Your friend has lost some weight, and looks and feels great. So you ask: What are you doing?
She may sing the praises of her new diet. But before you adopt that diet plan for yourself, call up your own common sense - and consider these recommendations to help you spot (and avoid) a harmful fad diet.
Five ways to spot a fad diet, by MyLifeStages.org Medical Director Toni Brayer, MD, an internal medicine specialist in San Francisco.
1. Does the diet ask you to eat only one type of food?
Remember the “grapefruit diet” or the “Hollywood soup diet”? They are examples of poor nutrition leading to unhealthy, minimal weight loss. It is true that to lose weight you do have to have a plan and do something differently. But diets that restrict you to eating only one type of food or that tell you to eat certain foods at certain times of day are just fads.
Avoiding carbohydrates, protein or fats altogether is never a sound recommendation. You body needs a proper balance of these types of food and a diet should provide them. (Download our diet comparison guide as a helpful reality check.)
What about sugar? Yes, that is one to avoid if you are trying to lose weight and maintain healthy weight. If this is your Achilles heel, check out this healthy sugar detox diet, created by clinical nutritionist Sharon Meyer of Sutter Health’s Institute for Health and HealingOpens new window.
2. Does the diet require you to purchase special products?
This type of diet may be unhealthy for your body and your wallet. Consider the motivations behind a diet that can’t be followed by simply going to the grocery store or the farmer’s market. Diet aids that get you started toward a lifestyle change can be fine. There are free apps that can be downloaded to your smart-phone that help you track activity and calorie counts. Pedometers that track stairs and steps can also be motivating. But beware of the “#1 miracle in a bottle.” It is a fad.
3. Will the diet be hard to sustain over time?
There is nothing wrong with a low-calorie jump-start or a 3-day juice cleanse to get you going. I believe it can be effective to break the unhealthy eating cycle and get you started on a healthier eating pattern. But any plan should teach you proper portion size and good nutrition that includes all of the food groups. Long-term weight management strategies are the key. A “fad” diet may help you lose weight initially, but there are some dangers in doing that, as the body may overcompensate once you stop the diet, gaining back your weight – and potentially more. Taking in fewer calories than you metabolize is what causes weight loss. Slow and steady wins the game. (See how to calculate healthy caloric intake.)
4. Does the diet have evidence of results that are not based on true science or on peer-reviewed studies?
Any company can commission a study to support their own agenda. On the internet, anyone can make claims using fancy pseudo-medical terms that have no science behind them. Terms like, “Sparks thermogenic fat” are just plain hokey. If you see ads that say “New Scientific Results” or “Breakthrough”, you should turn the page or click off the site. When it comes to obesity, there are lots of promises but no real breakthrough products or drugs. Before trusting your body to a new regime, do some research and see what multiple sources have say about the particular diet in question.
5. Does it sound too good to be true?
“Drink one magic shake a day”. “Melts fat”. “Burns fat”. ”One simple trick”. You know the answer: If it sounds too good to be true – well… it isn’t. True, that is.
There are a number of ways to actually lose lbs and keep them off. They require nutritional knowledge, learning how to shop at grocery stores, meal planning, retraining your body and being “in-touch” with your body. Fad diets won’t give you these tools so just avoid them to get the results you want and deserve!
To learn more about the pros and cons of different popular diets, download our diet comparison chart. Simply sign in, and download.
Weight management – library of articles, videos and expert tips to help you succeed
Diet and Nutrition – expert Q&A, meal plans and more