Expert Health Articles

The Composition of a Fad Diet

Rachel SnyderRachel Snyder, RDN, LD

Registered Dietician

Claims of a 20-pound weight loss in a week or eating only a certain food to rev up metabolism can be very tempting to fall for when a quick weight loss is desired. These claims are unrealistic and considered fad diets. At every checkout aisle magazines flash testimonials from celebrities, late night infomercials tell us we can become slim at a certain price and plastered all over the internet are countless diets, strategies and programs to follow. It’s no wonder individuals are constantly let down and confused by weight loss attempts when following fad diets. When sorting through the various claims, programs and information around us, these red flags indicate a fad diet:

  1. Miraculous Cure-All: Overblown promises with no clinical proof tell you the diet is most likely quackery. Be careful when scrolling through the internet for statements indicating a certain food product can cure everything. Sometimes the product is a healthy product such as kale or apple cider vinegar, but too much of one thing takes away from a healthy balanced diet.
  2. Long Lists of Foods to Eliminate: If the long list of foods are nutritious foods such as whole grains, beans, dairy, eggs, seeds, nuts, etc. This diet will be lacking in the vital vitamins and minerals needed for essential well-being. Unless there is an allergy, intolerance or medical reason to avoid these types of nutritious foods, do not be fooled into having to eliminate those foods from your diet.
  3. Suitable for Everybody: Most fad diets will claim that their diet is suitable for all ages, health statuses and medical needs. Nutritional needs are rarely one-size fits all. Everyone’s needs are different depending on various factors including height, weight, age, sex, physical activity, genetics and health concerns.
  4. Scare Tactics: These are statements not proven by research and typically rely heavily on personal testimonials that convince a participant that they must pay for powders, pills and/or supplements to reach their goals.
  5. Rigid Menus: If the menu is so strict and far off from what you usually consume ask yourself, “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If no, ditch the diet. Consider small dietary changes such as drinking more water or incorporating another serving of vegetables to help implement long-term lifestyle changes that you can actually stick with.
  6. Rapid Weight Loss: Claims of rapid weight loss are very unrealistic and also not safe when it comes to the effects on your body. Too quick of a weight loss can lead to muscle, bone and water loss. Severe calorie restrictions can lead to rapid weight regain when returning to an appropriate calorie consumption. Reducing calorie needs by 500 calories each day may lead to a safe 1 pound loss per week.
  7. No Need to Exercise: Often fad diets will claim that participating in physical activity is not necessary because a significant weight loss will occur with their diet plan. Regular physical activity is essential for good health and a healthy weight management no matter what diet a person is following.

Use these red flags to indicate the next fad diet that surfaces. Fad diets are more often than not unrealistic claims, not sustainable and may potentially cause harm to our bodies. Consider making small dietary changes along with exercising for a long-term lifestyle change. If confused on where to start, meet with a registered dietitian for an individualized plan based on your needs and wants.