Dieting: The Good, the Fad and the Ugly

New diets that promise quick weight loss are constantly making an appearance in social media feeds. While they may seem new and innovative, some version of most of these diets have been around for years and are commonly known as “fad diets.”

“For example, the Atkins diet was all the rage in the 1960s, but eventually lost popularity. It was quickly replaced with another low-carb version, the Keto diet, in the early 2000s,” shares Deborah Karl, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist with ProMedica.

While tempting, trying a fad diet is typically not the best plan for your overall and long-term health. Diets with the following traits should always be avoided:

  • It promises rapid weight loss.
  • It claims to have a secret strategy or markets specific “super foods” or products with it.
  • It’s very low calorie or severely restricts or forbids certain foods or food groups, especially fruit, whole grains or fats. Ask yourself, “Can I eat this way the rest of my life?” If the answer is no, the plan is not for you.
  • There is poor, biased or no scientific research to support the claims.
  • The plan or product is temporary with no nutrition education or transition phase involved.
  • The plan suggests that food or supplements can alter your body chemistry or pH.
  • If the claims sound too good to be true, they probably are.

Why You Should Avoid Fad Diets

Simply put, you should avoid fad diets because they don’t work. They often encourage severe restriction, either of food entirely or of specific foods or food groups. This leads to increased cravings, binge eating and as a result, weight regain. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 80 percent of people regain weight after a temporary diet plan.

“Fad diets can also negatively impact our mental health,” Karl shares. “Not being able to sustain a rigid eating pattern can lead to feelings of failure and depression, and binge eating can leave us feeling guilty and anxious about food.”

How To Lose Weight and Not Gain It Back

Rather than focusing on the newest weight loss trend, focus on improving your overall eating and exercise habits. Instead of cutting out all unhealthy habits for a certain amount of time, reduce your unhealthy habits slowly over time. For example, instead of getting fast food every day, try every other day for a couple of months, then twice a week, once a week and so on.

As you are reducing your unhealthy habits, begin increasing your healthy ones. Maybe you start with increasing your steps each day. Or making the goal to eat at least one serving of fruits and vegetables every day.

Healthy Weight Loss

A healthy amount of weight loss is between a half pound to two pounds per week. “If you lose weight too quickly, you will lose muscle, bone, and water and you are more likely to regain that weight,” Karl shares. Be sure to not solely rely on the scale for your only measure of success. Focus on the healthy habits that you have established, healthier food selections you are making, and how much better you feel.

You don’t have to make big changes to have big success. It’s the small changes over time that will yield greater results in the long run.