The Truth about Fad Dieting


Do fad diets really work?

“Lose weight in 10 days without trying!” “Eliminate these five simple foods for a better shape in a week!” “Make dieting easy by trying our new supplement!”

We are surrounded by headlines such as these every day. Magazines at the grocery store, ads on television and even comments from friends repeat such phrases. The words and instructions might be different, but the message remains the same; you need to lose weight quickly.

However, do such diets as advertised really work? No, not for the most part. There are certainly exceptions, but fad diets tend to be backed by poor scientific research and have no lasting results. In fact, these programs designed to make us healthy often backfire and cause discomfort, further medical issues or eating disorders.

Most fad diets start by taking a fact about food and making that the sole truth about that food. For example, avocados and bacon contain fat. Therefore, you will become fat if you eat those foods. Although there is some truth in that claim, the diet overemphasizes the negative aspect of what might be part of a healthy meal. Nutritionist Judy Penta stated, “Many of these diets promote elimination of one or multiple food groups for a set number of days or in very specific combinations with some sort of gimmick.” In doing so, many important nutrients can be missed.

This restriction of the food can lead to loss of nutrients and negative health. Doctor and researcher Hala Madanat reviewed over 350 studies on dieting and concluded that they “often [are associated] with unhealthy changes in body composition, hormonal changes, reduced bone density, menstrual disturbances and lower resting energy expenditure.” These fads also lead to distressed emotional health. “The only thing I’ve ever seen yoyo dieting do is lead to weight gain and self-doubt,” claimed R.D. Mary Hartley.

Many diets do not even successfully bring about weight loss which is usually their purpose. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found in a 2007 long-term study dieters lost five to 10 percent of their weight for six months. However, at least 35 percent if not over 65 percent of the dieters gained back more than was lost in the following four years. The Pennington Biomedical Research Center also found that most fad diets bring quick weight regain afterward along with nutrient deficiencies.

Thus, few people are able to gain rewards in the future from dieting. Instead, most of us end up grumpy, tired and weak from lack of nutrition. What can you do to stay healthy and lose weight if needed?

There are a few simple ways to start. First of all, tune into your body’s cues. Really listening to what our bodies need can be difficult. However, understanding true hunger and fullness is essential to monitoring the amount of food that you need. Think about it this way; animals and children alike have been eating for years the right amounts for themselves without guidance from any diet or rules. They just search for and consume food when they are hungry and stop when they are full. According to the book “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole, people can relearn to nurture our bodies instead of eating for emotional reasons.

Secondly, remember that food is fuel. That might sound simplistic, but it is the truth. As children grow older, they subconsciously begin to associate eating with feelings. Ice cream can only be eaten to reward ourselves. Hiding in a closet with a bag of chips helps to forget about a difficult day at work. Skipping meals gives us a euphoric high to get through the rest of the day. All of these views of food are learned. Instead of connecting eating with emotional states or memories, you will have the best nutrition if you see food as simply a way to fuel our bodies.

Finally, get help from a dietitian or nutritionist if you continue to struggle. Relearning how to eat is no simple task. There is nothing wrong with seeking medical support. Just be wary of people who will lead you astray with fad diets based on unsupported research.

Closing our eyes to block out the screaming headlines regarding dieting can be difficult. Hopefully, as we become fit in healthier ways, we can eliminate these messages for the generation after us.


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