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SALT LAKE CITY — Doesn’t it seem like a new fad diet appears on a daily basis?
Sorting through the vast amount of nutrition information seen on various social media sites is confusing. Far too much of this information is based on inadequate research and developed by those with little to no background in nutrition.
Cue: Fad diets.
Fad diets are dangerous for a number of reasons, including increased risk of dehydration, weakness, fatigue, nausea and inadequate vitamin and mineral intake. Not only can fad diets be hazardous to one’s health, but they rarely produce the results you want in the long term as well. Oftentimes, those who attempt fad diets end up achieving initial weight loss goals, but the weight doesn’t stay off for long.
On the bright side, the fact that so many people get wrapped up in fad diets means people are interested in moving toward a healthier lifestyle.
Here are five red flag phrases that likely indicate a fad diet:
1. No diet or lifestyle changes required
The following sounds like a cliché, but there is quite a bit of truth in it: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. A quick fix does not result in a sustainable, long-term solution to one’s weight loss desires. These are the kind of diet plans that directly contradict eating less and moving more, which are generally accepted as proven, healthy approaches to losing weight. Sure, it would be nice if there were a pill that could make one look like a model and create a six-pack without lifting a finger. The reality is that this is entirely unrealistic, and any diet toting such an idea is both a fad and risky for overall health.
2. Don't eat that
Countless fad diets these days call for participants to eliminate certain foods entirely including carbohydrates, dairy, or legumes just to name a few. Of course, there are many people who do not eat particular foods in accordance with certain medical conditions. The important concept to remember is that unless one has a medical diagnosis or sensitivity indicating that he or she should not consume certain foods, all food groups offer a variety of desirable nutrients that are key to optimal health and well-being. As an illustration of this concept, many fad diets dictate anti-carbohydrate rules when in reality, carbohydrates are the body’s, and particularly the brain’s, primary source of fuel.
3. Pineapple is the solution to all weight loss woes
If there were magical foods or supplements that truly and safely burned right through fat molecules, we would all be taking advantage of it. The truth is that there is no magical food, supplement or herbal product that is going to solely stimulate weight loss or decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics goes as far as to say that some of the ingredients in the supplements and herbal products promoted to miraculously melt fat throughout the night, for example, can be “dangerous and even deadly for some people.”
4. 500 calories per day is plenty
Extreme calorie restriction should send up a red flag. One’s calorie needs depend on a number of variables including activity level, height, weight, gender and age. The average adult male requires approximately 2,500-2,800 calories per day and the average adult female requires approximately 2,000 calories per day. In addition, 1,200 calories per day is generally recognized as the minimum number of calories necessary for the body to perform daily activities. Considering these figures, fad diets encouraging participants to fast or severely decrease calorie consumption should be called into question.
5. Sally Smith did it and she lost 100 pounds
Simply put, testimonials from people who claim to have tried the fad diet are not sufficient evidence for its efficacy. That being said, one scientific study performed by Dr. Joe Shmo that “proves” the efficacy of the fad diet is also not sufficient evidence. The gold standard for research is oftentimes a randomized, controlled clinical trial and the more times those findings have been confirmed by other studies orchestrated by reputable organizations, the better. Fad diets are infamous for using case studies, recognized as the weakest form of scientific evidence, like Sally Smith to persuade consumers into thinking that if it worked for her, it could work for them as well.
The ultimate goal of any desired weight loss plan is to lose weight and keep it off. In order to achieve these goals in a healthy and sustainable way, steer clear of the fad diets and stick with what truly works: diet and exercise. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be?
1. Move more: Test the waters of different workout options like swimming, yoga or walking the dog, and pick an option or two that you actually enjoy.
2. Eat less: Make cooking exciting again with new and tasty recipes while being mindful of portion control. To commence your personal journey toward a healthier lifestyle, contact a local dietitian or your personal physician for more information.
3. Remember: Keep in mind that 1-2 pounds per week is considered ideal, healthy weight loss that is more likely to be kept off in the long term.
Stephanie is a Vermont native and registered dietitian. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a Master of Science in Dietetics degree with a focus on community nutrition, and enjoys exploring cultural cuisines, spending time with friends and family, and cooking as the optimal form of meditation.