Breaking Down the Barriers of Fad Dieting



If you have ever questioned whether or not you should eat that piece of chocolate cake or scarf down that sandwich because you have to personally measure up to your idea of healthy “success,” this article is for you. 

Yes, you.

If it makes you feel any better, the girl who seems to have it all with her supportive boyfriend and family, her sorority, the one who goes to church every Sunday, struggles with fad dieting too. And that girl is me.

Was I the only one who has ever felt this way?

I needed to know.

I had the opportunity to chat with Tammy Beasley, Vice President of Clinical Nutrition Services for Alsana Eating Recovery Communities to dive deep into the topic of fad dieting and the science behind it.

What exactly is a FAD DIET?

 “A ‘fad diet’ is an eating plan that takes the ownership away from you. The diets make promises they cannot keep – if it sounds too good to be true, it actually is. Fad diets often eliminate entire food groups, such as carbohydrates or dairy, and provide a rigid set of rules to follow. Your ability to follow those external rules determines your “success”, and “failure” is measured by your lack of “willpower” versus your body’s natural and inevitable response to deprivation and external controls,” says Beasley.

Our efforts we put into controlling our food intake can slowly begin to interfere with our quality of life, interrupt relationships, work, budget, and sometimes even sleep.

My senior year of high school, I strived to cut out carbs completely because that is the only way to lose weight, right? Wrong!

 I found myself nauseous, dizzy and fatigued 24/7. I felt like a failure for not obtaining my goal of staying carb-free. It left me helpless and self-conscience. The promise of the diet’s easy and dramatic weight loss quickly turned into judgment of my own ability to meet its demands.

 How does the consumption and nutrition of food play into our mental health?

“The neurotransmitters and hormones that control our moods are actually made of protein and fats that we consume in our foods, and carbohydrates are the fuel that activates the pathways in which the neurotransmitters and hormones work. It is a beautiful, synergistic balance and depends on a variety of foods consumed on a regular basis. We know that the same side effects seen in depression mimic the side effects seen from poor nutrition; therefore, balanced nutrition itself can prevent the lethargy, mood swings, anxiety and loss of hope that depression creates. If you are thinking about food, or trying NOT to think about food, for more than 20% of any given day, you are at risk of your food preoccupation interfering with a normal, healthy relationship with food as nourishment for life itself” says Beasley.

Not only was I robbing myself of reaching personal “success” in the diet, I was also cutting off the activation for my neurotransmitters and hormones to work properly…WOW!

Why is it important for our society to shed light on eating disorders, especially in young adults?

 “Eating disorders are subtle. Messages that imply that you are not okay unless you follow a certain eating plan, or work out a certain way, or restrict your enjoyment of food itself within certain boundaries begin to distort your ability to see your individual body in all of its uniqueness as special, one-of-a-kind, and worthy of love as-is, without external changes. Eating disorders are deadly. Not only do they steal joy from life, comfort and security from relationships, and hope from your personal dreams of your future, they also rob your body of the ability to think clearly, enjoy the relationships that support you, participate in the activities that fulfill you, and live life to its fullest,” says Beasley.

Your body is a temple and flawless the way it was created…yes, even your pudgy stomach and flabby thighs. As a society, when we do not fit the mold, we are willing to sacrifice everything to squeeze in it. Regardless of the size of the sacrifice, you are letting the outside world dictate aspects that are in your control.

What piece of advice would you give to the reader currently facing an eating disorder or following a “fad diet”?

“There is always hope. And life without an eating disorder, and life without an external set of diet rules, is possible and worth the journey to restore a trusting relationship with both food and body again. It is not an easy path, because it goes against our culture and social pressures. The hidden truth is that you ARE worth it. Your body IS capable of being trusted. Your life IS more than a number on the scale or a size of clothing,” says Beasley.

What are you waiting for? Change is around the corner, you just have to jump all in. You are not alone, your journey is just beginning.

For more information on this topic:

· for blogs, Facebook live posts, and connections to free support groups to help you move away from dieting or disordered earing.

·       National Eating Disorder Association,

·       Intuitive Eating book and workbook by Evelyn Tribole, MS RD CEDRD & Elyse Resch, MS RD CEDRE

·       Nutrition Matters Podcast by Paige Smathers