The Deal with Fad Diets
What is Fad Diet?
A fad diet is an eating plan that becomes popular quickly. Fad diets often promise dramatic, unrealistic weight loss results. Many are designed to take advantage of people’s willingness to “try anything” to lose weight, look and feel better, and reduce their risk for weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and other conditions.
Why are they popular? Do they actually work?
Many fad diets become popular because they do produce short-term weight loss quickly. However, most do not result in long-term weight loss success. They often are unhealthy and, in fact, some fad diets can severely jeopardize your health.
Some, but not all fad diets, promote unhealthy eating habits and don’t meet nutritional recommendations. They may provide far fewer daily calories than normal (“crash” diets)—resulting in weight loss mainly comprised of water and lean muscle mass, rather than fat.
It’s difficult for most people to maintain any diet that drastically restricts their food choices or requires them to eat unusual foods, very little food, or the same foods day after day. Therefore, people who lose weight on a fad diet usually gain the weight—and then some—back again.
It’s easy to spot a fad diet
Typically, a fad diet shares some, or all, of the following characteristics:
- Promises a quick fix
- Promotes ‘magic’ foods or combinations of foods
- Implies that food can change body chemistry
- Excludes or severely restricts food groups or nutrients, such as carbohydrates
- Has rigid rules that focus on weight loss
- Makes claims based on a single study or testimonials only.
Fad diets can cause health problems
- Because they often cut out key foods, fad diets may cause the following symptoms:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Nausea and headaches
- Inadequate vitamin and mineral intake.
Fad diets that severely restrict food groups or nutrients may also mean that you miss out on the protective health effects that a balanced eating plan provides. We don’t know whether fad diets are safe over the longer term, or whether they lead to an increased risk of various diseases.
The answer is a balanced eating plan
Don’t worry. There is an eating plan that gets results. You can achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and you don’t have to cut out any foods because you can eat everything – in moderation.
It’s called a balanced eating plan and it’s nothing new. Combined with moderate physical activity, it will change your life.
With a balanced eating plan, it’s what you leave in that makes all the difference. For a balanced eating plan to be successful, you need to:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits.
- Include a variety of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain.
- Include lean meat, fish, poultry or alternatives.
- Include milk, yoghurts, cheeses or alternatives.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake.
- Choose reduced fat varieties of foods where possible.
- Choose foods low in salt.
- Limit your alcohol intake, if you choose to drink.
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars, and food and drinks containing added sugars. In particular, limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
The bottom line about fad diets: Many fad diets are unhealthy and ineffective for long-term weight loss. If you’re concerned about losing weight and improving your health, talk to your doctor, a registered dietician or a nutritionist about developing a diet and exercise plan that’s right for you. Healthy weight loss requires long-term lifestyle changes—not the quick and easy fix of a fad diet.