The ins-and-outs of FAD Diets

fad diets

Written by: Sedra Jundi, MSc. RD. and Julia Hanna, MSc. RD.

Fad diets promote restrictive eating, giving false promises of weight loss. With all the emphasis on physical appearance on social media, it is not surprising to see people fall into the traps of  FAD diets. But it is important to be aware of false diet claims and ways to break this dieting cycle. Read this article to dive deeper into different FAD diets and learn why they don’t work.


What is a FAD Diet ?
A FAD Diet is characterized by an eating pattern that promotes restrictive eating by encouraging the elimination of certain food groups for a short period of time (1). In other words, it promises quick weight loss results and unproven health benefits that often sound “too good to be true”. What people often fail to realize is that these restrictions cause people to eventually overeat, make unhealthy food choices and thereby gain the weight back. 


Over the past couple of years, various FAD diets have surfaced, these include the ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, the zone diet, the 5:2 diet, and many others. Despite the hype and claims on their efficacy, the use of these diets are not supported by scientific evidence. 


We hate to break it to you, but none of these diets are sustainable long-term. The majority of these diets require restrictive eating and elimination of food groups that soon enough will lead to diet fatigue. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that people who go on these diets tend to develop many nutritional deficiencies and possibly disordered eating patterns (2). 


How can you be aware of false diet claims?
It is important to pinpoint misleading health claims in order to avoid wasting your efforts, money and most importantly risking your health. As a result, steer away from the following [1,2]:  

  • Diets that promote rapid weight loss of more than 4 lbs per month
  • Diets that promote certain foods as being magical “fat burners” 
  • Diets that encourage the consumption of certain foods without the need to change your lifestyle and habits.
  • Diets that highlight the need to restrict yourself from wholesome foods and the elimination of entire food groups
  • Diets that induce the consumption of one type of food or drink (i.e broth, fruits, soups, liquids only etc.)
  • Diets that recommend the consumption of certain foods in certain combinations to reach a state of body “detox”
  • Diets that encourage you to eat only specific foods based on your blood type 
  • Diets that are marketed by celebrities and have not been backed up by clinical studies 
  • Diets that recommend the same guidelines for all individuals 

For more on how to determine whether information is misleading, check out the Staying Away from Fad Diets article on Eat Right’s website.  


If not a FAD diet, then what should I be doing?
Since FAD Diets are not recommended, here are some tips to help you break out of the “dieting” cycle [1,3,4]:

  • Keep track of what and how much you are eating by having a food journal 
  • Eat your meals at regular times and avoid skipping meals 
  • Make sure to include a source of protein at every meal 
  • Prioritize fiber rich foods such as vegetables and fruits to help control your appetite and cravings
  • Try to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily life
  • Always set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable and timely) nutritional health goals 


To conclude, FAD Diets may be a tempting quick fix to lose weight in order to achieve a certain body image; however, they are associated with possible health risks. The safest and most ideal way to reach a nutritional goal and maintain it in the long-term is to seek advice from a health-care professional (dietitian and/or physician). They will likely encourage you to develop healthier eating habits by consuming nutritionally balanced meals and help you lead a healthy lifestyle. 


Two principles can also help you develop healthier eating habits, namely intuitive and mindful eating. 

 

References:
  1. BDA. Fad Diets, 2020, www.bda.uk.com/resource/fad-diets.html.
  2. Wolfram, Reviewed by Taylor. “Staying Away from Fad Diets.” EatRight, www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/staying-away-from-fad-diets.
  3. Foreyt, John P, et al. “Weight-Reducing Diets: Are There Any Differences?” Nutrition Reviews, vol. 67, 2009, doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00169.x.
  4. Goff, Sarah L., et al. “Brief Report: Nutrition and Weight Loss Information in a Popular Diet Book: Is It Fact, Fiction, or Something in between?” Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 21, no. 7, 2006, pp. 769–774., doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00501.x.