DadQuarters looks at the top reasons for not trying a fad diet

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Losing weight can be a struggle [1], which is why so many people turn to fad diets. Diets like these usually make incredible claims, promising to help you lose weight practically overnight with little to no effort.

With glowing testimonials, jaw-dropping before-and-after pictures, and other types of social proof, they seem like a great way to lose weight. In fact, however, they actually can wind up doing more harm than good.

Diets like these rarely live up to the hype. The only real way to lose weight and keep it off is through old-fashioned methods like eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

Before you jump on board with the next big diet trend, check out these top seven reasons to avoid fad diets:

1. Fad Diets Often Leave Nutritional Gaps

water and apple on the table

Most diets that fall into this category restrict the types of food that you can eat [2]. For instance, many diets require you to eat nothing but fruits and vegetables. While this may seem healthy, it actually can wind up leaving you with some major nutritional gaps.

Even though fresh fruits and veggies are packed with nutrients, they usually don’t provide you with enough protein, iron, or B vitamins to meet your nutritional needs on their own. Your body also requires healthy fat, which you can’t get from fruits and vegetables alone.

That is why dietitians and other health experts recommend following a balanced diet when you are trying to lose weight. Instead of cutting out entire food groups, they encourage you to eat a wide variety of foods so that all of your nutritional needs are met.

2. Crash Diets are Unsustainable

Most fad diets are extremely difficult to stick with for any length of time [3]. Some diets in this category have severe calorie restrictions, meaning that you are essentially starving yourself. Eventually, your willpower will fade, causing you to cram yourself full of food, simply because you are so hungry.

In other cases, the foods that are allowed on a specific diet are so limited that you may get extremely bored with what you are eating. Trying to eat the same foods day after day for any length of time quickly gets old.

At some point, the temptation to eat other foods becomes too great, making it hard to stick with the diet long enough to see results.

3. Some Fad Diets can Negatively Impact Your Metabolism

Diets with extreme calorie restrictions can wind up causing your metabolism to slow down [4]. Your body is designed to deal with times of famine by reducing its calorie usage as much as possible.

It accomplishes that by slowing down your metabolism so that you burn fewer calories all the time, including when you are at rest. This can make it much harder to lose weight.

When you go on a diet that severely limits your calories, your body naturally assumes that you are going through a time of famine.

Even if you logically know that you can get more food if you need it, your body reacts on instinct, doing its best to keep you safe by slowing down your metabolism to conserve your energy.

Not only can this make weight loss more difficult but it also means that you are more likely to gain the weight back when you eventually go off the diet.

4. Following a Fad Diet can Make it More Difficult to Socialize

a group of friends cheers their glasses

Social activities often center around food. For instance, your coworkers may have a potluck at work to celebrate a major milestone or a friend that you haven’t seen for a long time may invite you out for dinner.

If you are following an extremely strict diet, activities like these are challenging [5]. You either have to look for something on the menu that meets the requirements of your diet or you have to skip eating, both of which can be a little bit awkward.

If you are taking a more sensible approach to dieting, however, you can find something healthy on the menu and control your portion size, allowing you to take part in the fun without going overboard in the process.

5. Fad Diets Typically Provide Short-Term Results

a doctor measures a patients stomach

If you do wind up losing weight on a fad diet, the results usually won’t last long [6]. Any weight loss that occurs is often water weight, meaning that you can quickly gain it back.

If you go on a diet that dramatically cuts your calorie intake, your body may enter into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism down to a crawl.

When you start eating like normal again, your body latches onto the extra calories, storing them away as fat. This makes it much easier to gain back any weight that you lost, negating the effects of the diet.

If you lose weight more slowly by following a traditional approach to dieting, on the other hand, you are more likely to keep the weight off for good. Most experts recommend losing no more than 2 pounds per week. If you lose weight faster than that, the odds of keeping it off are relatively slim.

6. Fad Diets can Give you a Skewed Perception of Different Types of Food

some popular diet food sitting next to a dumbbell

Fad diets often demonize entire food groups. For instance, extremely low-carb diets reduce your carbohydrate intake to practically nothing to promote weight loss. While this can be effective for short-term weight loss, it also can give you the wrong impression about carbohydrates, causing you to view them as “bad”.

In fact, however, your body relies on carbohydrates in order to stay healthy and strong. A study conducted in Poland recently [7] found that people who followed extremely low-carb diets for long periods of time had an increased risk of mortality.

They also were more likely to experience problems with cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

Based on this research, it is clear that carbohydrates play an important part in maintaining your health.

If you buy into the claims of many fad diets, on the other hand, you may mistakenly get the impression that they are bad or unhealthy, which could keep you from getting the nutrition that you need.

7. May Increase the Likelihood of Developing Compulsive Eating Behaviors

a guy binge eating a cookie

By creating the impression that certain types of food or eating habits are bad, fad diets can change the way you think about or act around food [8]. You may find yourself experiencing feelings of shame if you eat something that is not allowed on your diet or if you slip up and overeat.

Over time, feelings like these can cause you to develop potentially dangerous habits or thought patterns around food. Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating can develop over time if these negative feelings and behaviors are repeated often enough.

Even seemingly positive eating habits can be bad if they become obsessive. For instance, some people become so obsessed with the idea of healthy eating that they take it to the extreme, tracking every morsel of food that they eat and overthinking everything that they put on their plates.

While healthy eating is important, fad diets or other restrictive eating plans can cause obsessive thoughts about food to affect other aspects of life.

How to Avoid Fad Diets

The best way to avoid fad diets is by learning to recognize them in the first place [9]. Most diets in this category share some common characteristics including the following:

  • They make unrealistic claims regarding the amount of weight that you can lose or how quickly you can reach your weight-loss goals. If a diet sounds too easy or if it seems like the weight-loss claims are higher than they should be, you should think twice before following it.
  • They identify different types of food as being good or bad. Be wary of any diets that demonize or cut out entire food groups or macronutrients.
  • The claims that they make are not supported by scientific evidence. The makers of the diet plan should be able to provide you with real scientific proof that their claims are true, based on research or studies conducted by reputable organizations.

Summary

When it comes to weight loss, there really are no quick fixes. As nice as it would be for the pounds to just melt away, losing weight takes time and effort. That doesn’t mean that the experience has to be unenjoyable.

In fact, when you follow a healthy diet (here are a few fad diet alternatives), you can eat delicious, nutritious foods that leave you feeling satisfied.

These seven reasons to avoid fad diets should give you a better idea of why diets like these don’t work. A much better option is to develop healthy eating habits so that you can give your body the nutrition that it needs.

Ultimately, your goal should be to learn how to eat to maintain a healthy weight.

Building good eating habits will allow you to stay healthy and strong for the rest of your life, all while enjoying foods that you love. It is all about finding balance, both in terms of what you eat and how much you eat.

Resources

  1. Paige Waehner, 10 Reasons Why It’s so Hard to Lose Weight, Verywell Fit. Retrieved at https://www.verywellfit.com/reasons-its-hard-to-lose-weight-1231540
  2. Fad Diets, Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9476-fad-diets
  3. Jenny L. Cook, Crash diets are ineffective and bad for our health, expert says, NetDoctor. Retrieved from Crash diets are ineffective and bad for our health, expert says
  4. What are the consequences of fad diets?, Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy, Penn State University. Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/12/03/what-are-the-consequences-of-fad-diets/
  5. Kelsey Ogletree, 5 Dangers of Following Fad Diets, VitaVibes. Retrieved from https://www.vitacost.com/blog/food-nutrition/nutrition/5-dangers-of-following-fad-diets.html
  6. Hannah DeClerk, Fad Diets: Weighing Short-term Gains Against Long-term Harms?, AAFP. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/news/obesity/20100517fad-diets.html
  7. Low carbohydrate diets are unsafe and should be avoided, study suggests, European Society of Cardiology. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180828085922.htm
  8. Diet Fads and Eating Disorders Often Go Hand in Hand, Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved at https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/body-image/dangers-diet-fads
  9. Liz Satterhwaite, RDN, LDN, How to Spot a Fad Diet, ProMedica HealthConnect. Retrieved from https://promedicahealthconnect.org/wellness/how-to-spot-a-fad-diet/

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