How to Spot a Fad Diet

Finding the right nutrition plan can confuse even the most informed consumers. Every which way we turn there is a new trendy diet or nutrition myth to jump on board with. Yes, nutrition research is conflicting and constantly changing. The best things we can do are not jump on diet trends, start moving our bodies, eat more plant foods, and honor our hunger cues. These facts will forever and always be what is best for us.

Here’s a really important question I ask: Is the weight loss industry a billion dollar industry because so many people need to lose weight and it works? Or is it because so many are pressured into losing weight, and everything they purchase does not work, leading them to purchase the next best thing over and over again? I think you know my answer.

So how do you spot a fad diet? Below are some key phrases and tactics that will help you avoid temporary results, unhealthy strategies, and long-term frustration.

  • It promises a rapid and easy fix
  • It claims to have a “secret” strategy
  • The plan is very low calorie
  • It’s promoted with buzz words such as Fast, Low Carb, Clean eating, Detox, Cleanse, Comparing Good vs Bad, Skinny, Thin, Quick, Fasting
  • It markets specific “super” foods or products with it
  • The plan or product is temporary or a certain number of days with no additional nutrition education or transition phase involved
  • The plan severely restricts or forbids certain foods or food groups, especially fruit, whole grains, or fats
  • There are poor, biased or no scientific research to support the claims
  • The plan suggests that food or supplements can change body chemistry, PH or alkalize you
  • The claims sound too good to be true…and likely are

Why don’t fad diets work?

The diets that are either restricting foods or calories are lacking in vital macro and micro nutrients that we need to function at our best. If that isn’t reason enough to avoid a fad diet, the biggest reason they do not work is that they are simply not mentally or physically sustainable. Restriction and deprivation are heavily linked to binge eating, increased cravings, and weight regain. An average of 80% of people regain weight after a temporary diet plan!

A healthy amount of weight loss is between 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. The scale should not be our only unit of measurement. Focus more on the habits you have changed, the quality of your diet, and strength.

Liz Satterthwaite, RDN, LDN, is a ProMedica dietitian.