Feature: Fad Diets
Written by Kanika Kohli | Reviewed by Adiana Castro, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
Fad diets are weight reduction diets that either eliminate one or more of the essential food groups, or recommend consumption of one type of food in excess at the expense of other foods. Fad diets rarely follow sound nutritional principles for weight loss.
There are a number of fad diets that have been popular, for example: low carbohydrate diet, high protein diet, high fat diet (Swedish diet), lemon water diet etc. Fad diets claim to reduce weight in a short span - they might work for some people in the short term but they often fail to sustain continued weight loss. Almost everyone has either been on a fad diet or has known someone who has been on a fad diet.
Fad diets fail for variety of reasons and some of them are as follows:
- Not sustainable: Eliminating an essential food group from diet or cutting calories to the extent of starvation to lose weight cannot be sustained long term because cravings for food that are being eliminated takes over.
- Unhealthy: Fad diets may seem to offer a quick fix to your weight problems but remember quick fixes rarely work. Starving yourself or eliminating essential food group from diet can harm your health and your body. When you go on a fad diet and exclude necessary nutrients, you're putting yourself at risk for becoming ill. Getting too little of any nutrient may not cause an immediate problem but if it's lacking for a long time, it may pose a health risk. In addition to that, not consuming enough calories can affect your metabolism adversely by decreasing metabolic rate thus making it difficult to lose weight.
- Muscle loss: Fad diets deprive the body of calories and essential nutrients – when the body is deprived it starts breaking down muscle to compensate for inadequacy of the diet. Loss of muscle further reduces the metabolic rate and can make weight loss more difficult. Remember that muscle mass is metabolically active and when you go on fad diets you are at risk of losing muscle.
- Lack of energy: Not getting adequate calories and nutrients that the body needs to function properly can cause fatigue, foul mood and feeling depressed which can lead to craving unhealthful foods.
For those of you wanting to achieve sustainable weight loss, the best way is to follow a healthy lifestyle that includes consuming a well balanced diet and incorporating exercise in daily life. Doing so will not cause lack of energy and unwanted health consequences associated with fad diets.
Some ways you can achieve this is by making sure your diet includes lean protein, healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and "good" fats like omega-3 fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from avocados, nuts and vegetables oils. Consuming a well balanced diet and incorporating exercise will make you lose weight in a healthy manner. People often have a misconception that when they lose weight, they are losing fat but in reality weight loss can be due to loss of fluids, muscle mass and fat. Weight loss from fad diet is mostly attributed to loss of essential fluids and muscle mass and some fat. However, when you follow a healthy lifestyle you lose less muscle mass because, first - the weight loss is not that drastic and, second – a balanced diet has a perfect balance of essential nutrients which can attenuate the loss of muscle that accompanies weight loss.
This year you could make a resolution to make a lifestyle change and see how following a healthy lifestyle can make you feel and look good!