The dictionary definition of “fad” is “an activity or topic of interest that is very popular for a short time, but which people become very bored with very quickly.” That describes “fad diets” to a T. They’re popular at first because the weight seems to melt away, but they fall out of favor when people realize there is no quick fix for sustained weight loss.
Dietitian Robin Steagall of the Calorie Control Council tells WebMD that fad diets, on the face of it “offer ‘new’ ways to beat the boring mathematical reality of long-term weight loss.”
She goes on to say that every diet works on the principle of cutting calories, but fad diets claim that they have found a new magic bullet, for example, eating at specified times, taking a “specially formulated” supplement; eating piles of cabbage; or not eating at all.
There is nothing new to these diets, other than the fact that some of them can seriously harm your health. Here are five problems with fad diets:
1. Rapid loss of weight
Cool, where do I sign up? Not so fast, friend. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) warns that if you lose weight quickly, you’ll lose muscle, bone and water and you’re much more likely to pile the weight back on after you finish the diet. The Center for Diseases control advises you to aim to lose between one and two pounds a week.
That’s not a whole lot but it is far more realistic. Think about it, you didn’t put on all your weight overnight, so you’re not likely to lose it overnight, either.
2. Magic ingredients
Watch out for diets that allow you unlimited quantities of any one ingredient, such as cabbage or grapefruit. The academy points out that it is boring to stick to one food for breakfast lunch and supper, and you’re much more likely to break you diet. By the same token, be careful of diets that eliminate or severely an entire food group, like carbohydrates. You’re much more likely to miss out on important nutrients your body needs for its wellbeing this way. Dietitians always advise you to eat a wide range of food across all food groups.
3. Rigid eating plans
Weight-loss programs that don’t allow a bit of wiggle room are doomed to fail. According to WebMD, most sensible diets nowadays allow the occasional splurge if you don’t go completely overboard. The Mayo Clinic says that if the diet is overly restrictive, you’re probably not going to stick to it and you won’t lose weight over the long term
4. Short-term goals
A lot of fad diets focus your mind on losing a specific amount of weight in the short-term, but don’t plan for what comes afterwards. You need to look for a weight-loss program that helps you make permanent lifestyle choices, according to WebMD. Good programs will teach you how to live, not just to eat. As the academy says, you must ask yourself whether you can eat this way for the rest of your life. If not, find a program that offers lifelong benefits.
5. No need to exercise
Beware diets that promise weight-loss without your getting up from the couch. Regular physical activity is essential for good health and healthy weight management. The key, says the academy, is to aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. And you don’t have to spend those 30 minutes on the treadmill. Do something you enjoy, like gardening, or walking the dogs the park. People who exercise are more likely to maintain the weight loss.
There is no secret ingredient or short cut to losing weight. It’s a lifelong commitment that takes hard work and motivation.