Before starting a new eating plan, consider these important things to know about fad diets. Fad diets, such as the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet, are often highly popularized, making them seem safe and legitimate. Yet, these diets can make it harder to lose weight in the future, and cause long term health problems.
Not all fad diets are easy to spot. Late night infomercials, and bright, flashy ads are usually dead giveaways, but sometimes fad diets appear more like sensible weight loss plans. Signs that an eating program might actually be a fad diet include promises of rapid weight loss, suggesting that eating certain food combinations without reducing your overall caloric intake will cause you to lose weight, or advising that you can lose weight by purchasing products such as shakes, cookies, or pills. Another warning sign is if advertisements include words or phrases such as, “impact,” “fat burner,” “effective,” “boost metabolism,” or present foods or food groups as universally “good” or “bad.” If you’re considering starting a diet, but aren’t sure whether or not it’s a fad diet, or if it meets your individual nutritional needs, consider consulting with a registered dietician.
Fad diets often appear healthy, because they hide behind exaggerated or misleading scientific research. Creators of these diets often cite actual scientific studies, but use the information to make claims that aren’t substantiated by the evidence. For example, they might claim that a diet consisting mostly of blueberries is healthy, and point to scientific research demonstrating the various health benefits associated with blueberry consumption. Yet, the research doesn’t indicate that eating only blueberries is healthy; instead, it suggests that people should make blueberries part of a balanced diet.
Healthy weight loss is a gradual process, and you can safely lose only one to two pounds a week. Fad diets that promise faster weight loss may work in the short term, but you’ll likely regain all the weight, and have a more difficult time losing weight in the future. One reason is that when you drastically cut down your caloric intake, your body thinks that it’s starving, and it compensates by slowing down your metabolism. Rapid weight loss can also break down your muscle tissue, which can result in your metabolism slowing down even more. Additionally, repeated dieting can increase hormones that make you hungry, and decrease hormones that make you feel full, resulting in overeating and weight gain.
Repeatedly starting and stopping fad diets can cause dangerous future health problems. It’s believed that with every fad diet, people actually increase the percentage of fat present in their bodies. They also put stress on the body, which can lead to heart disease, liver problems, and a less effective immune system. Other, long-term side effects of fad diets include an increased risk of cancer and diabetes, and a tendency towards depression. Although the risks posed by obesity are often greater than the risks associated with fad dieting, the best solution is to avoid fad diets, and start a sensible eating plan created for you by a nutritionist or dietician.