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How to Spot a Fad Diet

If you want results that last, choose a healthy weight loss program over a “quick fix”
Written by 
Canyon Ranch Staff
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 
Updated on: 
January 22, 2014

Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days! Banish Belly Fat! The No-Exercise Diet! Magazines, books and infomercials bombard us with fad diets and their promises of fast and easy weight loss. These “quick fixes” may sound like just what you are looking for, but achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it comes from making lifestyle changes that you can stick to. Fad diets tend to fail in the long run and can even be harmful to your health, depriving you of adequate nutrition, altering your metabolism or even contributing to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure.

More: Strategies for Weight Loss That Sticks

So the next time your interest is piqued by a weight loss program with bold claims, look closely at its components so you can tell a fad diet from a healthy weight management plan. The following are signs that the option you’re considering is one you should skip:

It has a specific beginning and end.  Successful weight management is a lifestyle—not a one-time activity. Statements like “one week to weight loss” are signs that the plan doesn’t teach you how to make changes you can stick with in the weeks, months and years to come.

It promises very rapid weight loss. In general, losing one to two pounds per week is a reasonable and healthy goal—anything faster than that and you will lose water and calorie-burning muscle mass, instead of fat.

It advertises that you’ll lose weight in a specific area of your body. Where you slim down first is more a matter of genetics and cannot be determined by how or what you eat.

It claims that there is no need to exercise. Eating less and moving more are two crucial pieces of the weight loss equation; while it is possible to take off pounds with just one, doing both will always improve your results—and your overall health.

"Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to weight loss, there is no substitute for healthy eating and regular exercise."

It mandates cutting out certain foods entirely. Loading up on only a few choice foods may deprive you of the nutrition a more balanced diet can provide—never mind make eating pretty boring!

It encourages extreme rigidity or daily rituals. Eat a grapefruit with every meal. Only drink lemon water with honey. Sticking with strict recommendations like these is not only unrealistic, but unnecessary, and can lead to inadequate nutrient intake. As long as you are making good food choices and eating healthy portions, no two days need to have the same menu.

It says that you’ll look like an “after” photo. Sure, drastic before and after photos can grab your attention. But remember: Weight loss is personal, and no plan can guarantee that two individuals will have the same results.

It is also marketed as a health cure-all. Good nutrition can improve and even prevent many conditions, but it is not a magic bullet. It is always smartest to discuss any health concerns with your physician.  

If you’re still unsure of what eating plan is right for you, consider consulting a registered nutritionist who can help you identify or create a regimen that will be effective, safe and appropriate for your daily life and preferences.

"Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to weight loss, there is no substitute for healthy eating and regular exercise."
Reference(s) 
FamilyDoctor.org
Mayo Clinic
United States Department of Agriculture