Common Characteristics of Fad Diets

November 5, 2015
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Food is an essential component of happy and healthy living. Our bodies are designed in such a way that they need certain ingredients, vitamins, and nutrients to properly function and thrive. Understanding this, we often go on diets to try and correct unhealthy behaviors and promote proper eating.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes more harmful than productive. Many of the diets you read about today are actually “fad diets,” meaning they don’t really work. As someone who cares about your health, it’s critical that you’re able to differentiate these fad diets from the real ones.

Food is an essential component of happy and healthy living. Our bodies are designed in such a way that they need certain ingredients, vitamins, and nutrients to properly function and thrive. Understanding this, we often go on diets to try and correct unhealthy behaviors and promote proper eating.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes more harmful than productive. Many of the diets you read about today are actually “fad diets,” meaning they don’t really work. As someone who cares about your health, it’s critical that you’re able to differentiate these fad diets from the real ones.

Characteristics of Fad Diets

While each new fad diet promises great results and groundbreaking science, the reality is that they’re all the same. They’re all backed by people and corporations that care more about their bottom line than about your health and weight loss journey. As such, it’s actually fairly easy to spot these diets, once you know what you’re looking for.

  • Bold claims. Think about this for a moment. If there were some magical diet that helped people lose 50 pounds in a month with little or no effort, wouldn’t it be all over the news? Wouldn’t your friends have already tried it? Wouldn’t your doctor be prescribing it for every patient that walks through the door? “Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” writes Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN. “Slow, steady and safe weight loss is best for long-term success.”
  • Supplemented-based. Natural supplements can be good when used to boost vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but they should never be used to suppress your appetite or boost your metabolism. If a supplement is at the heart of a diet, you can rest assured it’s an unhealthy fad diet. The key to a successful diet is eating the right foods, not avoiding food altogether.
  • Delivery diets. There’s nothing inherently wrong with diets that deliver controlled portions to your home. Many of them have the fundamentals down – healthy ingredients, correctly sized portions, and nutritious snacks – but the problem is found in the method. Once you lose the weight and stop the diet, the old habits typically set in. After all, what do you do when the healthy, controlled portions no longer exist?
  • Food group diets. Be wary of any diet that tells you that you can only consume one food group (or asks you to eliminate entire food groups). The human body needs nutrients from each of the major food groups and it’s not a good idea to entirely do away with some of them. You may lose weight by focusing on one or two food groups, but this isn’t sustainable. Restrictive diets almost always fail over the long haul.
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Examples of Fad Diets

Everyone always wants to know, which popular diets are fad diets? Well, if you keep the aforementioned characteristics in mind, you should be able to tell. For clarity’s sake, though, let’s highlight a few.

  • The Atkins Diet. While certainly not the worst diet on the market, The Atkins Diet isn’t as healthy as it may seem. It works by limiting your carbohydrate intake and increasing fiber and protein intake. As a result, the body burns fat instead of carbs. The problem is that water loss accounts for much of the weight loss early on and gives dieters a false impression. The Atkins Diet isn’t sustainable and should be overlooked.
  • The Dukan Diet. This is another low-carb diet that leads to water loss. While the diet makes it seem like you can eat whatever you want – so long as you follow certain rules – the reality is that the pounds will return as soon as you go off the diet.
  • The HCG Diet. Put simply, the HCG Diet isn’t healthy. It asks dieters to reduce their caloric intake to 500-800 calories per day in conjunction with an HCG supplement that supposedly curbs your appetite. There’s a ton wrong with this approach.

In summary, losing weight takes common sense. No miracle diet can give you that. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and practice moderation. Those are the keys to losing weight.