The Dangers of Fad Diets

Fad diets are weight loss schemes that promise big returns on very little effort. Oftentimes, fad diets encourage those wishing to lose weight to severely limit the intake of certain types of food, without regard for the effects of these changes on the entire body system.

Fad diets can be dangerous in this way, leading to yo-yo weight gains and losses that can wreak havoc on a person’s physical and mental health. Fad diets rarely lead to long-term, sustainable weight loss due to the biological mechanisms that these diets put into gear.

Spotting a fad diet is merely a matter of recognizing the signs. Most diets that claim to guarantee abnormally quick weight loss in one way or another are fad diets, as are those claiming to be “miracle cures.” Ironically, many fad diets that have been popular in recent times are actually recycled theories from the past. It is important for people who would like to see permanent weight loss and an overall healthier lifestyle to avoid fad dieting. Read on for more information about the dangers of fad diets.

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet can be broadly defined as any diet promising weight loss at a rate of more than two pounds per week, especially if no exercise is recommended or strict food restrictions are placed on the dieters. Essentially, fad diets promise a big payoff for little effort and, as a result, tend to be popular for only short periods of time. Most fad diets end up seriously restricting a dieter’s caloric intake or cutting out essential food groups in an effort to make the body rapidly lose weight. Ultimately, weight lost in this manner is usually water weight that will be immediately added back on once the dieter stops the diet’s strict regiment.

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The promoters behind fad diets use a vast variety of strategies to back up their proposed methodology. Some claim that different food groups should be eliminated from a diet because of how they affect a person’s hormone levels and therefore his or her weight control, for example. Others may council dieters to eat primarily or entirely just a handful of food groups with claims of being able to hijack the body’s natural weight control mechanism by changing the proportion of nutrients it receives. No matter the justification, fad diets can lead to dangerous weight loss and other health consequences for the unsuspecting dieter.

How can you spot a fad diet?

To avoid getting involved in a fad diet, it is important to be able to identify the typical characteristics seen across different fad diets. Unfortunately, fad diets come in many shapes and sizes so that no single checklist can be made to clarify how to identify a fad diet that may be unhealthy for dieters. However, some trends can be found in most fad diets. The following features of a diet should raise flags and make dieters consider whether said diet is serious or a fad:

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  • Promises or Guarantees of Rapid Weight Loss

While all diets are meant to make their participants lose weight, diets that make exaggerated promises about losing weight faster than is recommended should be doubted. Claims that seem too good to be true are usually false and unhealthy.

  • Diets That Claim to Work Without Exercise

No matter how you look at it, exercise is a necessary part of healthy dieting. Any plans that claim that participants will safely lose real weight without moving a muscle are probably fad diets.

  • Simple Diets That Come From “Science”

When the methodology behind a diet is based on a single, complicated research study boiled down into a few conclusions, odds are the diet is a fad.

  • Diets That Blacklist Foods

For the vast majority of food, everything is good in moderation. Diets that require participants to cut out long lists of food or entire food categories are probably missing the point of long-term weight loss.

  • Diets Recommended to Help Sell Products

Many fad diets were born because a dietician or doctor with marketing smarts figured out the best way to sell his or her book, TV show, etc. Look for unbiased, professional opinions on these types of diets before jumping in.

  • Studies That Claim to Have the Answer for Everyone

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer to dieting problems. Any diet that claims to work for everyone is probably making false claims that will probably be disproved soon, once the fad dies down.

What are the dangers of a fad diet?

Why is it important to avoid fad diets? Beyond the fact that they often do not help dieters lose weight in the short-term, fad diets can lead to a host of other problems for unwary dieters. Individuals looking for a new diet plan should be careful to skip fad diets as a long-term strategy because of the following negative consequences they can cause:

  1. Temporary Weight Loss

As mentioned above, most fad diets depend on making the body go into starvation mode. This causes the dieter’s system to shed water, making it seem as if the dieter is losing significant amounts of weight quickly. In reality, the loss of this water weight is like the body’s first line of defense in times of crisis and will be quickly replenished as soon as the body senses the hunger period to have ended, usually when the dieter starts to shift back to a normal diet.

  1. Malnutrition

Many fad diets require participants to seriously limit their caloric intake or eliminate certain food groups. Doing either of these can quickly lead to malnourishment in the dieter, which will ultimately lead to a loss of muscle mass in the dieter. A host of other medical issues will follow if the dieter remains malnourished for long.

  1. Dehydration

Because the first effect of a restricted diet is water loss, it is easier for participants of fad diets to quickly become dehydrated. Those fad diets that are paired with exercising can be especially prone to causing dehydration in participants.

  1. Fatigue

Lower caloric intake, malnutrition, dehydration and more can all compound the effects of fatigue, which may be brought about on its own by the fad diet. The combination of these consequences can be extremely dangerous for dieters.

  1. Digestive Issues

Because fad diets often favor certain types of foods and cut out others, a dieter’s digestive system can have difficulty adjusting to the new proportions of food. Some fad diets, for example, result in rapid weight loss due to the diarrhea caused by the toxic mashup of recommended foods.

  1. Yo-Yo Dieting

Most fad diets are meant to last for short periods of time while providing incredible results. Because they also often only bring about temporary weight loss results, those who follow fad diets can easily slip into the habit of dieting on and off, or yo-yo dieting.

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