What is a Fad Diet?
The National Institutes of Health describe fad diets as severely restricted calorie intake for rapid weight loss. These types of diets do not mean you will keep the weight off. Crash diets require you to eat fewer calories than you need to live. This behavior trains your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy. Once you have completed your crash diet you are left with a body that burns calories much slower than before you started, resulting in weight gain.
Why do people give into the fad diet gimmick?
Two words: Instant Gratification. It’s as simple as that. We are humans that constantly want and need to see results immediately, no matter what the consequences reap. If something is really worth it you should want to work hard for it. Hopefully you are not sitting there thinking, “Yeah, I am so happy my friend, parent, or significant other got me the job I have.” I hope you are thinking “I worked hard to be where I am today, to have what I do.” So, why wouldn’t you do the same for your own body?
The companies that advertise their quick weight loss fad diet gimmicks just want your money and do a great job at getting it. Companies also like to use celebrities to market their product. How realistic is that? Celebrities are a limited number of the general population and are not perfect models of how we should look. These companies play on our insecurities and self image to make a buck. Let’s stop their income and start a lifetime of happiness and health the safer way!
What happens once the fad diet is over?
Once rapid weight loss occurs and the diet is over, typically people return to their old habits of not eating properly and exercising. The weight that is lost is usually water weight and precious muscle. Weight that is lost is gained back rapidly, usually as fat, because the person did not learn how to eat properly.
How Do I Spot a Fad Diet?
While there is no set approach to identifying a fad diet, many have the following characteristics:
- Recommendations that promise a quick fix.
- Dire warnings of dangers from a single food group, product, or regimen.
- Claims that sound too good to be true.
- Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study.
- Recommendations based on a single study or testimonials.
- Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
- Lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods.
- Recommendations made to help sell a product.
- Recommendations based on studies published without review by other researchers.
- Recommendations from studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups.
- Eliminating 1 or more of the 5 food groups.
So what is the key to losing weight and maintaining weight loss?
First and foremost, awareness of caloric intake! I am not saying count every single calorie that you ingest; however, you should be more aware of what you are eating and how much. You can start by keeping a food log. You can find many fitness and diet logs to help you out online.
That brings us to the second key: Portion Control! Portions have increased drastically over the past 40 years. A study from the American Journal of Public Health states ‘researchers found that cookies are 700% bigger than USDA standards’.
Last but not least, you need to have a regular exercise routine. Everyone has to start somewhere, but to maintain a healthy weight you need a combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and proper nutrition. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day, and working toward 60 minutes per day. There are many great fitness tools and apps available to you on the web for tracking your weight loss and exercise progress. WebMD has a wonderful fitness tracker tool available for the general population. If you are able to, seek the services of a health professional like a Registered Dietician, Health Fitness Specialist (HFS), or Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) to help personally guide you. They can be a wealth of knowledge! Check out the ACSM’s (American College of Sports Medicine) website for more information regarding exercise for the general population at ACSM.org.
- People who eat several small meals a day are able to lose weight and maintain weight better than someone who does not, especially if the snacks are protein packed. Eating more often keeps your metabolism in high gear. HEALTHY SNACKING IS OKAY!
- Low fat does not necessarily mean low calorie! Just because it says low fat on the label does not mean it is the best option for you! Be aware of how many calories are in each serving and try not to over indulge because it says low fat! They all add up!
- People who drink more water burn more calories! When you are dehydrated your metabolism lags! Add a cup of water to each meal you eat to get your daily intake. It will also create a sense of fullness and cause you to eat smaller portions at the meal as well.
- Slow and steady weight loss (1-2 pounds per week) is the safest way to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Rapid increases and decreases in weight make it harder for your body to stabilize a proper weight for you. One pound equals 3,500 calories! WOAH! To lose one pound per week you need to burn 500 calories more per day than you eat (7days X 500 calories = 3,500 calories or 1 pound lost). The recommended approach for this strategy is to cut 250 calories from your food intake and burn 250 extra calories by working out each day. Now that doesn’t sound so hard does it?
- It is not too late to start a diet and exercise program! Starting is always the hardest part, but there are many tools and people to support you through your journey! Take control of your life and be as healthy as you can be!