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The Red Flags of Fad Diets

January 27, 2020 | Nickie Kaetzel RDN, LD

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Losing weight, dieting, eating healthier, exercising more, and healthier lifestyles are almost always on the top of the list for New Year’s resolutions. We are a few weeks into the New Year and for some that means you may still be going strong with your resolutions. For others, maybe not so much.

If your resolution involves managing your weight or dieting, you may be enticed by the idea of a “quick fix” that comes with many fad diets. While fad diets may provide the results you are looking for, they are often short term and leave you disappointed in the long run as the results are not sustainable.

Oftentimes fad diets make pretty convincing claims that are sometimes confusing and promise “too good to be true” results. If you are considering a fad diet for weight loss efforts here are some red flags to keep in mind when deciding if a diet is right for you:

  • Promises rapid weight loss. Promises such as “lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks!” are common and tempting, because who wouldn’t want to lose that last 20 pounds sooner than later? The problem is, in most cases when losing weight this quickly, you are actually losing water weight, muscle, and/or bone, not actual fat mass. It is also more likely that you will regain this weight and a few extra pounds.
  • Restricts or eliminates entire food groups. Many fad diets have strict regimens, menus, list of foods to avoid, or only allow consumption of fluids. When diets eliminate entire food groups, especially for longer periods of time, it cuts out foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy that provide important nutrients the body needs for daily functioning. If strict regimens are followed too long, the risk for nutrient deficiencies increase.
  • Recommends pills, supplements, herbs, or extracts….to melt the fat away! “Just take two capsules a day and watch the fat melt away!” Diet plans and claims such as this often utilize pills or supplements and state you do not even have to make changes to the way you eat or exercise. The problem is many of these pills, supplements, herbs, and extracts have not been scientifically proven to be effective for weight loss. Of more concern, sometimes these weight loss aids may contain ingredients that can interact with prescription medications and cause negative consequences or harm.
  • No exercise required! Regular exercise is essential for overall good health and the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Exercise helps us to lose and manage our weight by increasing our metabolism which can help us burn more calories. The trick is to find the activities you enjoy whether it be dancing, running, cycling, walking, or swimming. If you are concerned about exercising safely, always check in with your doctor!
  • It sounds too good to be true. If you are questioning the claim or it sounds too good to be true, it is likely too good to be true and will only provide short term results.

So, if a fad diet may not be the best route...what do you do? Try to remember weight loss can be very individualized. What works for one person does might not work for everyone. Try to work towards lifestyle changes that incorporates lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, heart healthy fats, exercise, and behavior change. In order to have longer lasting results you need to change your bad habits, swapping them out for healthier habits leading to lifelong changes. You may even consider seeing a Registered Dietitian to assist in helping you find the best weight management plan for your individual needs!

Nickie Kaetzel, RDN, LD is a clinical dietitian at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. For help in reaching your health and wellness goals, contact your primary care physician for a referral for outpatient nutrition counseling. For more information visit www.eatright.org