In simple words, fad diets are weight loss or diet plans that promise significant weight loss in a very short period of time. That is, they overpromise to achieve dramatic weight loss.
Do Fad Diets Work?
To put it in one word: NO. Fad diets might result in short-term results but they are ineffective in the long run and some fad diets are even dangerous to your health. Remember this: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is not true.
Here is what happens with most fad diets. They promise to help you lose fat but what really happens is that you only lose water weight. So, instantly you think that you are achieving weight loss but it is only temporary. You regain that water weight very fast. Hence, the whole effort becomes pointless.
A 2007 study by researchers from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) found out that 1/3rd to 2/3rd of people indulging in fad diets regain more weight than they lost within four to five years. This number is considered to be a conservative conclusion and the actual percentage is expected to be even higher. The research studied 31 long-term studies on different diets that ranged between two to five years to arrive at the conclusion.
Another important aspect to consider is that fad diets, most times, focus on restricting your diet to a certain food or food groups. This is not in tune with how our bodies are conditioned. Such monotonous diets are unappealing and boring. This makes it very difficult to stick to such diets.
Why Don’t Fad Diets Work?
Remy Melina’s article on Live Science intelligently and clearly explains why fad diets are doomed to fail. It takes three main types of fad diets and explains why they don’t work:
Food Combination Diets
These diets focus on eating food in a particular order. For example, it prohibits eating carbohydrates and proteins together at the same meal. Such diets require at least a gap of four hours between meals to ensure that the different nutrient meals are not mixed. Also, these diets restrict eating the different kinds of proteins in the same meal. It prohibits eating proteins and sugar (fruits) together. So on and so forth…
Sports nutritionist and dietician, Nancy Clark argues that such diets are very difficult to maintain. The rules and regulations are too many, and it demands extreme discipline to stick to the diet. Most people, even though enthusiastic in the beginning, will not be able to stick to such a diet. She suggests people not to get into a diet or meal program that they are not willing to commit to for the rest of their life. If you commit only for a short period of time and then give up, it doesn’t serve the purpose of weight loss at all.
Diets Overemphasizing On a Single Food
Such diets revolve around eating only one food. A potato only diet, a banana only diet, cabbage soup diet, etc are some examples. These diets by focusing on only one food restrict all other foods. This results in nutritional deficiency. Our bodies need a variety of nutrients and cannot make-do with only a few. Also, such diets result in diet fatigue. That is, people cannot stick to such diet for more than a few weeks. So irrespective of what food you are eating and what nutrients you are getting, this diet is bound to fail.
Diets Focusing On Only Certain Food Group
These diets completely restrict certain food groups. Some examples are no carbohydrate diet, no fruit diet, or no fat diet. The ideology behind these diets is flawed as they are based on oversimplifying the fact that fats lead to overweight. Our bodies need all kinds of foods, including fats. For example, a certain amount of fat is required for the proper functioning of our brain and nervous system. No food is bad or injurious to our health as long as intake matches the amount required. It is the overconsumption or abuse of certain food groups that actually is the problem.
They Don’t Work, Then Why Are They Popular?
If you think that fad diets are popular because they work, then you are simply wrong. They are popular because people are willing to try anything new that promises to achieve quick results. People don’t want to put in the time and effort to lose weight the hard way. Fad diet companies know this and they design their marketing and advertising strategies around this. People simply fall into this trap.
In their defense, most fad diets do work initially. People on fad diet consume only certain combination of foods or eliminate certain foods completely from their diet. This results in lower calorie intake. As already mentioned the weigh lost during such diets is mainly from loss of lean muscle and water, and not actual fat. When people see immediate results they get carried away with it, but don’t understand or realize the fact that they gain all that lost weight back within a short time.
This is why fad diets are so popular and you hear about them all the time.
Potential Side Effects of Fad Diets
Now you know that fad diets don’t work in the long run, let’s look at the potential problems of indulging in fad diets:
Poor Weight Control In The Long Run
Fad diets are just a quick fix and are no way beneficial in the long run. In the long run, you only end up gaining more weight. Add to this the fact that you put your body through the wear and tear of losing weight in a short time and regaining it back. It absolutely does not serve its purpose of weight loss.
Reduced Physical Fitness and Athleticism
Your body, on a fad diet, does not get all the nutrients it requires, especially carbohydrates. This results in fatigue and reduced energy supply. Our bodies need carbohydrates to convert it into energy. When there are no active carbohydrates available, our body turns to stored carbohydrates tied to body fluids. So, when it pulls stored carbohydrates, it also pulls fluids and electrolytes causing loss of fluids and electrolytes. All this collectively have a negative effect on your body resulting in low blood pressure, poor physical fitness and athleticism.
Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases
Restricting important foods such as dairy products, fruits, whole grains, and fruits strips the body of important nutrients that are known to fight or prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart diseases. On the other hand, food high on a single nutrient can also have an adversely affect. For example, too much protein results in calcium deficiency and in turn causes osteoporosis.
Gout and Kidney Stones
Foods rich in protein but lacking carbohydrates result in the formation of calcium oxalate and uric acid, which further results in the formation of gout and kidney stone formation.
So, What to Do to Lose Weight?
The first step in losing weight is to consult a doctor or a professional dietician and have them develop an effective and safe weight loss plan. Also, remember that losing weight and staying healthy is not just about diet and workout, but it’s a lifestyle.