Fad diets come and go, but do they really work? If so, then which one will work for you?
If this sounds like a trick question, it kind of is. I wish I had the answer to this riddle. For one thing, I’d be rich. For another, well, it would mean I’d have a solid answer for every client, potential client, friend, student, random man or woman at the airport and well for you, too.
This is the answer I have.
It depends on who you ask.
Yup, that’s it. I’ve asked around and I’ve gotten resounding “NOs”, “YESs”, “Are you out of your mind?”, “Absolutely they do”, etc.
Occasionally I did get the in-betweens, but those were rare. Most people swore by them or didn’t.
Which diets you ask?
Here’s the list I got from people I talked to:
- Raw Food
- The Zone
- The 4-hour Body (this one was new for me)
- South Beach
- Blood type
From personal experience, I fit into the “NO” camp. I dieted often and started young, but they just never felt right. I’m still not much of a calorie-counting, weigh my food, deny myself delicious pleasures, kind of person.
Now, as a food professional I have to admit that I still have a bit of a bias when it comes to fad diets. In a nutshell, these are the 3 main issues I have:
- Fad diets usually exclude a main food group, whether it’s carbs, grains, meat, wheat, etc. For short periods of time and/or for medicinal purposes, this may be necessary, but as a lifelong habit, it could become a problem. If you suffer from Celiac disease then no, you should never consume anything with gluten in it, but barring any major food allergies or sensitivities, generally a balanced diet is a good way to go.
- They claim to work for everyone. Nothing works for everyone. Diets are no different. There just isn’t a ONE SIZE FITS ALL tag when it comes to the food we eat.
- They don’t exactly educate the dieter about food, and there’s no improvement in their relationship to food. Dieting is synonymous with restricting which sends the wrong message about how you should be interacting with food. It shouldn’t make you feel guilty or like a failure or like you’re being deprived. Food should make you feel satisfied and content, calm and grounded.
OK, now for the good news.
Fad diets CAN work and often do for the right person with the right frame of mind. However, if you’re expecting to lose 60 pounds in 8 weeks on X diet, keep the weight off after coming off said diet, and return to your old eating habits, you will most likely be disappointed. There is a bigger picture you’ll need to think about.
That bigger picture speaks to your long term goals and not just your immediate, get-beach-bod ready goal. Going on a diet is often temporary, but it should encourage you to change your (bad) habits, not just suspend them for a little while. For example, the main message of reducing consumption of processed foods is a good one to keep for life. It’s also a good idea to not eat refined foods ever again. And, reducing your sugar consumption to the lowest possible levels is never a bad idea.
If you’re the type of person that needs a more structured approach to losing weight and getting fit, then a diet will work for you.
Structure begets discipline, and we all know we could use a dose of it at least once in a while. Additionally, because of the structured nature of most fad diets, you’ll likely see results quickly and this can be very motivating. The trick is to carry that motivation forward so that you’re making changes in your life-style that will fit and support the new you.
As with anything, be investigative, experiment and ask yourself the hard questions. Is this diet working for me? How do I feel? How important is it that I lose X pounds? Why is it? What else am I willing to do to achieve this goal? Write these answers down and it should help point you in the right direction. It should also help keep you on track.
There are many paths to the top of the mountain, right? Which one works for you?