Fad Diets: The Truth & Long-term Effects

April 12, 2024
Posted in Nutrition
April 12, 2024 Kate Morland
The Truth About Fad Diets & Long-Term Health


In our modern quest for health and wellness, the term “diet” often conjures images of restriction and rapid weight loss. However, beneath this surface lies a deeper conversation about the impact of fad diets on our long-term well-being. In this brief exploration, we’ll dissect the allure of fad diets, examine their potential pitfalls, and offer insights into fostering a healthier relationship with food. Join me as we uncover the truth about fad diets and embark on a journey towards sustainable health and wellness.

Let’s dive right in!

In the realm of nutrition, the term “diet” carries dual meanings –

The first being a NOUN; diet: The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

The second being a VERB; diet: Restrict oneself into small amounts or specific foods to lose weight.

Personally, when I hear people talking about dieting or going on a diet it is usually the second definition which is more about restricting yourself in order to lose weight. The purpose of this blog post is to help you shift your mindset from a diet being a restrictive action to just describing what you eat on a day-to-day basis.

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: fad diets.

A fad diet is a diet trend that frequently emerges and then dies of quickly before being rapidly replaced by a new trend. These dietary plans typically promise rapid weight loss or significant health improvements. They lack scientific evidence but tend to be endorsed by testimonials or celebrities.

Recognizing them requires understanding their unique promotional strategies, which often involve restricting certain nutrients like fats or carbohydrates, limiting portion sizes, or emphasizing certain food combinations or exclusions. Typically, fad diets are challenging to adhere to and lack scientific support.

Common characteristics of fad diets:

  • They impose strict rules on allowed and forbidden foods.
  • They vilify certain foods as the culprits behind weight gain and health issues.
  • They promise rapid weight loss with minimal effort.
  • They disregard established dietary guidelines and may even blame them for health problems.
  • They advocate for the exclusive consumption of a particular food item as the diet’s secret.
  • They claim certain foods can boost metabolism or “burn fat.”
  • They focus solely on appearance rather than overall health benefits.
  • They suggest detoxing or avoiding specific food combinations.
  • They rely heavily on anecdotal evidence, such as testimonials, rather than scientific studies.
  • They are often promoted by celebrities or celebrity doctors.
  • They propose a one-size-fits-all approach without considering individual needs.
  • They require the purchase of expensive supplements, shakes, or pills.

Examples of fad diets:

  • Alkaline diet: Eating acid-producing foods like meats, grains, and dairy may create acidity in the body, leading to metabolic imbalance and disease. Switching to alkaline foods such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables could help restore a more alkaline environment, potentially improving health.
  • Paleo diet: Our body is designed to run optimally by eating in the same way as the assumed eating patterns of our Palaeolithic ancestors.
  • Wheat belly diet: Lose weight and reverse health problems by eliminating all forms of wheat. Blames gluten as the culprit for weight gain and many modern health problems.

However, not all diets fall into the fad category. Some diets are scientifically proven under certain conditions. Some examples are:

  • Very-low-carbohydrate diets, like the ketogenic diet, are now accepted for managing diabetes with dietitian support.
  • Very-low-energy diets (VLEDs) can be effective for short-term weight loss under proper supervision and for medical reasons.
  • Intermittent fasting is another trend gaining credibility as evidence suggests it can be a viable option for some.

The Truth about Fad Diets are they tend to demonize foods or food groups, and this can lead to a problematic relationship with food, triggering some people to develop an eating disorder. Also, by cutting out certain foods/food groups can cause bad consequences such as:

  • Inadequate vitamin and mineral intake
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Nausea and headaches
  • Constipation

These diets may not provide the optimal nutrition needed for individuals with specific health requirements or with health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Athletes may find that they do not that fad diets do not adequately fuel their performance, as their nutritional needs are often different from those of the general population. Also, for those in vulnerable stages of growth and development.

Fad diets usually make you follow strict rules, which will see people lose weight initially. But due to their difficult nature people tend to fall off the bandwagon and the weight soon piles back on. If not even more weight than before.

What happens when you stop and start a fad diet?

Your body will adjust to the fewer calories needed. As a result, your metabolism responds by declining, therefore using less energy. When you stop your diet your metabolism has a hard time readjusting to the increased number of calories and as a result the kgs seem to pile on quicker and in a larger number than before starting the diet.

Are you struggling with the cycle of fad dieting? Get help, talk to a professional.

Here at Studio Rubix we are lucky to have Kate Morland our dietitian. She has over 15 years’ experience as a dietitian which is very valuable. She completely rejects diet culture and helps individuals to embrace a non-diet approach such as intuitive eating, helping to heal relationships with food.

If you are concerned about your dieting and relationship with food, we are here to help.

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