Why fad diets fail in long term weight loss

Have you ever used a fad diet to lose weight?  If so, you are not alone.  About 50 millions Americans go on a diet each year and will spend more than $30 billion trying to lose weight using pills, special foods or supplements fad diets often offer and promote. 

The definition of the word “fad” is “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities.”  This definition can apply to the craze of fad weight loss diets over the years.  Countless people have tried, been successful but ultimately, will fail in the long term when resorting to fad diets for permanent weight loss. 

If the long term success rate of fad diets is lousy, why do we continue to seek their help?  It’s a little bit like the “get rich quick” schemes promising instantaneous wealth without putting in much effort, usually ending up disastrous.  When it comes to weight loss, people get desperate.  They want immediate, quick results.  They forget the weight they’ve gained over the years didn’t happen overnight.  They would rather be told “eliminate this food group” or “buy these pre-packaged meals” and your weight loss woes will be cured.

The problem of fad diets is just how the definition of the word fad describes it - short-lived and without much scientific research to back up their weight loss claims.  Fad diets profit off of people with inadequate nutrition knowledge who seek the “lose weight quickly” scenarios. If fad diets delivered what they promise, the nation’s obesity problem would have vanished a long time ago.  If they never worked, people would have stopped using them.  In reality, anytime calories are reduced, no matter how it’s done, weight loss occurs.  But studies have shown, fad diets are ineffective for maintaining weight loss.  And this is a key factor to remember - people can and do lose some weight on fad diets, but because fad diets are unstainable for the long run, once they quit the diet, the pounds eventually come back on and then some.

The question is can you spot a fad diet?  How do you recognize and know if you’re following a weight loss scam?   Here is what you need to know:

·         A fad diet bases evidence for its effectiveness on anecdotal stories and testimonials.

·         A fad diet blames weight gain on a single nutrient, such as carbohydrates or a constituent of your diet such as gluten.

·         A fad diet claims it will “reset your metabolism” or “change your genetic code.”

·         A fad diet tells you to exclude an entire food group such as dairy or grains.

·         A fad diet doesn’t tell you up front all the costs involved in following it.

·         A fad diet doesn’t disclose potential risks associated with the plan.

·         A fad diet doesn’t have a weight maintenance plan after you’ve lost the weight.

·         A fad diet promises unrealistic outcomes in an unreasonable time period, such as losing 15 pounds in 8 days.

·         A fad diet promises quick, easy weight loss as in “lose weight while you sleep.”

·         A fad diet promotes drugs, products, devices, or procedures not approved by the FDA or scientifically evaluated for safety of effectiveness.

·         A fad diet always sounds too good to be true.

·         A fad diet will single out a specific food as the key to weight loss success – “eat grapefruit and magically lose weight.”

·         A fad diet sells special products not available in grocery stores. 

The more of the claims listed above a weight loss diet has, the quicker you get off the diet, the better.

It’s easy to fall for a fad diet when trying to lose weight.  They offer everything a person wants to hear and believe in getting weight off fast – simple to follow, often don’t recommend exercise, and they almost always work.  But, there is a caveat - the success rate is poor.  Only about 5 percent of people will successfully keep weight off over time.

What type of diet does work?  Here are qualities to look for:

·         It encourages healthy foods of all kinds

·         It encourages finding a consistent exercise routine you love and will stick with for the long term

·         It encourages moderate weight loss of one to two pounds a week

·         It discourages selling of supplements or other devices to promote weight loss

·         It encourages using behavior modification techniques to help you stay on track

·         It is a way of eating you can maintain for the rest of your life