Every lifestyle area experiences trends or fads. We see examples of this in fashion, fitness, music, social media, and food. While many trends are fleeting and tend to change as time goes on, one fad that seems to reappear is in the diet and weight loss world.
Fad diets are limitless and have a long history of existence. The cabbage soup diet, low-carb/high-protein combos, juice cleanses, the grapefruit diet, and the list only grows from there. Although the names of fad diets vary, the characteristics and premise of many never change. Here are 10 red flags to consider when reading about the next “new diet plan that will change your life.”
It’s probably a fad diet if…
1. It promises “fast weight loss” results. It’s true – severely restricting caloric intake will result in rapid weight loss. However, the type of weight that’s lost is not body fat. It’s most often lean protein and water, which is not ideal or recommended. Healthy weight loss occurs over time.
2. It involves eliminating specific food groups or macronutrients. Unless someone has a preexisting metabolic condition (such as Type II diabetes) or other health concern that requires an elimination diet (such as Celiac Disease or IBS), eating a balance of healthy carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats is a research-supported recommendation.
3. If it notes “results not typical” in advertising claims. In this instance, ask yourself why the diet is promising certain results and then, in the smallest print possible, notes otherwise. That’s a serious concern.
4. If it promises weight loss without exercise. Exercise is a necessary component to any weight management plan. While the type of exercise may vary between individuals and situations, exercise is not a component that should be left out.
5. If it requires the consumption of a wide range of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are not heavily regulated nor are they often tested by an independent third party. Remember ephedra? That was a dietary supplement that resulted in fatalities. It’s one thing to take a supplement to support a missing component of the nutritional profile. It’s a different story when supplements start replacing actual food in the diet.
6. If it promotes miracle or magic food combinations. Weight loss is a process and balanced nutrition is part of that process. Combining this food with that food will not guarantee specific results.
7. If it implies that a certain combination of foods will alter body chemistry. This is simply an unfounded claim.
8. If it has rigid rules or strict guidelines that don’t allow for flexibility. Life is dynamic and humans need an element of flexibility in all areas of life. This includes nutrition.
9. If it doesn’t focus on lifestyle or behavior change efforts. Changing behavior is the key to sustainable weight management practices.
10. If it sounds too good to be true. If any diet claims to be the “answer to all your weight issues”, seek another answer.
Quality and valid weight loss programs and/or nutritional approaches are guided by sound scientific research methodologies and include a primary focus on lifestyle change and SMART goal setting. If you come across a diet plan that intrigues you or makes you wonder, “should I give this a try”, please seek the guidance of a registered dietitian or other qualified professional who can provide insight into the pros, cons, and potential risks associated with the guidelines of any diet. Take the time to ask the deeper questions and make an educated decision.