an adult body to function on 1/3 or less of what a body needs is disrespectful of the body itself.”

Different TikTokers have taken different spins on the diet, with one popular meal plan being as follows:

  • Breakfast: Three hard-boiled eggs washed down with green tea

  • Lunch: Three hard-boiled eggs plus an apple

  • Dinner: Oatmeal, again washed down with green tea

Strict adherence to the above could lead to malnutrition, impaired organ function, brain fog, energy depletion, and risks of eating disorder development, says Ostroff. Further, the diet may slow down metabolism, which would interfere with sustainable weight loss.[][]

Taking dieting to the extreme 

Eaten as prescribed, the egg diet offers about 700 calories a day, a number which is not enough food to sustain a toddler, let alone a teenager or an adult.

“This diet does not provide enough fuel for the brain, liver, kidneys or heart to function—never mind the lungs, other organs or any activities a body may engage in within the course of a day,” says Ostroff.

The average toddler needs 1,000-1,400 calories per day, and adults can need anywhere from 1,600-3,000 or more depending on their body composition and physical activity.[]

Not all TikTokers appear aware of these risks, however. People have not only been posting videos of themselves partaking in the diet but have also been posting tweets and comments to “hold themselves accountable” for their progress. 

“This behavior is very reminiscent of early 2000’s underground eating disorder spaces where members would exchange information about their behaviors to hold each other ‘accountable’ in maintaining disordered eating,” says Christyna Johnson, MS, RDN, LDN, founder of Encouraging Nutrition. “This very much feels like pro–eating-disorder material hiding in plain sight.”

Early 2000’s online groups with names like “pro-ana” (standing for anorexia), encouraged strugglers to continue acting on symptoms of the disease rather than seeking help.

Egg diet origins 

TikTok egg diets are adaptations from Arielle Chandler’s book, The Boiled Egg Diet, which encourages weight loss through mainly-egg meal plans. Chandler presents three versions of the egg diet in her book.

  • Version one is the “traditional” version. It is similar to the Atkins diet, in that it is a low-carb diet, but different in that the dieter eats all their protein from eggs (albeit with some lean protein substitutions). They can have one or two servings of fruit a day, but other carbs are strictly limited.

  • Version two is the “egg and grapefruit” version. For this, the dieter eats half of a grapefruit along with their eggs at each meal.

  • Version three is the “egg-only” diet, where the dieter must exclusively eat eggs. For a beverage, they may drink water or Crystal Light. 

Chandler herself notes that the diets can pose risks like malnourishment, unhealthy digestive function, fatigue, nausea, and inability to exercise due to low energy.

“Eating only one type of food will lead to nutrient deficiency in the long run,” warns Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CSCS, founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and the author of Unapologetic Eating. “While eggs are a nutrient-dense food, they don't contain all of the essential nutrients that our bodies need.”

Eggs contain low levels of carbohydrates and do not contain fiber.

Low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diets can also increase risks of depressed mood and loss of muscle mass, Rumsey says.

When eaten as part of an otherwise balanced meal plan, eggs can be nutritious. They contain healthy proteins and fats as well as nutrients like biotin, vitamin A, and choline.

Why doctors should follow, but not follow, the trends

Dieting is one of the primary risk factors for developing an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration. So, when extreme diets circulate on social media, it can be a good idea to check in with patients about their eating habits—and perhaps check out TikTok for yourself, too.[]

This can be especially important when working with teenagers. About 67 percent of teens in the United States use TikTok, and about 97 percent use the internet daily, according to a 2022 poll by the Pew Research Center.[]  

Jessica Moore, MD, FFAP, CEDS, a primary care physician at the Eating Recovery Center, says it is crucial that physicians be aware of TikTok diets because “physicians can be the first line of defense in preventing eating disorders.”

“It’s important that physicians and other medical providers know trends like this exist and that they will (and already do) have patients that are following diets like this one,” adds Moore. 

How can doctors debunk diet culture? 

To help your patients navigate the digital age of diet culture, start by having open, non-judgmental conversations about social media’s influences on your patient’s food intake

“This is likely a red-flag that their relationship with food is likely in trouble,” Johnson adds.

You can also screen patients for eating disorders via simple questionnaires like the National Eating Disorders Collaboration’s Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care (ESP), which can be incorporated into annual sports physicals or check-ins, regardless of whether the patient follows the egg diet or not.[]

It is also important for physicians to be informed about eating disorders [ED]—that is, to be “ED-informed.” That way, they will not inadvertently encourage disordered behaviors, says Johnson.

ED-informed practitioners specifically make an effort to encourage variety in patients’ diets—for example, “not just eggs”—and refrain from categorizing foods as “good” or “bad.” Further, they are careful not to pass non-medical judgment on a person’s body mass or stigmatize people who have larger bodies.

“Our bodies need food for energy, and for children and adolescents, they need adequate food for normal growth and development,” says Dr. Moore. “Encourage patients to find a form of physical activity that they actually enjoy, not for the purpose of weight loss.”

What this means for you

Eggs can be a nutritious snack or meal addition, but eating only eggs can be extremely unhealthy. You may need to warn against the TikTok egg diet, as it can deprive a person of the necessary energy, nutrients, and fuel needed for organ function, cognitive function, and daily life management.

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