Have you ever seen the game show Family Feud? I have a question that most people could answer quite easily. ‘We surveyed 100 people and here are their top 10 answers……name a fad diet you have tried to lose weight?’. I can tell that you’re listing them in your head right now. Let’s see…..there’s the cabbage soup diet, Atkins, 5:2, Israeli, Paleo, Keto, South Beach, Dukan, bloodtype, lemon detox and this list could go on and on.
To understand the nature of a fad diet we should look at the definition of the word ‘fad’. A fad is defined as intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially something that is short-lived. So naturally it is not a big stretch to understand that a fad diet is a trend that promises rapid weight loss and often gathers popularity through celebrity endorsement.
If you are considering a specific diet you need to ask yourself one simple question…..’is this diet well balanced and something that I can comfortably follow for a lifetime?’ If the answer is no, well done… I think you have just exposed a fad diet!
The Dietitians Association of Australia has a position statement on fad diets which follows:
A fad weight loss diet is any diet that promises fast weight loss without a scientific basis. These diets often eliminate entire food groups and as a result do not provide a wide range of important nutrients.
Fad diets may provide short-term results but they are difficult to sustain and can cause serious health problems. The best approach to weight loss is to follow a long-term, healthy and balanced eating plan and to exercise regularly.
Weight loss and fad diets
Fad diets often lead to fast weight loss at first. But most of this weight loss is water and lean muscle, rather than fat.
When we eat very little, our body begins to break down muscle to meet energy (kilojoule) needs. Unfortunately, this occurs much more easily than the breakdown of fat stores.
Breaking down muscle leads to:
- Water loss, making it seem like you’re losing weight quickly
- A reduced metabolic rate, so when the diet is stopped, it is much easier for the body to gain fat than it was prior to going on the diet.
As a result, over time, people can diet themselves fatter.
Fad diets often encourage a short-term change in eating behaviour, rather than encouraging long-term, sustainable changes. It is essential that any diet meets nutritional needs, is practical and suitable for individual lifestyles.
Regular physical activity is important for those wanting to lose weight to help maintain muscle mass.