Fad diets are a trend that continues to plague and confuse us while giving us hope for quick fixes and easy ways out. “I want to lose weight or improve my lab values quickly; I want to feel better NOW!” Being in a world where instant gratification continues to run rampant, we are always looking for the quick fix, which fad diets encourage. Whether you are trying out the Atkins Diet, Paleo, Keto, The Whole Thirty, the “Gluten and Dairy free diet (without clear food sensitivities or allergies),” something you learned from Forks over Knives or similar movies, weight loss shakes, or any other fad that is floating around the internet, there tends to be a common theme. While some of these do have some reputable research demonstrating success, many of the research related to these diets or dieting products is based on manipulated or half truths of research, have not been studied for long term results or side effects, and are difficult to maintain long term due to their extreme nature.
This being said, when your friend tells you they have tried a diet or a program and have seen great results, we may be interested in trying it ourselves, because “Hey look how great they are doing!” The problem with many of these restrictive options is that we are depriving our body of a wide range of nutrients for one reason or another to achieve a quick result. How often have you spoken with one of these friends 6 months or a year later and they are still following the same plan? My bet would be very few of them; and that they have gained back most of the weight they lost if not more. The following 5 REASONS are explanations as to why fad diets likely haven’t worked for you or haven’t been maintained by your friends who they have worked for:
1. By depriving our body of nutrients we need through restrictive fad diets, we are increasing our risk of nutrient deficiencies if we don’t utilize supplementation. Many of these diets lead us to decrease variety in our food which is our best chance of getting the nutrients we need which isn’t good for our gut health or meeting all of our body’s needs.
2. When we cut out cold turkey those less nutritious food items that we love, many times we will begin to feel deprived and eventually decide to rebel by eating the food again in excess and ending up worse than where we started.
3.Symptoms like fatigue, irritability, brain fog, etc. many times also occur when these diets are maintained long term as they are either not providing certain nutrients your body requires or possibly just not providing your body with enough calories to survive optimally.
4. With the constant trial and error of these fad diets we also usually end up putting our bodies through the phenomenon of yo-yo dieting. Research is beginning to demonstrate this is less healthy for your body and putting your health at greater risk than maintaining a slightly higher weight, but following an overall healthier lifestyle.
5. Everyone is different! Many of these fad diets provide a “one size fits all” mentality and answer to your diet and nutrition needs. This being said, I am not saying that some people will not gain benefit from these diets, but because everyone is different, one very restrictive specific diet will not work for everyone- not even from friend to friend.
So if these fad diets and products are not the way to go, how can I possibly lose weight or improve my health without always having to choose the salad and being miserable surrounding food the rest of my life? The concept is fairly simple although the initial application can sometimes be “easier said than done.” In many areas of life the quote, “everything in moderation” tends to come up. Well it applies with food and healthy lifestyle as well! By choosing well balanced meals and snacks in well timed intervals throughout the day, (approximately 3 meals and 3 snacks a day- will vary in number and portion sizes from person to person) we can create a healthy lifestyle that gives us everything we need and is maintainable. Keep in mind, this allows you to enjoy your favorite unhealthy foods in a moderate amount in combination with healthier options that you enjoy- no feeling like you always have to deprive yourself or take a product if you don’t deprive yourself. This applies to physical activity as well. You don’t have to go to the gym if you don’t like the gym, find a different physical activity you enjoy. Lastly, maintaining a positive mindset and support system is a crucial component. If we are so busy beating ourselves up over not reaching our goals or not being as healthy as we would like, this further triggers the problem rather than staying positive and accepting ourselves throughout the process. We are not just working for an end result or goal, but a lifestyle that will make us feel improved in both our mental and physical health.
This can many times be where working with a dietitian can come in to play. As a dietitian, I work with each and every one of my clients based on their goals and their current struggles to develop a plan, answer questions, and become a source of accountability and motivation that is individualized to them in order to gradually reach their results in a fashion minimizing lead to rebound, but rather long term health and success. Additionally, as dietitians we take into account and consider a wide range of medical conditions that are many times not taken in to account with other diets or programs.
While many of us are in full swing with our New Year’s resolutions to be healthier this year, make a choice to do something different this year and make educated decisions on how to reach these goals and maintain them long-term rather than barely making it through January. Make the decision to really make your overall health a priority, not just a short term weight loss goal.
Wishing you your healthiest, happiest year yet!
-Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”