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How to Spot a Fad Diet

There’s no short supply of dieting tips available on the internet and social media, but it can be difficult to discern what’s backed up by science and what’s just another fad. Fad diets are extremely popular in today’s culture, emphasizing the “next big thing” when it comes to losing weight and doing it quickly. However, fad diets often only offer short-term benefits and can lead to unhealthy nutritional habits and fears. Learning to spot the indications of a fad diet is an important step towards better nutrition and lasting weight loss.

Here are a few tips you can use to spot fad diets in the future:

1) Promises fast weight loss
Weight loss is often a lengthy process that requires time and commitment. Diets that advertise losing “20 pounds in one month” are most likely resorting to unhealthy nutritional techniques to lose weight so quickly which often doesn’t promote lasting weight loss or a healthy body. And even if you lose weight with the diet, people often gain back the weight and more when they finish the diet.

2) Requires no effort or exercise to lose weight
Weight loss requires both nutritional adjustment and exercise. Diets that boast no physical activity is needed to lose weight are most likely going to offer unhealthy nutritional advice.

3) Requires a purchase of something
Fad dieting is now a multibillion-dollar industry. Many of them have their own line of food products, diet pills, bars, or special powders and are more concerned with the money you can bring rather than your health. This leads many people to fall victim to bogus diet products disguised with heavy marketing.

4) Tells you there are specific foods you can’t eat or cuts out entire food groups
This is perhaps one of the most crucial distinctions between a fad diet and a nutritional, effective one. Fad diets will often tell you to cut out a specific group of food, like meat or carbs. Sometimes they can even eliminate specific foods. However, each food group provides the body with different nutritional benefits that are sometimes difficult to receive from another group. You can’t get the vital nutrients, antioxidants, or fiber from a piece of meat that you get from fruit. Oftentimes people assume diets must be very restrictive in terms of the food you’re allowed to eat, however, this can foster an unhealthy and fearful relationship between you and foods that are actually very good for you.

5) Offers testimonial evidence instead of scientific
We’ve all heard the phrase “seeing is believing,” but what if our eyes betray us? Fad diets will often offer testimonial evidence of the diet’s success in place of facts and studies. Testimonial evidence, like before and after pictures, is extremely persuasive, but it can often hide the actual results of a diet. Some people will try a diet for a few weeks, lose weight, finish the diet, and then gain back the weight they lost and more. An “after” picture the day after you finish a fad diet could look very different than an “after” picture taken a month after you finish the diet. Testimonial evidence is extremely easy to manipulate in your favor, which is why it can be unreliable and misleading.

Why should we be on the lookout for fad diets?

Fad diets are not only dishonest and largely ineffective, they can be detrimental to your health. Fad diets can affect your relationship with food, encouraging fear of foods and distorted view of what healthy eating really looks like. . This mindset can lead to eating disorders or other unhealthy behaviors. Fad dieting can also affect your nutrition and health status.

“I once consulted with a woman on a very restrictive diet who started having symptoms of low blood sugar. She thought she was having panic attacks,” said Gale Pearson a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator with TPMG Nutrition Services. We can often misinterpret our body’s response to nutritional changes, which can be dangerous.

Fad diets often lead to temporary weight loss, rather than lasting change. People have little difficulty losing weight on fad diets; however, they tend to gain it back as soon as they stop. Lasting weight loss requires permanent behavioral and diet changes. No one wants to spend the rest of their life eating only leafy greens or keto coffee. Food is meant to be enjoyed and you should be able to while maintaining a healthy diet and exercise.

What does healthy weight loss look like?

Healthy weight loss is possible with a diverse diet, correct portion sizes, and exercise. Fad diets will advertise removing one food type from your plate rather than scaling back the portions of all the items on your plate. Improving your portions, meal-to-meal is an excellent way to eat healthier while enjoying all the foods you love.

Additionally, with any healthy weight loss plan, dieting is not the only answer. Routine exercise is good for your body and your weight loss goals. Exercise looks different from person to person. For some, it might mean heading to the gym. For others, it might mean a walk around a local park or a bike ride through the neighborhood. It doesn’t matter where or how you get your daily physical activity, just make sure you are matching your work dieting with your exercise plan. Too much of one can lead to frustration and the inability to lose weight.

Losing weight is never easy and, although fad diets can seem like a faster, effortless option, they can lead you towards unhealthy nutrition. If you’re interested in learning more about lasting weight loss and proper nutrition, talk to a TPMG dietitian today.

Gale Pearson, MS, RD, CDE

About Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES

Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 25 years of experience working with patients on dietary and nutrition wellness planning. Gale received her undergraduate degree from Hampton University and her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Howard University.

With extensive experience in nutrition counseling, Gale works with her patients to develop strategies to improve their eating habits and lifestyles, in turn helping them to manage their weight and medical conditions. She credits witnessing her patients’ symptoms and overall health improvement as a result of the lifestyle changes as one of the most gratifying and rewarding aspects of her career.

At TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News and Williamsburg, Gale provides one-on-one consultations, nutrition and weight management counseling, and diabetes education.

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