Fad Diets: Which to Avoid and How to Spot One

By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

fad diets

The definition of a fad diet can be very subjective.

Many people use the term to deride what they consider is a poor weight loss diet.

However, fad diets are simply weight loss diets that become very popular (often quickly) and then may fall out of favor (sometimes just as quickly).

A list of fad diets can vary depending on the author.

Just because a diet is called a “fad” does not necessarily mean the diet is a failure.

Although, some can be dangerous because of their very low-calorie levels and the poor nutrition they promote.

Potentially Risky Fad Diets

3 Day Diet There are many incarnations of the 3-day diet floating around. This kind of diet is popular due to the promise of instant gratification. There is never any long-term success with such a diet and the low-calorie levels can be dangerous.
Cabbage Soup Diet This diet is not sustainable but continues to fall in and out favor. Promotes nutritional deficiencies by only eating soup for 7 days.
Mayo Clinic Diet (unofficial) This diet is not associated with the REAL Mayo Clinic Plan, and is very low in calories.
HCG Diet This diet exploded in popularity in 2009 and soon scams selling fake HCG drops were everywhere. There’s little evidence that it even works.
Hollywood diet Low in Calories and involves drinking a “miracle juice”.
Apple Cider Vinegar Diet This diet promotes using unfiltered ACV to lose weight but too much can be harmful.
Sacred Heart Diet Very low in calories and revolves around soup recipes.
Beverly Hills Diet This diet supposedly reveals rich celebrity diet secrets. It’s recognized by the American Medical Association as dangerous.
Grapefruit Diet This diet promotes the grapefruit’s fat burning properties, but grapefruit can interact with a lot of medication, so beware.
Tapeworm Diet It is undeniable that people will resort to extreme measures in a desperate attempt to shed those extra pounds. But ingesting tapeworms in order to lose weight is not only a radical method but also an extremely dangerous one.

11 Definitions of a Fad Diet

Some nutritionists define a fad diet by a series of questions rather than assessing popularity:

  1. Recommendations that promise a quick fix.
  2. Dire warnings of dangers from a single product or regimen.
  3. Claims that sound too good to be true.
  4. Simplistic conclusions are drawn from a complex study.
  5. Recommendations based on a single study.
  6. Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
  7. Lists of “good” and “bad” foods.
  8. Recommendations made to help sell a product.
  9. Recommendations based on studies published without review by other researchers.
  10. Recommendations from studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups.
  11. Eliminates one or more of the five food groups.

How to Pick a Sound Diet

Avoiding the fad diet trap can be difficult for consumers because these diets are designed with clever marketing plans and outrageous promises that lure dieters in.

If the diet sounds too good to be true, then it is. There is no magic potion, exercise, or method. Losing weight is hard work and involves changing your lifestyle, not just eating a magic food or drinking a “miracle” juice.

When looking for a healthy diet plan, you can easily avoid a fad diet by adhering to the following guidelines:

  • Choose a diet that comes with a long history of real success stories.
  • Pick a plan that promotes a healthy well-balanced diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • The plan shouldn’t be too restrictive, but still allow you to eat your favorite foods from time to time.
  • In most cases, the calorie level shouldn’t be under 1200 calories.
  • The diet will focus on food, exercise, and support, not just one of those factors.
  • The diet promotes realistic expectations of weight loss and emphasizes long-term results as opposed to just short-term gratification.

Fad Diets Seldom Work Long Term

Fad diets often lead to momentary success but long-term disappointment and discouragement. Plus they can rob you of your hard earned money.

If you want to get off of the dieting roller coaster, one of the first steps is to leave fad diets behind and choose a weight loss plan that will produce long-term results.

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References

  • Mirkin, G. B., & Shore, R. N. (1981). The Beverly Hills diet: Dangers of the newest weight loss fad. JAMA, 246(19), 2235-2237. link
  • Saltzman, E., Thomason, P., & Roberts, S. B. (2001). Fad diets: A review for the primary care provider. Nutrition in Clinical Care, 4(5), 235-242. link
  • Hanning, R. M., & Zlotkin, S. H. (1985). Unconventional eating practices and their health implications. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 32(2), 429-445. link