We hear about fad diets all the time. Don’t do them. They aren’t going to help you. It’s not sustainable. But, do you actually know what a fad diet is? Is the diet that your friend’s cousin’s uncle doing that helped him lose 15 pounds a fad diet? Well, let’s talk about it!
The Cleveland Clinic describes a fad diet as a plan being sold as the best and fastest approach to lose weight. Most of the time there are eliminations or drastically lowered numbers of specific foods or food groups. One main thing these diets have in common is that the results are not sustained. If your goal is to lose 10lbs and you utilize a fad diet to make it happen, as soon as you come off the fad diet, the weight is more than likely to come back. But why does this happen? Remember there is likely a food eliminations or drastic decreases? This usually leads to a caloric deficit and THAT is where the fast weight loss is coming from. When you come off the fad diet and reintroduce those foods, your caloric intake usually goes back up causing the weight to come back. Not to mention, when we drastically reduce these foods and food groups there is potential to not obtain necessary nutrients for healthy living. A secondary factor is that a fad diet is popular for a short amount of time. The diet may exist for longer, but it’s popularity doesn’t seem to stick longer than a few years.
Let’s look at some popular diets to determine if they are fad diets. Remember, even fad diets have their place for specific health and performance situations. Always discuss your health and diet with a doctor and/or registered dietician.
This is a VERY high fat diet and VERY low (close to 0g) carbohydrate diet. There is usually low to moderate protein intake. The emphasis is definitely on the reduction of carbohydrates and increase in fats. The thought process is that the body will enter a state of ketosis in which the body stops using glucose (sugar) as energy and starts using something called ketones. This diet was implemented in children with epilepsy where general health and wellness improved. In the case of weight and fat loss, ketones are made in the body through our fatty acid being released from stored body fat. The theory is that you are “burning” fat as energy thus reducing weight and fat stores in the body.
I would classify this as a fad diet for weight and fat loss. The first major red flag is the elimination of carbohydrates. This elimination includes fruits, most vegetables, grains, certain dairy products, and many other foods. When you don’t consume these, you are not receiving the nutrients within them (unless you supplement). More often than not, when someone re-introduces the carbohydrates back into their diet their weight is likely to go back up. It is important to note that children with epilepsy and certain types of athletes can benefit from the keto diet.
When done properly, this is a 30-day diet challenge with a multitude of elimination rules. The theory is you complete the 30-day challenge to “reset” your gut and determine what could be causing inflammation or ailments. The rules including eliminating all sugars, alcohols, grains, most legumes, dairy, MSG, and recreating or purchasing baked goods (even if they are compatible with the other rules). In addition, you are not supposed to weigh yourself or take any measurements for the full 30 days. This is not meant to be a lifestyle diet, it is only for 30 days. There are even reintroduction resources for the eliminated foods.
Would I call this fad diet? Technically, no because it is not a lifestyle diet, it’s a 30-day challenge. If you do it properly there could be some benefits, but it does have similar qualities to a fad diet. The drastic elimination of foods and food groups as well as the promise of changing your life in 30 days makes it appear to be a fad diet. Although you may lose some weight and have instant gratification with this, it is still pretty likely you will gain weight back as you start to reintroduce the foods. Doing this for 30 days to see how you react and how you feel is one thing, trying to make this a lifestyle or for weight loss only is completely different and makes it more into a fad diet. It’s somewhat new popularity with the general population also leads to be fad-ish.
The carnivore diet is a strictly animal product diet. This includes all meats, seafoods, eggs, and very specific dairy products. On this diet one does not consume any fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, or grains. I would consider this a drastic elimination diet. The theory is this type of diet is anti-inflammatory and can reduce symptoms of autoimmune disorders. Similar to Whole 30 it claims to help identify food sensitivities by eliminating them from the diet entirely. This elimination leads to a reduce calorie intake and increased weight loss which is why it is gaining popularity. Similar to keto, due to the major lack of carbohydrates your body could potentially go into a state of ketosis and run on ketones.
Would I call this a fad diet? Yes. There is major food elimination, there is also little-to-no research on this type of diet as it is SO new. It makes some major claims. This diet may be sustainable for a very select few, but most likely will not be able to be sustained. If you try this then want to incorporate those other foods back into to your diet you could get very sick and if you have lost weight you will likely gain it back. It’s gaining popularity, but it is still new so we do not know how long it will stick around.
With all these fad diets what kind of diet should you use for weight loss? It’s pretty simple really. For weight loss (not necessarily fat loss), you need to be burning more calories than you are consuming. How do you do this? However you dang well please! Now, of course, we want to make sure you are getting your necessary food groups and nutrients so we want it to be a balanced diet. Most importantly you want whatever diet you are on to be something you can stick with to hit and maintain your goals.
You got this!