Fad Diets – What they are & how to spot them

“Drop 4 sizes in 30 days!” “Lose 3 pounds every week without dieting or exercise!” These are the claims of a fad diet. The American Academy of Family Physicians defines a fad diet as “a stylish weight loss plan that promises dramatic results.”


Almost all fad diets require that you go to extremes to follow them. They require that you restrict your calories, your food choices, and may require that you follow a very specific workout routine. Fad diets promise quick results that aren’t realistic, healthy for you, or sustainable in the long-term. Spotting a fad diet used to be pretty easy – there were blatant, too-good-to-be-true  statements about extreme weight loss. Today, it’s not so easy because the language has changed to sound less restrictive or to make you believe it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. Lifestyle changes can be great for weight loss and improving your overall health, but a fad diet disguised as a lifestyle change is unlikely to be of much use in the long term, and may even harm your progress toward a healthier lifestyle..

Let’s look at some ways to spot a fad diet.

  • Entire food groups are turned into the enemy. If it tells you to reduce a specific macronutrient (fat, carbohydrate, protein) or eliminate an entire food group, then it’s a fad diet. Despite what the fad diet wants you to think, all macronutrients and food groups play a role in your body.
  • It seems too good to be true. If you’re initial reaction to the diet’s claims are “really?!?” then it’s a fad diet. Be suspicious of any diet that claims it will magically solve your struggles. Basically, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • It attempts to trick your body. Trying to trick your body into believing it’s full or not hungry, isn’t going to help you. Getting appropriate nutrition is essential to your body and it’s actually quite difficult to trick your body into thinking it has what it needs to survive. Your body is smart!
  • It’s approach is one-size-fits-all. If there isn’t any room in the diet for you to be you, then it’s a fad diet. If it doesn’t allow for cultural practices or socioeconomic status, then it’s too rigid and it’s a fad diet. If it takes you away from social situations, then it doesn’t allow for your lifestyle and it’s a fad diet. If it doesn’t allow for adjustments that fit your life and are important to you, then it’s a fad diet and you should walk away.

The season is almost here when we’ll be inundated with more diets than usual (hello, New Year’s resolution season). Instead of going for the next fad diet, learn to work with your body. I know that fad diets are quite compelling but diets don’t work. Let’s ditch the diets and start building a healthy, happy, friendly relationship with food.


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