We hate to break it to you, but if a diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Experts weigh in on fad diets and why they aren’t effective.
By Amy Boyington
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A diet’s a diet, right?Alliance/ShutterstockUnfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of fad diets—you know, the ones that claim to help you drop several pounds in a short amount of time? Think The Military Diet, HCG Diet, and detox or cleansing diets. Behind its glitz, glamour, and promises, fad diets often have lots of false claims with no medical proof. In fact, experts are quick to debunk the claims of fad diets, noting that they’re often packaged as a healthy alternative to exercise, but that there’s really no such thing. “Ironically, one of the more common side effects of fad diets is often weight gain. Your body believes itself to be in [a] state of starvation and attempts to hang on to every calorie in a survival attempt,” explains Candice Seti, PsyD, CPT, CNC, founder of The Weight Loss Therapist. Yes, your diet could be doing just the opposite of what you want it to, and it can seriously hurt your health. Here are a few reasons your current diet isn’t working.
Fad diets can cause dehydrationsuccesso-images/ShutterstockDropping pounds fast may make you happy right now, but it won’t result in a long-term weight loss solution and can have a serious impact on your health. When you shed five to ten pounds your first week on a diet, what you’re losing is water weight, not fat. The creators of fad diets design them to make people believe they’re burning fat like crazy, when they’re really just getting rid of the water their bodies hold on to in an attempt to prevent dehydration. What actually happens is your body loses water so fast that it causes you to become dehydrated, without you even realizing it. A healthy diet doesn’t focus on rapid weight loss, but a balanced diet, complete with plenty of water intake. Rob Raponi, sports nutritionist and founder of The Naturopathic Perspective, suggests cutting 500 calories per day from your current intake to achieve a healthy weight loss of one pound per week. It may not be the rapid weight loss you want, but you’ll be much less likely to end up in an ongoing cycle of yo-yo dieting when you see consistent results. Dr. Seti also recommends carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go to prevent dehydration. The more you drink, your body will feel less hungry, and the less likely you’ll be to snack. Have you tried lemon water yet? It’s delicious and has some awesome health benefits!
Your body can become fatigued more easilyDean-Drobot/ShutterstockWhat happens when you feel hungry and thirsty? You become tired and unmotivated. That’s because, when you’re hungry or thirsty, your body is sending you messages that there’s a problem, and you need to do something about it. Most trendy diets simply don’t give your body what it needs in terms of nutrients and fuel, which can cause extreme fatigue. When you’re tired, do you feel like exercising? Probably not. So now you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, and not getting exercise, which is a huge recipe for a weight loss disaster. Dan Plante, director of fitness for Orangetheory Fitness, explains that fad diets are simply an unsustainable way of keeping weight off because they restrict not only your food amount intake but also the frequency you eat. Plante suggests eating four to six small meals per day to keep your energy flowing and calorie intake at a healthy level. These healthy cooking hacks will help you eat the right amount of calories at every meal.
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You don’t get enough of the good stuffBrent-Hofacker/ShutterstockFad diets usually focus on cutting out something from your diet. The problem is, our bodies need foods from all the food groups, even grains and fats. “If a diet cuts out an entire food group or pushes anything in an extreme way, [like] no fat, no carbs, super low calorie, only eat these five things, etc.—chances are it’s not healthy,” explains Dr. Seti. Better diets are those that provide you with plenty of balanced meals so you’re getting the calories and nutrients you need. Dr. Seti recommends packing your diet with vegetables since they’re rich in antioxidants, fiber, and water to help fuel your body and lose fat. The best part is that veggies have barely any calories, so you can almost consider them freebies in your diet. Broccoli, for example, is high in calcium to help support your metabolism, but super-low in calories. Love pasta too much to cut back? Stop cutting out all your cravings from your diet, and start adding in delicious, low-calorie substitutions for healthy weight loss.
You lose muscleflywish/ShutterstockOne of the biggest problems with these types of fad diets is that they often only encourage changes to your eating habits and miss the mark on encouraging healthy exercise. Without exercise, your body doesn’t build muscle, and without adequate muscle tissue, your body doesn’t burn calories to its maximum potential. So, dieting without exercise isn’t the best way to go. “If restrictive dieting is combined with a lack of exercise, the weight that is being lost will not only be fat but muscle, too. Muscle mass is crucial in maintaining weight loss as the presence of lean muscle tissue increases our metabolism,” says Raponi. These exercises are perfect to do while you’re cooking your healthy diet meals.
Your metabolism slows to turtle speedFortyforks/ShutterstockWhen you cut calories in a big way, your body reacts, but not necessarily in the way you want it to. A fad diet often cuts so many calories that, instead of increasing your metabolism to burn fat, it slows down your metabolism to conserve its energy. That’s why healthier diets often encourage people to eat several small, balanced meals per day to continuously provide energy to keep metabolism moving. Plant suggests “nutrient dense, whole foods at every meal, [including] quality protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” Once you feel confident about adding in a workout routine, Plante says it’s important to eat a lean protein, low-fat meal with quality carbs, and drink plenty of water, before your workout to keep your energy and metabolism up. These metabolism myths could be sabotaging your weight loss more than you think.
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You put your heart at riskAfrica-Studio/ShutterstockIf you’ve tried a fad diet, did you keep the weight off? If not, you aren’t alone. Most fad dieters quickly put their weight back on after they stop dieting because it is simply not a long-term weight loss solution. Unfortunately, rapid weight gain can be more damaging than simply leaving you with a few extra pounds around your belly. Raponi explains, “Anytime someone undergoes drastic and rapid weight loss, they are putting themselves at a higher health risk. Studies have shown that yo-yo dieting is actually associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.” According to CNN, women who have a normal BMI but have had cyclic weight loss and gain patterns are 66 percent more likely to die from coronary heart disease. If that’s not reason enough to pass on this type of diet, we don’t know what is. Here are some healthy snacks that can help you lose weight.
Your wallet will take a hitpuhhha/ShutterstockFad diets can be expensive. Dr. Seti says that many of them require, or at least recommend, you purchase supplements that not only put a strain on your wallet but also are risky for your health. Once that diet and its supplements don’t work, you move onto the next one, and the next, until you’re spending a ridiculous amount of money on a short-term solution. Instead, hone in your budget on making small, but effective, tweaks to your diet to create more well-rounded meals. Put your money toward a supply of fresh veggies and fruits, whole-grain pasta and bread, and healthy fats and oils for the week. Raponi suggests tracking everything you eat for a week or two with an app, like MyFitnessPal, so you can see what areas of your diet you really need to focus on. This will give you a better idea of where to put your money and how to change your eating habits. Here’s how a healthy, high-protein breakfast every morning can help you lose weight.
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