Here today and gone tomorrow fad diets are all the rage today. If you flip through almost any magazine, surf the web or turn on the TV you will see numerous diets promising to help you lose several pounds in as little as a week. If you have been struggling with your weight for some time now, these fad diets can certainly be tempting. However, just know the reason these diets come and go is because they don’t work and most of them are backed by pyramid companies who don’t care about your health and well-being but just want your money.
Experts will tell you time and again that the only way to effectively lose weight and keep it off is by making long-term changes to your lifestyle: adapting a healthier nutrition plan and exercising regularly. Needless to say, if there was a miracle diet, pill, powder or shake that would help keep us thin and healthy the whole world would take it and fitness centers, nutritionist and personal trainers (like me) would be out of a job.
When you start a fad diet, you will, more than likely, lose several pounds in in the first few days and get very excited. Unfortunately, most of the weight you will lose is just water weight due to a very restricted diet and caloric count. Once you stop the diet and resume your normal lifestyle, you will gain the weight back – and in most cases comes along a few additional pounds as well. Fad diets can be more dangerous to your health in other ways too. Because the majority of the weight you drop when you lose weight too quickly tends to be water weight, it can lead to rapid dehydration which can cause excessive thirst, dry skin and hair and eventually, your kidneys will no longer function properly.
The nutritional deficiencies that fad diets cause can also lead to health conditions. Muscle loss is another negative side effect of fad diets. Since your diet is very low in calories, your body will look for other ways to get energy. One of these ways is by digesting (basically eating) your muscles and eventually your organs. Your body is made to burn calories and excess weight in stages, and if you try to force your body to lose weight faster than it naturally wants to, you can cause serious health problems. Muscle weighs more than fat and is just as easily lost as fat. Losing muscle may help you lose total weight, but muscle helps you burn calories while you are in a resting state and processes energy when you are active. If you lose muscle mass because of fad dieting, you lose weight temporarily, but you will have a lot of trouble keeping weight off and finding energy.
Crash diets and fasting are dangerous because by restricting you from consuming fats and carbs, they prevent your body from getting the vitamins and minerals it needs. If you restrict your body from its normal caloric intake over a long period of time, your body will be deprived of its essential nutrients and you’ll become severely malnourished. You’ll notice your body begins to suffer when your stores become depleted; your skin, hair and nails will show the first signs of malnutrition. If you stay on a fad diet for a long time you’ll notice that you’ll begin to shed hair more frequently, your nails will be brittle and will break more often. Your skin begins to lose its shine and you may develop dark circles under your eyes. These nutritional deficiencies are a direct result of not getting the nutrients you need. A healthy, well-balanced diet is the key to proper weight loss. Calories are what translate into the energy your body needs to get through the day. If you fast or eat less than what your body requires in order to lose weight too quickly, you’ll find yourself feeling fatigued for most of the day. By eating smaller meals throughout the day, this will help to boost your metabolism, and can provide you with more energy to help you lose weight in a healthy manner. Also, with the excess energy that you will have, you may find that you like to get out and exercise.
In addition to the nutritional deficiencies, fad diets also mess with your metabolism. When you eat too little food you slow your metabolism. As a result, your body will hold onto the few calories that you do eat. When you go off the diet, your body won’t use food as efficiently and you’ll actually put yourself in a position to gain more weight in the future. This is the reason that many people who try fad diets end up in a pattern of yo-yo dieting. They go on a fad diet and lose weight. Then when they go off the diet they immediately gain weight because of their slow metabolisms. The next diet that they go on slows down their metabolisms even more and it becomes harder and harder to lose weight.
Fad diets, just like fashion fads, come in all shapes and sizes and they go in and out of style. Just because a diet is popular doesn’t mean that it is effective or healthy for you. If you’re considering going on a diet, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the diet make wild claims about weight loss (e.g. Lose 10 pounds in one week!)
- Does the diet use a single study as a basis for its claims?
- Does the diet claim that you can lose weight without exercise?
- Does an element of the diet have warnings against it? (e.g. FDA has warnings against an ingredient in a fad diet supplement)
- Does the diet eliminate one of the five food groups?
- Does the diet sound too good to be true?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you’re looking at a fad diet. Steer clear of it.
If you want to learn how to create a nutrition and/or workout plan that helps you lose the extra pounds safely—and keep them off, contact us for a free consultation and introductory workout. We have certified personal trainers and fitness nutritionist onsite to help you meet your goals and needs.
Bodyrich Fitness Company
Certified Personal Trainer / Fitness Nutritionist / Exercise Therapy Specialist