Why Fad Diets Don’t Work
Fad diets have been around forever. As obesity becomes more and more of a problem, more and more people will be making an awful lot of money hawking diets that sound great and even get good press, but end up failing you in one way or another. You’ll lose weight initially, maybe even a good deal of it, which is where those great testimonials come from. However, you’ll run into trouble very quickly thereafter. You can wade through the ocean of diets and weed out the fads if you know what to look for.
Fad Diets are Too Low Calorie
One of the reasons many fad diets seem to work at first is that the calories are so low. This can result in a good deal of weight loss initially, usually for the first couple of weeks. However, the weight you’ll lose is mostly water and muscle tissue. If your diet doesn’t have enough calories, your body will look to itself to provide them. Fad diets will tell you that your body will use your stored fat as energy, but that is actually untrue.
When your calorie intake is too low, your body goes into survival mode. You metabolism slows and cortisol is released into your bloodstream. The cortisol is a stress hormone that activates the storage of fat in the abdominal area in times of stress and famine. To your body, low calorie intake is a sign of famine. If you’re taking in too few calories, your body is not going to start using stored fat as energy-it’s going to use muscle tissue.
This creates a dual problem. You lose muscle tissue while you’re on the diet. You go off of the diet because you’re hungry all of the time. Now you have less muscle, so you require fewer calories. Your metabolism has slowed because it’s in survival mode. Now, you’ll not only gain back the weight you lost, you’ll most likely gain back more, due to a lower calorie requirement and a slower metabolism.
Fad Diets are Too Unbalanced
Many fad diets achieve their initial weight loss results by cutting out whole food groups. The original Adkins diet virtually eliminated carbohydrates, even those from fruits and vegetables. Some diets don’t allow much protein at all. Others tell you to eliminate all grains. A gret many fad diets cut the fat intake to 5% or below.
Cutting out any of the three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) will almost always result in some weight loss initially, because you’ll be cutting calories. However, any diet that cuts out one of these, or cuts it to drastically low levels, will be almost impossible to stay with. It will also be extremely unhealthy.
If you cut protein too far, you’ll weight initially, but a good deal of it will be muscle mass, as we discussed before. You’ll also be wasting your time with any strength training, as your body requires a ready supply of protein to rebuild muscle tissue. When you do any kind of strength training, you create microscopic tears in muscle tissue. Protein is used to repair and rebuild those tiny tears, making the muscle tissue larger. Without enough protein, all you’ll be doing is tearing that muscle down. To make matters even worse, your body will start using the protein stored in liver and other organ tissue to meet its protein needs.
If you cut your carbs too low, as with the original Adkins diet, you’ll have a different problem. You will lose weight at first, but it will be mostly water and some fat. However, you will be fatigued and start feeling somewhat disoriented and unfocused, because your body uses carbs for energy. Protein is your body’s last resort source for energy because it needs the protein for cell building.
Few people are able to stay on a diet that’s too low in carbs for more than a couple of weeks. The fatigue is simply too much. Once they go off the diet and start eating normally, all of the weight comes back on. Oh, and all that fat that came with the protein? It’s on your butt.
Fad Diets are Too Strict
Many fad diets tell you exactly what to eat, how to eat it and when. Every calorie is counted, every portion measured and weighed and every gram of fat or carbs is accounted for.
For most people, this is simply too much of a dictatorship to last very long. If your diet tells you to have salmon for dinner on Thursday, but you don’t like salmon, are you more likely to substitute fresh tuna or stop by the drive-through?
These very strict diets also don’t allow you much room for treats. For most people, apples are wonderful, but they are not treats. Any diet that’s balanced, healthy and effective can survive a scoop of sherbet or one slice of pizza. Any dieter who’s allowed a scoop of sherbet can survive her diet.
Fad Diets Don’t Suit Your Lifestyle
Many perfectly good diets may not fit your lifestyle, either. However, a good many fad diets require so much of an adjustment to your lifestyle that they’re completely impractical for you.
If you’re already stretched too thinly, with barely a minute to yourself, you’re not going to be able to chop, measure, portion and prepare every single dinner from scratch. You’re also not likely to spend hours scouring the stores for exotic ingredients that aren’t available at your local supermarket.
If you’re not much of a cook at all, some diets are going to be completely unsuitable. A better diet for you will consist of raw foods, healthy prepared and restaurant foods and simple, quick meals even beginners can prepare.
Fad Diets are Too Expensive
Eating is expensive to begin with. Exotic ingredients and expensive supplements may be way beyond your financial comfort, especially if you have to buy “normal” food for your family and “special” food for yourself.
If your diet requires you to buy a bunch of their products or prepared meals, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars per week. Is this financially viable for you? If not, look the other way.
You can lose weight quickly, without fad diets, by following sound nutritional principles, getting a moderate amount of exercise and making small lifestyle changes that have a huge impact.