What are fad diets, what are the dangers, and are all of them bad for you? Since the start of a new year comes with weight loss goals and many people around the world considering trying a fad diet, it’s worth a discussion.
For decades, the media and various other organizations have promoted dieting strategies intended to help people “rapidly” lose weight, which is the first red flag. These diet trends capture our attention because they suggest we can get the perfect body or figure we want, without having to go through months of hard work, consistent exercise and lots of patience.
In simple terms, fad diets appeal to our desire for a “quick fix” to shed excess pounds.
The truth is that healthy and sustainable weight loss requires a lot of patience, and it also requires understanding your own body composition. Are you aware of your genetic body composition?
It’s easy for people to get misled. In today’s world of 24/7 social media output, many fad diets are unfortunately championed by celebrities and social media influencers alike. This ensures that interest in fad diets spread rapidly. However, fad diets often aren’t as wonderful as they appear. Most are encouraged without significant research to back up their claims. Many fad diets can also be extremely dangerous, as they often advocate disordered eating behaviors and way too much restriction.
Defining Fad Diets: What Are Fad Diets?
Most fad diets can be identified by a few key factors:
· An emphasis on eliminating certain foods (avoiding or restricting specific foods or food groups.)
· Championing a specific ingredient (such as lemon juice, celery, or lean meat.)
· Expensive programs or products (such as pills or memberships.)
· Strict rules to follow around what, how and when to eat.
· Meal replacement beverages or concoctions (such as the lemon juice diet) or excessive calorie restriction.
· Promises or guarantees of weight loss - always accompanied by a very fine print.
The Dangers of Fad Diets
Some fad diets are dangerous, and we’ll give some examples of which ones are dangerous in the next section. Not all eating strategies identified as fads are necessarily dangerous, though. For example, many people think Weight Watchers is a fad diet, but it’s not restrictive in a way that makes it take a fad diet approach.
The right diet for each of us depends on our unique lifestyle, personal circumstances, genetics, and our individual nutritional requirements.
However, many fad diets have been deemed dangerous in the past due to a few common problems, such as:
· Deprivation: Calorie deficits are essential for weight loss to an extent, but many fad diets involve eliminating entire food groups, which can be problematic. Balanced diets are necessary to provide our bodies with the right collection of vitamins and minerals. Removing an entire food group from your routine can increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Plus, these diets are rarely sustainable, as it’s difficult to avoid a specific food forever.
· Nutrient deficiencies: Balanced diets provide us with a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, crucial to maintaining good health. Cutting out specific food groups can make it harder to access certain crucial ingredients. For instance, people following a strict vegan diet may have a harder time getting the right levels of vitamin B12. A low-carb diet may help you to lose weight initially, but avoiding all carbohydrates can be dangerous, as some are required to provide us with energy and fiber
· Disordered eating: Fad diets can lead to disordered eating behaviors, by demonizing specific food groups which are necessary to good health. Some studies suggest that restrictive diets can increase any person’s risk of developing an eating disorder. You may start to become fearful of eating certain food groups, which can lead to serious issues with food.
· Mental health issues: Just as fad diets are commonly associated with an increased risk of disordered eating, they can also be connected with other mental health issues. Low energy caused by a reduced calorie intake can lead to feelings of depression. Eating a food not permitted by your diet can cause feelings of guilt. You may even begin to feel higher levels of stress and anxiety caused by your food choices. This food guilt caused by ‘breaking’ your restrictive diet can cause mental health struggles over time.
Are All Fad Diets Bad?
Not all diets classified as ‘fad diets’ are necessarily dangerous or unhealthy diets to follow.
The Keto diet, for example, is a trendy fad diet that actually can work and can be healthy. If done correctly, you can get your body into ketosis and burn fat for fuel, as long as you stay below the recommended daily intake of carbohydrates each day. However, the Keto diet is still considered a controversial diet despite being effective and seemingly healthy, because of how restrictive it is. There’s no denying it’s not easy to consume less than 40 grams of carbs per day. This diet isn’t for everyone.
However, Keto could be the perfect fit for some people. This is especially true for certain people who are sensitive to carbs. Your DNA test from CircleDNA has personalized diet and nutrition reports based on your DNA that let you know if you have higher or lower needs of carbohydrates, and what the optimal diet type for you is.
Weight Watchers is another ‘fad diet’ that seems to be quite healthy and not too restrictive. Essentially, it helps people avoid consuming excess calories that could cause extreme weight gain, without being restrictive or complicated.
Weight Watchers does not really take a ‘fad diet’ approach because it’s not very rigid, while Keto does truthfully have a ‘fad diet’ approach due to its restrictiveness.
When it comes to harmful or dangerous fad diets, we think of the ‘lemon juice diet’ or the ‘cabbage soup diet’. What are fad diets’ obsession with replacing regular meals with concoctions of ‘diet juice’ or ‘diet soup’ instead of read food with nutritional value? Most people who try these diets do so for a short duration to look ‘good’ for an event or something along those lines, but they mostly lose water weight and of course they’ll immediately put the weight back on.
What are fad diets such as the ‘lemon juice diet’ and the ‘cabbage soup diet’ still being advertised on our social media apps and in magazines? This is an ongoing problem that we can only counteract with the right type of diet education.
These types of harmful fad diets encourage consuming special diet soups or beverages with very low nutritional value, thus impacting your mental clarity, mood, energy, and much more. The best advice is: Don’t fall for it.
How to Fight Back Against Fad Diets
While not all fad diet examples are necessarily dangerous, most promote unrealistic ideas about how weight can be managed, and lost.
Fad diets don’t tend to address how to keep the weight off, because it’s clear that you won’t keep the weight off if you try one of the ridiculous fad diets out there like the cabbage soup diet, and then go back to eating regular food. To prevent fad diets from causing serious problems to human health, efforts should be made on a global scale to encourage us all to have healthier relationships with food and our bodies. Already, body positivity movements are underway.
Many companies have begun to use models of different sizes in their promotions, to demonstrate that good health can come in all shapes and sizes. You can also rally against fad diets in your own way, with some of the following steps:
· Improve your self-esteem: Focus on developing a better relationship with your body and the food you eat. Concentrate on good health, rather than trying to achieve a specific number on the scale. Stop comparing yourself to other people, and love yourself for who you are.
· Look for sustainable changes: Rather than trying to lose weight rapidly by restricting your diet, think about how you can make sustainable changes for good health. Cut down on less helpful ingredients such as saturated fats and sugars while still eating a balanced diet.
· Take a holistic approach: Maintaining good health and a consistent body weight requires more than just a restrictive eating strategy. You can increase calorie deficits and lose weight faster by exercising regularly. Take a holistic approach to good health which combines regular movement, with consumption of the right nutrients.
· Mindful eating: Mindful eating is a much healthier approach than following a fad diet, because mindful eating involves being self-aware about overindulgence or binge eating habits. Being mindful of which foods are problematic for your weight loss goals can help you to lose weight faster. It’s also worth being mindful when considering different diet practices. Ask yourself whether you can reasonably commit to following a specific strategy long-term so you don’t regain the weight you lose.
· Get professional advice: Avoid following diet strategies promoted on social media, without first seeking guidance from your doctor. Different people have unique requirements when it comes to nutrition. Ensure you’re getting the right food you need into your routine.
Swap Fads for Facts
There are countless fad diets in the world today, and when being asked, What are fad diets? we do need to point out that some are more dangerous than others. The most problematic strategies are those which negatively alter your relationship with food, focus on excessive restriction, and damage your nutritional balance by promoting meal replacement concoctions that are not nutrient-dense in the slightest.
Ultimately, there’s no quick fix to weight loss. Doing it right requires a lot of patience. When you’re desperate, you can make some really unhealthy decisions.
Whether you’re trying to lose some weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to create your dieting strategy based on your own unique requirements. Getting to know your body composition a little better with a CircleDNA report is an excellent way to pinpoint the dietary strategies most likely to work for you.
Creating a balanced diet based on your own specific needs, rather than falling victim to some of the more dangerous fad diets out there, will help you eventually achieve your goals, without damaging your health.
- NCBI: Have Our Attempts to Curb Obesity Done More Harm Than Good?
- NCBI: Efficacy of commercial weight loss programs: an updated systematic review
- NCBI: A carbohydrate-restricted diet alters gut peptides and adiposity signals in men and women with metabolic syndrome
- Springer: Brief report: Nutrition and weight loss information in a popular diet book: Is it fact, fiction, or something in between?