Warning Signs of a Fad Diet

Oh fad diets… The bane of every dietitian‘s existence. These diets are usually the ones making ridiculous and unrealistic claims. Yet many people are still drawn to them, which is what they are designed to do. One of the main reasons I started blogging as a nutrition student was to dispel false diet advice. And what better way to do so than by discussing the warning signs of a fad diet? If you’re one of the many people looking for ways to lose weight, you’ve probably come across many of these diets. So what are the specific signs you should look for that indicate a diet is a fad?

Rapid Weight Loss

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Believe it or not, a healthy rate of weight loss in only about 1-2 pounds per week. Anything more than that, and we are more likely losing muscle rather than fat, which is not good for weight loss. Any diet modality that is promising significant weight loss in a short amount of time is bad news.

Less Than 1,200 Calories Per Day

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Our calorie needs depend on many things, including our age, sex, height, weight, and activity level. But with few exceptions, all adults need at least 1,200 calories per day to get the energy they need. So if you see a diet that is recommending less than that amount, it’s definitely not a healthy way to go.

“Detox” Diets

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Detox diets are pretty popular these days. But in reality, we don’t need a diet to “detox.” Our body’s organs such as the kidney, liver, and GI tract have systems in place that maintain homeostasis, no matter what our diet looks like. People who have certain organ failure or injury may need to work with their doctor and dietitian to make dietary modifications, since their homeostasis maintenance systems may be out of whack. However, if you do not fall under this category, a detox diet is likely not going to benefit you. In fact, these diets often involve many unnecessary restrictions, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the long run.

Lots of Restrictions

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There are tons of diets out there that draw people in with a lot of strict rules. But these diets are almost never successful. Starting a diet with a bunch or rules and restrictions is essentially setting yourself up for failure. This is especially true when a diet cuts out entire food groups. In general, when you see a diet that is extremely restrictive in what and how much you can eat, don’t try it. These diets are another way to become deficient in essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly.

There’s No Long-Term Plan

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Most diets out there are designed to only impact the short-term. This alone is a sign that it’s a fad. When trying to lose weight, it’s important to look for things that are sustainable in the long run. If you can’t see yourself following these guidelines for the rest of your life, or at least for several years down the line, then success is very unlikely. Even if you lose weight in the beginning, how will you keep the weight off if you are unable to adopt the diet as a lifestyle? If a diet has drastic rules and does not address the long-term, it is most definitely a fad.

Requires You to Purchase Specific Products

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If a diet modality requires you to purchase certain products in order to follow it, this is an immediate warning sign that the diet is BS. If a diet’s entire premise involves purchasing specific supplements, herbs, drinks, pills, etc, it is almost always some sort of scam and/or Ponzi scheme. And my advice for you is to run far away.

Physical Activity is Not Encouraged

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Any legitimately healthy lifestyle involves both a healthy diet and physical activity. While a diet does not necessarily need to address fitness, it absolutely should not discourage it. Diets that claim exercise is not necessary for those following their regimen do not have your best interest at heart, and that alone is reason enough to stay away.

Take Away

A good rule of thumb is that if a diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It may seem scary to set goals based on more moderate guidelines, but those are the goals that you will meet. If you are looking to lose weight and keep it off long-term, it’s important to steer clear of diets with any of these warning signs. Good luck!

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