Health safety of fad diets

There are millions of fad diets in circulation with promises to melt your body fat, shrink your waist and leave your body thin and “healthy.” But the truth is that most of these diets do not fulfill their promises and do not produce effective long-term results.

Everyone claims to have the newest and best solution for losing weight. There are millions of fad diets in circulation with promises to melt your body fat, shrink your waist and leave your body thin and “healthy.” But the truth is that most of these diets do not fulfill their promises and do not produce effective long-term results. Many fad diets may also be unhealthy and unsafe.

Farrah Wigand, registered dietitian with Norton Weight Management Services, pointed some red flags that may be indicators of an unhealthy fad diet.

1 – The diet promises rapid weight loss. “Slow and steady weight loss is more likely to last than quick and dramatic weight loss,” Wigand said. “Anyone can follow any diet for a short period of time. But if a person does not learn to modify their behavior and food choices for long term, weight regain will result,” she added.

2 – The diet excludes exercise. If exercise isn’t a part of the plan, run away! Physical activity is not only important for weight loss, it is essential for optimal health. According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which investigates the habits and characteristics of 10,000 individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss, 94 percent of registrants increased their level of physical activity to some degree.

3 – The diet involves skipping meals. Limiting calories can be a successful weight loss technique, but skipping meals is not necessary to limit calories. In fact, 78 percent of NWCR registrants ate breakfast every morning and still kept their weight off. “Any diet that involves taking in 500 calories or fewer a day is considered starvation and should be avoided entirely,” Wigand said.

4 – The diet allows only special meals. While some meal replacements and supplements work to improve weight loss, it is important for a dieter to continue eating real food. Wigand said this helps to create a “realistic and flexible eating style” that is more sustainable once the person stops using the meal replacements. She suggests working with a registered dietitian to help create a realistic meal plan that allows for cooking at home and occasionally eating out.

5 – The diet requires taking supplements. Always check the ingredients before taking any pill, powder or shake. Consult a dietitian or physician to make sure the ingredients are safe. Some may be detrimental to your health.

6 – The diet bans certain foods. Some diets that ban certain foods can be beneficial, such as those that eliminate foods containing trans fats. But diets that limit your meals to just one food group or an all-liquid diet can be harmful. Again, it is best to take part in a diet that follows a realistic meal plan for long-term benefits.

Among the slew of fad diets available, some stand out as more popular than the rest. However, Wigand said, “There is no research that indicates that the Paleo diet, AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge, South Beach Diet, juice cleanse or any other fad diet is effective in producing long-term weight loss. There are no foods or pills that ‘burn’ fat.” She also noted that because no two diets — or people — are created equally, what works for one person may not work for another.

Being on a diet or modifying your menu and lifestyle can be simple, natural and healthy. The most important thing you can do is build safe and effective habits. Before beginning any diet, consult your physician, dietitian or a weight loss specialist to develop a realistic plan for successful weight loss and maintenance.

To find out about weight management options and to find a weight management specialist, visit NortonHealthcare.com/WeightManagement.


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