Fad Diets Are Bad Diets

Although advertisers market fad diets as the quick, magic way to achieve your dream body, these diets actually do more harm than good.

Fad diets restrict the intake of specific groups of foods, all while masquerading as stylish or groundbreaking. These “answers” include juice cleanses, a ketogenic diet and the blood type diet.

Carrie Dennett, a registered dietitian nutritionist, states in her Washington Post article published Jan. 9, 2018, “When you restrict calories enough to drop below your body's natural set point weight range, your body will push back, causing you to regain weight. Over time, repeatedly losing and regaining weight (yo-yo dieting) may leave your health in a worse place than if you never dieted.”  

Because of strategic marketing, consumers fall victim to the habit of bouncing back and forth between fad diets in an attempt to lose weight, which leads to physical damage to the body, a decreased sense of mental well-being, and temporary results.

According to the American Council on Science and Health author Jailen Johnson in her July 2, 2018 article, “The primary issue with diets such as the Juice diet is there is entirely no way that somebody will be able to receive all of their essential daily nutrients while doing this cleanse. Some crucial nutritional things that will not be obtained is iron, protein, omega three fatty acids, and calcium. Those are vital parts of daily dietary breakdowns and what is needed to help fuel the body entirely and keep it healthy. On top of not being able to receive the proper amount of nutrition, when solid food is introduced back to the diet, the digestive system will have to readjust to breaking down solid foods again, which causes for fat storage which leads to rapid weight gain and bloating.”

Since fad diets are based on cutting calories or eliminating whole food groups with explicit rules, it’s not a surprise that they lead to bad relationships with food.

The all-or-nothing approach that these diets demands could be seen as an exciting challenge to conquer for those who thrive under extreme pressure and consequences, but for the majority of people, an overly-restrictive diet causes emotional stress.

According to The National Eating Disorders Association, common warning signs for someone with an eating disorder include “behaviors and attitudes that indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns,” “preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting,” “refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories” and “any new practices with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups.”

In my experience, any diet that doesn’t allow for flexibility or views whole food groups as “off-limits” leads to feelings of shame when I slip up and break the rules. The black-and-white mentality that surrounds fad diets caused me to view food as a dangerous substance to avoid and monitor. I found myself obsessively tracking food to count macronutrients and calories and refusing to attend social events so I could avoid certain foods.

Virginia Tech’s homecoming court nominee Melanie Bomberg whose platform was eating disorder awareness shared a similar experience.

“For me, restricting wasn’t something I originally noticed [while dieting]. It was always about maintaining abs and striving for my dream body. Restricting went from being something I controlled to any bite making me feel fat and dirty,” Bomberg said. “The fixation on food became a game of how close I could get to under 1000 calories daily, while exercising compulsively and checking my weight constantly.”

Thankfully, Bomberg and I have both learned to recognize the dangers of fad diets and now focus on eating in a sustainable, healthy and enjoyable manner.

“You want to implement your healthy eating habits forever so you can maintain your weight-loss. My number one focus with all my clients is sustainability,” said Ashley Fillmore, personal trainer and health education and nutrition coach. “If you can't sustain your current nutrition plan, what's the point of starting it in the first place? You will end up regaining the weight you worked so hard to lose. Your goals, nutrition plan, and workout plan should be realistic for you. You should be able to follow your plan forever. If not, I encourage you to make some changes.”

A fad diet is comparable to cramming the night before a test. Sure, it’s possible for someone to memorize material and do well on a test. Ultimately, however, they won’t retain that information for the final exam. Similarly, someone can do a juice cleanse before spring break and lose 10 pounds, but alongside gaining those 10 pounds back, they’ll also pack on physical damage and a disdain for food.

It’s time for us all to put down the Atkins bar and pick up some real food.

Gif sourced from Giphy.com