Updated: Oct 28
Like that old saying, “if it’s too good to be true, then it is”, and fad diets are just that. They offer fast weight loss with the hope of keeping it off. And yes, I know that sounds so tempting. We want that quick easy fix to our problems. To be able to drop all the weight in just a few weeks which took us years to put on sounds appeasing. In the beginning, these diets do work, you will drop the weight. In the long run however, there is around a 90% chance of putting all that weight back on.
Why? There are dozens of articles out there explaining this but here are four reasons I have witnessed in working with others that contribute to this statement. First, they are hard to stick with for the long term and long term is what you need to be successful. People can stick with diets for a short period, especially when they have success in the beginning. That’s the easy part. The hard part is keeping the motivation and will power going and staying consistent. In the first week or two, the weight drops fast, which is unfortunately mostly water and even some muscle, little fat. However, it’s enough to keep us excited to lose weight and to keep trying. As time goes on, the speed of weight loss starts to slow and will even stop (plateau) at times which leading to decrease motivation, increase frustration and returning to old habits which puts the weight on.
Secondly, most fad diets are strict which means you may be missing out on certain nutrients that your body needs, thus having increase cravings. Being strict also leads to a lack of flexibility and the stricter the rules are, the harder it is to maintain. I know some people are successful with guidelines and meal plans, they thrive off the order. But what happens when you want to go out to eat and the restaurant does not offer anything from your plan?
A third reason is these diets don’t address the main issue which are the behaviors around food that led to the weight gain. Once people “fall off the wagon”, they return to their old weight gaining behaviors and habits.
Finally, diets that advise against exercise due to the severely deficient calories (like the ones which put you at 500 calories a day) do not promote a healthy lifestyle. To achieve long term success, the diet you decide on should have a healthy lifestyle focus at its core.
Healthy lifestyle aside, the severely low calories already put in a disadvantage with weight loss. Let me explain. (And I heard this car analogy on a podcast and thought it was a brilliant way to explain. Podcast: @Redefine_Healthy_Radio). For survival, our bodies prefer to be like a fuel-efficient car when it comes to calories, however they must be like a gas guzzling 1967 muscle car or a V8 truck in order to lose weight, you want to burn thru those calories.
Now, as you are dropping the calories, your body will lose fat at first till it’s able to adapt to the daily calorie intake, thus known as a plateau. Then what do people do, drop the calories again to restart the weight loss and if you are already at 500 calories, where are you going to go from there? (Side note, you actually should increase your calories when hitting a plateau, I’ll explain in a later blog).
When looking for a diet plan to assist you with fat loss, here are some things I recommend to look for in a plan:
That teaches healthy eating behaviors. Then pick one with a style you know you can manage throughout your life.
It teaches how to eat without a meal plan. Meal plans are great in the beginning when you are trying to learn how to eat a certain way, but knowing how to still eat that way without one is the trick.
Flexibility. A plan which allows you to be able to throw in the occasional treat without sabotaging your diet is important.
One that fits you. Every person is different and not one diet will fit all, so make sure the diet fits you, your lifestyle and your personality.
Allowance for any type of physical activity. Any diet that tells you not to exercise while on it is a major red flag. Not only is exercise beneficial for long term weight-loss success, it’s great for both physical and mental health.
Slow weight loss. Yes, I know people don’t like hearing this one, but trust me, slow weight loss increases the probability of keeping that weight off. Think past the original goal of hitting a specific number on the scale, focus on life past that point.
So whatever diet you finally decide to follow, make sure you can make it your healthy lifestyle and keep it up for the long term.
If you are struggling with your weight loss, or would like some help getting started, let me know, I would love to help! As a Certified Personal Trainer and Healthcare Life Coach, I can help you get started on the right path for you!