Healthy or Fad Diet?

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...
Foods that are part of a healthy diet. Image via Wikipedia

Are you drawn to diets claiming quick weight loss? Are you tempted by those ads showing “before and after pictures” that highlight thinner bodies?

Before you are tempted, look at the diet closely to determine whether or not it is a fad diet. Fad diets claim that you will lose weight quickly, within a short space of time, following a simple eating plan. No mention is made of exercise, no reference is made on how weight loss will be maintained. “Good” foods and “bad” foods are often listed in the description, and at times expensive products or seminars form part of the diet package.

Often fad diets claim that their assertions are based on scientific fact. But are they? A way of eating supported by science should be open to revisions as a result of new discoveries. In addition, studies and reviews of the diet should be open to peer assessment.

Other characteristics of a fad diet are:

  • One food, or food group, becomes the main part of the eater’s diet. Think of the Cabbage Soup Diet and the consumption of cabbage for a week.
  • Some foods are cut out of a person’s diet because they are seen to be harmful: often one or more of the 5 food groups are eliminated. For example the Dr. Atkins Diet and the limited consumption of carbohydrates.
  • Certain foods are emphasised in the diet as they form a part of the person’s lifestyle. Fruitarianism is a diet that is often adopted for ethical, religious or environmental reasons.

A fad diet does not follow a balanced eating plan. Followers of these diets often feel a sense of deprivation and starvation as portions are often below what is recommended. And when dieters stop following these eating plans, weight is often regained.

What fad diets do you know of? Have you ever been on one? What has been your experience?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

19 thoughts on “Healthy or Fad Diet?

  1. I totally agree, Colline; fad diets might be good – at least for the first few days – but eventually your body needs proper nutrients. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

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      1. And that’s exactly the problem with fad diets. Even if you only eat cabbage for a week, all you’ll learn by the end of the week is that cabbage is ultimately unsatisfying when left to its own devices, and it really will make you a little more tooty than you want to be. You don’t learn how to make the right choices when you’re fadding.

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        1. And you also run the risk of binging once you have stopped the fad diet – which defeats the purpose of your diet! Much better, as you say, to learn to make the right choices.

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  2. My love of food will not allow ‘fad diets’. I am generally careful about what I eat, but won’t think twice about saying yes to cake or ice cream. I normally eat lots of raw food, most days a salad with a little oil and vinegar is on the menu, and I will occasionally fast for 24 hours. This is done because I enjoy it. I also drink lots of water and exercise quite a bit.

    Great post Colline. I get the impression that you are very physically fit. : )

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    1. I have had time time in my life when I was fitter – and am now working towards regaining that fitness. I do not believe in fad diets, an believe instead in eating fresh foods made in the home. The temptation I have to face often, though, are those lovely cakes my husband tends to buy and the cookies my neighbour bakes – she is so good at sharing 🙂

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      1. LOL! Yes, I’m well aware of those cakes your husband brings home….just looking at them has me running into the kitchen in search of anything which even closely resembles chocolate! I refuse to live life feeling guilty….especially about good food. I’ll work it off tomorrow is my motto…or if not, maybe the next day! I have a black and silver skirt which I love…but it doesn’t always love me. When I put it on and it feels a little tight…salad time.

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  3. I have been eliminating small things from my diet and changing my habits gradually and the weight is coming off gradually…very gradually – 1/2 to 1 lb per week. I’m okay with that. During celebrations, I decide as I go and have something if I really want it but if I don’t then I don’t have it. With birthday cake – homemade, which is delicious and only made a few times per year, I enjoy and indulge, then I just go back to what I was doing before. The real challenge is having readymade snacks so that I can quickly make the right choice while hungry. I have a bowl of fruit salad in the fridge ready and waiting when I’m hungry. This has been my latest strategy, so far it is working…only if I do not have anything tempting like cake – cake would definitely win! I do love food too much to restrict severely so would not ever consider fad dieting. I don’t like the idea that I can not have something if I really want it. I prefer to ask myself if I really want it. Most times the answer is no and sometimes the answer is yes. It’s always nice to have options and breaking away from routine, habit and severity, is great sometimes as is returning to it after a short foray into sweet abandon!

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  4. I’m familiar with all these diets from friends and coworkers. I just don’t even like the word and believe in moderation. I do limit sugar and carbs, but I certainly won’t deprive myself!! Great post!!!

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  5. I believe it’s an older diet, but I just started hearing about the 400 calorie diet. Sound familiar? Apparently you are allowed four 400 calorie meals per day. You can eat anything, as long as it doesn’t exceed your 400 calorie limit. Exercise is not promoted, from what I understand.

    To me, it sounds like a lesson in portion control, which is never a bad idea. But exercise is also not a bad idea.

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    1. As a person who doesn’t count calories, I would not even consider it. Sounds more like a mathematical exercise to me which is certainly an exercise in ruining your appetite!

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  6. I have battled with my weight for decades at this point. In years previous I tried several fad diets…all of which (obviously) failed miserably. Often times I would begin initially to lose weight…only to gain it back later (and usually another 10+ pounds to boot).

    Now that I have realized those “guaranteed” quick weight loss diets are A) super unhealthy and B) super unsuccessful, I have started on a much better/healthier path. Eating all food groups in proper portion and moderation combined with increased activity and exercise is the only way to go. This is the best I have felt in *so very* long, and I am already 80+ pounds lighter…in only 32 weeks. That beats any fad diet’s claims I have *ever* heard/seen! 🙂

    -Erica

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  7. There ain’t no free, my husband constantly reminds me, and that definitely goes for fad diets!

    I eat in a way that could look like a modified Atkins plan, inasmuch as I aim for a higher protein/lower carb ratio, but I don’t do the kind of overboard Atkins eating that you sometimes read about, with people eating bacon cheeseburger patties at every meal. I wish I could, but wow, the ramifications of that would catch up to me. I aim for a balance, with lean proteins, tons of veggies, complex carbs, and healthy fats.

    I did do a medically-monitored very low calorie plan for 12 weeks. All protein shakes with the odd pickle or boiled egg here & there. I’m sure there are those who would judge me for it, but what has made it work for me is that the overall commitment was for not just those 12 weeks, but a full year – we’re spending the other 40 weeks eating real food, talking about nutrition, exercising – figuring out how to do this “the hard way” for the rest of our lives. I wasn’t ready to do that work before, but the motivation of a quick start to weight loss really helped me focus.

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  8. I am trying the South Beach diet. I lost over 60 lbs a few years ago on that diet, I have regained about 20 over the last few years, so I am the diet kick again. The South Beach diet is strict for 2 weeks, No carbs, then add in the good carbs in phase 2. I like it because it is natural food and a wide variety, there is a list of what food to include and what to avoid (those neighbors cookies are on the AVOID list)

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