Why Fad Diets Fail

Wednesday, January 29, 2020, in Nutrition, Advice by

Drop 5 kilos in 5 days! Lose 3 dress sizes in 2 weeks! The seduction of a weight loss quick fix is as strong as ever with a new fad diet popping up every few days promising the body you have always wanted with little effort involved. But wait, there’s a catch.

 

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet is a dietary approach or dietary aid that promises dramatic weight loss in a short amount of time– e.g. the lemon juice diet (made famous by Queen Bey) where you subsist on a liquid made up of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup (yep, gross). You may have also heard of some other popular fad diets, such as the raw food diet, the alkaline diet, the cotton ball diet, the lunar diet, the five bite diet and the cookie diet (not nearly as fun as it sounds).

Fad diets often do lead to short term weight loss but are extremely difficult to adhere to long-term and mostly lead to regaining the weight plus a bit more. Not only are fad diets unhealthy, often they can be dangerous to your health.

 

If fad diets don’t work, why are they so popular?

Fad diets seem quick and effortless and their shiny packaging and celebrity endorsements make people who are uncomfortable about their weight easy targets. Let’s be honest, the idea of a quick fix weight loss is much more appealing than a long-term change in diet and lifestyle. Fad diets are also popular because they work (for the few days/weeks you can stick to them), however any diet that encourages fast weight loss has little effect on body fat. Why?

Most fad diets have the same principle – a very low kilojoule intake ie. eating fewer kilojoules than you are burning leads to weight loss. However when you follow a low kilojoule diet the body begins to break down muscle tissue to meet it’s required energy needs. Remember, muscle is more easily broken down than fat. This breakdown of muscle tissue leads to a loss of water and a reduced metabolic rate, thus when the diet is stopped the body gains weight (and body fat) more easily than prior to starting the diet… sigh!

 

 

How to spot a fad diet

The next time you watch an infomercial or spot an advertisement promoting a new supplement with miraculous weight loss results, cast a wary eyebrow! Words like ‘fat melting’, ‘fat blasting’, ‘metabolism boosting’, often sound too good to be true. Other things to lookout for:

  • It promises rapid weight loss. A healthy sustained weight loss approach usually suggests a weight loss goal of 0.5-1kg maximum per week – so anything more than that falls into fad diet zone.

  • It suggests you can still eat all the food you want, not exercise and still lose weight with the aid of some creepy looking liquid or sinister pill.

  • It uses lots of impressive before and after weight loss shots. Because you just can’t fake those types of photos, can you?

  • It’s super restrictive. These diets are generally impossible to adhere to for more than a few weeks. Think baby food diet, cabbage soup diet and the grapefruit diet.

Kathleen is a trusted health expert in the field of nutrition and fitness. She is an exercise physiologist and nutritionist, author and founder of The Right Balance. Follow Kathleen on Instagram and Twitter, or get in touch: [email protected]

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