All About "Fad" Diets

All About "Fad" Diets

A fad diet is any dietary plan that promises quick results without requiring too much effort on the part of the user. 

In the world of nutrition, most fad diets allege to help you lose weight fast and with minimal effort. Unfortunately, such claims are often unrealistic. Even if you somehow manage to shed a few pounds by following any of these eating plans, the results will likely be short-lived. 

The worst part is that fad diets aren’t that easy to recognize. With some of them being endorsed by celebrities and other renowned figures, so many people fall for them. In the following post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about fad diets. This includes how to spot them, potential risks, and examples. Let’s dig in: 

Fad Diet Red Flags
Not sure whether a particular dietary plan is a fad? Watch out for these signs:

Promise to help you lose weight quickly 
The biggest red flag of a fad diet is that it promises rapid weight loss. For instance, if it’s claiming to help you lose over two pounds weekly, it’s probably not genuine. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a gradual weight loss of just 1 or 2 pounds weekly for sustainability. If you lose weight at a faster rate than that, you probably won’t be able to keep up with this in the long term. 

Need to cut out certain foods or food groups
Steer clear off dietary regimens that ask you to get rid of whole food groups. You should stick to a well-balanced diet even when trying to lose weight, including carbohydrates. This ensures that you’re still achieving your daily nutritional requirements. 

It has a distinct beginning and ending point
Maintaining a healthy weight requires a 360-degree shift in your lifestyle. It’s not based solely on the foods you eat or don’t eat. Rather, it also depends on how often you exercise and how much rest/sleep you get, among other factors. 

Put simply, successful weight management is never a one-off activity. So, if you come across diets with marketing statements like, “two weeks to lose excessive weight”, run! Such a dietary plan doesn’t offer any valuable information on how to make sustainable weight-loss changes. 

Does not prioritize exercising
Losing weight the right way often involves two things: adjusting one’s diet and exercising. So, any weight loss plan that claims otherwise is a fad.  

Has extremely rigid rules 
Another red flag of a fad diet is the fact that it will have strict requirements. And sometimes, adhering to these rules calls for a financial investment.

You might be asked to buy a specific product, such as a weight loss bar or protein shake. Others require you to focus on eating one type of food like grapefruit, specific meats or cabbage soup. 

Reduces your calorie intake drastically
Yes, losing weight does involve cutting back on calorie-rich foods. However, this doesn’t mean that you completely remove them from your diet or severely restrict your intake. 

At the end of the day, your body still needs some amount of calories for energy. If you’re not sure of the ideal calorie intake to help you lose weight without affecting energy production, consult a dietician or healthcare provider.

Features of a Proper Weight Loss Diet
The ideal weight loss diet should have the following traits:

Any diet designed to help you lose weight should still be well-balanced. It might alter the proportions of certain food groups. But, it shouldn’t restrict their intake altogether. 

As explained by the
Mayo Clinic, such a diet typically constitutes vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein like legumes and beans. Another point you’ll want to consider is the flavor or appeal of the proposed diet. If it’s too bland, you won’t be able to follow it for too long.

Lasts for the long-term
The changes proposed by the diet should be sustainable. In other words, the diet should become a part of your lifestyle, not a one-time activity. This way, you’ll not only lose weight but also manage it at a healthy level.

Incorporates exercise
As stated earlier, there are two parts to the weight-loss equation. One part involves adopting a healthy diet and the other is exercise. While you can achieve results with either one, using a combination of the two yields more effective and sustainable results.

Types of Fad Diets
Just to give you an idea of what a fad diet looks like, here are three examples:

The Whole30 Diet
This dietary plan comprises two stages, lasting about 40 days in total. The first stage, which lasts for 30 days, limits your diet to “natural” fats, meat, eggs, seafood, fruits, vegetables, herbs, seasonings and spices. 

In the second stage, you’re required to reintroduce the prohibited foods one at a time. As you reintroduce each one, take note of how they impact your energy level, mood, digestion, cravings, sleep and other factors. 

The Whole30 diet is not a weight loss diet per se. Rather, it serves as a reset. Its primary goal is to help you recognize food sensitivities. Also, this eating regimen is extremely strict. If you take even a bite or sip any of the forbidden items, you have to start the diet all over again.

The Atkins Diet
The low-carb, protein-rich diet was invented by one Robert Atkins back in the 1970s.  This eating plan involves restricting your carbohydrate intake to less than 5% of your combined caloric intake. For instance, if you take 2,000 calories every day, this translates to 100 calories, which is just 25 grams of carbohydrates. 
The Atkins diet permits its followers to eat a ton of protein and fat, drink adequate fluids, and incorporate vitamins and minerals. The idea is to keep you satiated for longer. 

While it definitely helps you lose weight, it restricts essential food groups. Participants aren’t allowed to have sugar; be it in soft drinks or fruit juices. They’re also restricted from eating legumes, refined grains and high-carb fruits like apples, pears and bananas.

The Keto Diet
Most people know the ketogenic diet for its weight-loss benefits. However, this eating plan was initially developed as a treatment for epilepsy. 
Invented in 1923, it involves following an extremely low-carb diet with reasonable amounts of protein and high amounts of fat. Carbohydrates should make up no more than 5% to 10% of your combined caloric intake. 
While effective, the keto diet is challenging to stick to due to its dietary restrictions. Unfortunately, ditching the plan can lead you to regaining all the lost weight.

Are There Any Risks?
Undoubtedly, some of these fad diets will help you shed several pounds of weight. The problem with weight lost in this manner is that it’s just as easily regained. 
If you’ve been reading about weight loss long enough, you’ve probably heard about yo-yo dieting. It’s a buzzword used to describe this repeated cycle of losing and regaining weight. The cycle is as follows: you choose a weight-loss diet - restrict your food intake - lose weight - feel extremely hungry - overeat - regain all the lost weight. 

And this isn’t the only health risk associated with a fad diet. Depending on the food groups you have to abstain from, you may end up with severe medical problems, such as:

Nutrient Deficiency
One of the biggest problems with fad diets is that they require cutting out essential nutrients that the body needs to function. This leaves you vulnerable to developing specific health issues.

Take the Atkins diet, for instance. It neglects fiber intake, increasing the risk of constipation and other digestive issues. Meanwhile, the high levels of saturated fats that it supports put you at risk of heart disease. 

The same goes for other fad diets like keto. This eating plan severely restricts carbohydrate intake, making you susceptible to a host of problems like:
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Leg cramps
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Reduced physical performance
Short-Term Benefits
Another disadvantage of a fad diet is that its benefits are short-lived. Most of these dietary plans have stringent requirements, making them difficult to keep up with. This, and the lack of emphasis on exercising, increases the probability of regaining weight as soon as you quit the plan.

A Healthy Way to Weight Loss
Instead of constantly experimenting with every dieting trend that comes up, try the good old-fashioned weight loss approach. This entails:
  • Eating minimally-processed foods
  • Adding fresh fruits and veggies should account for half of your meal portion
  • Take moderate portion sizes; don’t under/overeat
  • Get enough sleep (at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Work out regularly
  • Keep your stress levels in check

With the end of the year fast approaching, many are likely to fall for fad diets as a last-ditch effort to lose excessive weight. These eating plans claim to help you lose weight fast with minimal effort. 

Although they’ll help you shed those extra pounds, the benefits are usually short-lived. Furthermore, some fad diets restrict the intake of whole food groups. This puts you at risk of nutritional imbalances, which can lead to severe health problems. 

To avoid this, do some research before choosing any weight-loss diet. Or better yet, work with a registered dietician or other health professional. This way, you can develop a diet plan tailored just for you.

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