5 Rules for Avoiding Fad Diets
There is nothing that drives Dietitians crazier than fad diets! The consequences may be very poor in that you will not see results, or you will lose weight and gain it right back. Fad diets do very little good. They discourage would-be healthy lifestyle converts. Most of the time a person who starts a fad diet has the motivation to make a real change in his or her life; however, their motivation and enthusiasm is funneled into a failing plan. There are so many different fad diets out there, it’s impossible to even list them all. Let’s make a few basics rules though, and if your fad diet falls into one of these categories, consider twice before jumping on that bandwagon.
1) Diets that consist of one food.
Any diet that says “just eat ____ for ___ amount of time and lose weight!” is a farce. It is impossible to stay healthy by just eating one food. You might lose weight, but what are you sacrificing to do so? There is no way that one food can provide all of the nutrition that you need, and you will be so malnourished when you are done that you will put yourself at risk. And most people haven’t learned any lessons on actual weight loss techniques, so they go back to their previous diet and gain the weight back.
2) Any diet that consists of less than 1200 calories.
I recently read an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that actually supported the use of “very low calorie diets”, or less than 800 calories. Their reasoning behind this? It works. YES it works in that it makes you lose weight. What if you contracted an infection during this diet though? Your risk of death would be greater. Maybe we shouldn’t base our lives on what will drop the pounds the fastest, but rather on what will keep us the healthiest. You didn’t gain that weight overnight; don’t try to lose it overnight!
Also, many of these less than 800 calorie diets are recommended ONLY under the supervision of a physician who ensures you are getting all your nutrients (probably via supplements). BLEGH. Who would want to take pills all day and drink shakes? That’s usually what it entails.
3) Any diet that consists of only juice.
There’s this juice diet and that juice diet. Let’s be clear: if you are only drinking juice, you’re likely going to pass out. This is probably similar to a combination of #1 and #2 because you are only consuming one food (juice!) despite that it is made from lots of different foods, and unless you are drinking a TON of juice, you probably aren’t getting enough calories. Not to mention that when you juice a fruit or vegetable, much of the benefit comes right out the back end of the machine — it’s in the pulp.
4) Any diet that says you can eat what you want, but just take X medication, or sprinkle X on your food.
I recently had an encounter with a person trying so hard to lose weight, and he was using a certain powder you are supposed to sprinkle on your food to do so without making any other changes. It really breaks my heart when people are motivated to lose weight, but don’t know how to do it, and end up paying good money for products that make insane claims, like “Eat whatever you want and just take this drug or use this product!” That is just throwing good money after bad! I know plenty of Registered Dietitians that would gladly help you for a fee, and end up doing something that actually works!
5) Any diet that entirely cuts out one macronutrient.
There are three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate, and fat. If your diet is limiting one of these to the point of nearly nothing, you have a problem. These are called macroNUTRIENTS for a reason. Each has their own metabolic and biochemical purpose in your body. Without one, you are not able to function properly. Most of the time, I see people overeat the other two macronutrients because there’s such a wide gaping hole in their diet.
Diets like FODMAPs or SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) are useful, however, but they don’t cut out ALL carbohydrates, just a certain type. Also, very low carbohydrate diets are useful and backed up by science for those with diabetes, especially heavily insulin resistant diabetics or those with poorly controlled blood sugar; however, this should not be something you take on by yourself – make sure you are seeing a licensed practitioner who can guide you with your choices.