Fad Diets

It may seem there is always a new diet that promises fast and effective weight loss—and it can be hard to keep track of all the conflicting and/or new research. More important, it is tough to determine which weight loss diets are health-promoting and effective over time.

The term diet refers to a set of foods and drinks that are commonly consumed—whether intentionally (such as for managing diabetes or high blood pressure) or unintentionally (such as personal or family favorites or in response to seasonal availability). In contrast, a fad diet is a very specific set of foods and/or drinks that are designed to be consumed together in pre-determined quantities in order to aid in fast (but usually unsustainable) weight loss. Most fad diets are generally unhealthy and temporarily popular.

What is a fad diet?

Many fad diets recommend severely restricting calories or eliminating entire food groups in order to induce quick weight loss. Cleanses, juice diets, or detoxification diets are all types of fad diets. The Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, and Paleo Diet are all examples of fad diets that have been popular at one point in time.

Fad diets are usually not the best option.

The decision to follow a fad diet is often done without the support or recommendation of a medical professional, and many times is an unhealthy practice. Although many fad diets promise quick weight loss, most are not recommended for long-term use and do not promote a healthful lifestyle. While many individuals lose weight initially on fad diets, the weight is often easily regained and accompanied by new or worsened nutritional deficiencies.

Stick to healthy eating.

Proven and effective weight-loss techniques involve following a healthy eating pattern or lifestyle with a goal of long-term weight maintenance and lowered risk for chronic disease. For example, a healthy eating pattern known as the DASH Diet (aka the DASH Eating Plan) does not involve calorie restriction. Instead, it encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat. For more information, see the handout The DASH Eating Plan.

Did You Know?

Only 5% of individuals who go on a ‘diet’ keep off the weight that they lose.

It is far more beneficial to lose and maintain weight by establishing and enjoying a healthy diet—along with some form of regular physical activity—year-round!