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How Fad Diets Get it Right

 By Emily Barr, MS,RD,CNSC –

Life is too short to waste time and money on fad dieting!

The truth hurts.  The honest truth is, as a whole, we (Americans) have weight to lose, and losing weight is time intensive, hard work.  That’s where the fad diets come sweeping to our rescue, like a knight in shining armor, giving us hope to drop 7-11 pounds in one  week!

They proceed to sweet talk us with some trendy words to convince us that we need to detox our body, or melt our belly fat, to help us drop those stubborn pounds.  Then they give us hope, telling us why this is the solution that is going to be the one diet that works for us.

It sounds like a sneaky business ploy, but let’s face it…we seem to fall for it every time!

Fad diets get a bunch of things majorly wrong!

They promising rapid weight loss over the course of a few days or weeks.  It is a well known fact that rapid weight loss of this kind is not true weight loss, but actually more of the dehydrating kind.  We also know that rapid weight loss is not sustainable; the weight is often regained as quickly as it is lost.

Another blunder of fad diets is the elimination of entire food groups.  Again, it is also well known that different types of foods provide us with a variety of key nutrients that our body needs to keep our metabolism functioning properly.   A third common problem with fad diets is that they are often so strict that we are unable to follow them for more than a few days or weeks.

Fad diets are often so strict that we are unable to follow them for more than a few days or weeks.

The consensus among the experts on how to achieve successful weight loss is to make lifestyle modifications that you can follow for the long term.

Surprisingly, fad diets occasionally get a few things right!

We can use a few of the fad diet strategies to set our lifestyle modification into action.



Fad diets require extreme, dramatic changes to your usual food routine.  By signing up to do each of these regimens, you are affirming your commitment to change.  The idea of rapid weight loss is motivating and may push you to do things you had never done before, like go an entire day eating only chicken and vegetables.  At the end of the day, you realize that when you put your mind to something, you can accomplish things you never thought possible.

Action Plan:  Assert your commitment to success by writing down your specific goals and motivation for weight loss.  For example, you may be motivated to lose weight in order to keep up with your busy toddler.  Now that you have your motivation, try setting an easily obtainable, specific goal that you can expand upon.  Maybe you start off with the goal to avoid snacking on your child’s leftovers when cleaning their plate. Then once you’ve accomplished that goal, you expand it to stop mindless snacking throughout the day when bored, working, or doing household chores.


  Fad diets usually give you a list of “allowable” foods, and then you proceed to the grocery store to stock up on these items.  Why can’t we do the same thing when not following a fad diet?

Action Plan:  Set some goals for the week, and then outline how you are going to achieve them.  For example if your goal is to boost your metabolism by eating breakfast every morning,  you should first plan out what your healthiest breakfast options are, then place them on your shopping  list. Finally, try scheduling breakfast time into the day, so you have time to eat it.


By starting a strict fad diet regimen, the  not so healthy stuff you are eating goes straight out the window and is quickly replaced by x, y, z, which is specifically designed by the fad diet to reduce your calorie intake (usually so many servings of fruits and vegetables,  go figure).

Eliminating our favorite cravings, cold turkey, can often times backfire on us, ending in a splurge, and then guilt.  Another approach would be to focus on your fruits and vegetables, and by default, you replace your not so healthy stuff with nutritious stuff! Doing this gives you opportunity (calorie wise) to indulge in the occasional splurge.  Plan your splurges carefully (i.e. once a week or once a month), that way you don’t completely abandon your healthy lifestyle.

Action Plan:  Make a list of all of your favorite fruits and vegetables, and then stock up!  But don’t stock up on foods that tempt you.  Focus on filling your home with healthy foods. In other words, make your home your “safety zone”.  Save those willpower smashing foods for special outings where the serving size is controlled and there aren’t any leftovers (e.g. going out for a scoop of ice cream vs. buying ice cream for the house)!


  Fad diets would prefer you to eat smaller portions frequently throughout the day.  Well, they may not get the food choices correct, but the grazing type meals and snacks are right on the money.

Action Plan:  Make a daily meal plan including 3 meals and 1-2 snacks to ensure you eat every 3 hours during the daytime hours.  If you don’t plan ahead, you may find that you have gone hours without eating, which slows down your metabolism!


Fad diets usually will emphasize water, requiring you to drink a certain amount of water every day.  Again, genius!  Most of us do not drink nearly enough water; therefore increasing our water intake will allow us to enjoy a sense of fullness, thereby reducing our calorie intake.

Action PlanSet your daily water goal and stick to it!  One suggestion is to divide your water up into 3 portions – drink 1/3 before noon, 1/3 before 4 PM, and the remainder before 8 PM.  Whether you prefer to count ounces or actual glasses of water, just make sure you drink enough water each day to stay hydrated. Drink. Refill. Repeat.

Considering trying a fad diet to achieve weight loss? We urge you to reconsider it! Fad diets may begin with initial weight loss, but they generally end with added weight gain and frustration. Whether you are interested in weight loss to improve your health or self esteem, please know that learning how to live a healthy lifestyle is the best way.

Need a little guidance? We are here to help!  We offer FREE nutrition advice and guidance. Please click here to learn more!

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