When was the last time you felt that your waist shrunk just after going on a juice cleanse or just ate salad all throughout the week after a long vacation? Crash diets and fads are all around us. A new diet trend keeps popping up every other day on the internet & social media makes it extremely difficult for people to differentiate what they see online and common sense. Trends are advertised in such a way that they “look healthy” but creep in with harmful health effects on our body over time and worsen our relationship with food.

We tend to give into crash dieting in the hope to look a certain way and feel fitter again. What we fail to realize is that weight loss or getting back on track for a healthy lifestyle cannot happen overnight and there is no quick fix to it. It takes time, patience and a lot of effort and dedication.

What is a “Fad” Diet?

A Fad Diet is a diet that claims to be a one stop miracle to improving your health. Most fad diets are advertised for weight loss and are based on theories and misinformation which lack scientific evidence. They are a trap!

Know your ideal macro-nutrient requirements

Fad diets can be tricky to understand when they look too good to be true. Such diets play around with the macro-nutrient distribution- a completely low carb or high fat diet. Knowing the ideal macro-nutrient distribution would help you eliminate diets that do not support a balanced and healthy eating pattern.

  • Carbohydrates: (45–65%)
  • Protein: (10–25%)
  • Fats: (20–35%)

Here are 6 Fad Diet Trends you might have come across:

1. Ketogenic diet & Atkins Diet

A Ketogenic or Atkins diet are high fat (55–60%), moderate protein (30–35%) and extremely low carbohydrate (5–10%) diets which forces the body to undergo ketosis to build up ketone bodies in their bloodstream which means that the body uses its own fat-burning system to use fat as an energy source. Even though such diets help in the elimination of processed and packaged food products which could be high on added sugars, they lack fibre and essential vitamins and minerals coming from whole foods as well as an excess protein & fat consumption could be a load on the kidneys, liver and the heart in the long run.

2. Cabbage Soup Diet

Cabbage soup diet requires that you eat large amounts of cabbage soup for seven days. During that time, you can also eat certain fruits and vegetables, beef, chicken, and brown rice, according to a set schedule. This diet is generally considered a fad as it may help you lose a few pounds quickly but you’re more likely to lose water weight and muscle mass rather than pure fat loss. Apart from extreme calorie restriction, this diet lacks essential nutrients and may result in flatulence or bloating too.

3. Gluten-free Diet

For someone who has Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, keeping gluten-containing food products off the shelves is the best way to preserve your health. But if you’re someone who is going gluten-free just to get a beach body? Sticking to gluten would be equally good for you. Going gluten free of course eliminates highly processed foods like cakes, muffins, buns etc which can help to shed pounds- it’s because you are cutting out junk calories and not gluten. ‘Gluten-free’ foods often contain added fats or sugar to make the food more palatable, so it’s best to keep your hand off them too in case you’re not intolerant.

4. Meal replacers

Meal replacement drinks can be an easy on-the-go alternative when you’re too lazy to make a nice hot, wholesome & a nutritious meal. But will they inculcate life-long healthy eating habits in you? Sadly, no. Teaching yourself how to meal prep, cook, eat healthy while ordering food and follow a diet that fits in with your lifestyle makes most sense. We’re sure you can whip up a delicious oats and berry smoothie in no time which tastes far better than an artificially flavoured one, even if you’re rushing for work- all you need to do is meal prep the previous night!

5. Raw food diet

Supporters of the raw food diet say that cooking destroys essential vitamins and minerals. While this diet helps you add more fibre to your diet, there are only a certain amount of foods that you can eat which decreases the diversity in the diet. Heating or cooking does degrade certain nutrients in our food, but cooking also helps to make nutrients more available to the body. For example, powdering sesame seeds or flax seeds helps in better absorption of it’s nutrients or cooking food in regulated quantities of oil, and helps in the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins from the food.

6. Apple cider vinegar (AVC) diet

Save yourself the gagging after taking an ACV shot. No food is a miracle food when it comes to weight loss and an overall healthy diet and lifestyle is what matters. Apple cider vinegar may help to boost metabolism and improve insulin levels when consumed in small quantities (1–2 teaspoons per day). Excess can not only wear away tooth enamel but worsen acidity, nausea and affect calcium and potassium levels of the body.

Claims Fad Diets want you to believe!

If a diet claims to be anything from this checklist, you MUST consider it as a warning and stay clear…

  • Drastic reduction or elimination of any macro-nutrient (carbs, protein & fat) or lower food intake
  • Asks you to focus on a single food group or eliminate one or more food groups
  • Shows carbohydrates or fat as the evil
  • Looks like a one-stop solution, claims to be easy to follow & mentions no requirement for commitment
  • Diet revolves around promotion & selling of product like supplements, natural extracts, diet pills and superfoods or change your body’s biochemistry like fat burning while you sleep, more alkaline diet, fat melting etc
  • Does not talk about the ill-effects on your health after following the diet in the long run
  • Does not have enough relevant scientific research backup and often endorsed by people with absolutely no background knowledge about nutrition.
  • You are having problems with coping up & following the diet because it is not parallel to your lifestyle.

Long-term effects of being on a Fad Diet

  • Lost weight comes back
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness & fatigue
  • Headache & nausea
  • Weaker immunity
  • Poor gut flora, weaker digestive system & constipation
  • Disordered eating habits develop
  • Deficiency of important vitamins & minerals in the body
  • Loss of lean muscle mass
  • Not a sustainable diet which can be followed life-long

Things to remember

  • Do not deprive yourself and include all food groups in your diet. Moderation is key!
  • Small & achievable changes in your diet and lifestyle will go a long way
  • Be physically active
  • Be careful of your sugar intake (including added sugars)
  • Cut down on alcohol & smoking
  • Be mindful while eating and of how much you are eating
  • Keep gadgets away, eat slowly and enjoy your food
  • Do not skip your meals. Eat small & frequent mealsInvolve yourself in positive self-talk
  • Fad diets are a one size fits all approach and no population has survived following a fad diet.

References:

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/weight-loss-and-fad-diets

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Fad-Diet-Examples-and-Efficacy.aspx

https://www.everydayhealth.com/food/the-10-most-famous-fad-diets-of-all-time.aspx