The Truth about Fad Diets
Written by Payton Wilson, Dietetics Student
What are Fad Diets?
Fad diets have been around for a longer than I can remember. They are basically restrictive diets that can help you to lose weight in a short period of time. But here is the catch: unfortunately, the weight usually comes back. When people restrict their diet and calorie intake substantially for a short period of time, they will see some weight loss on the scale but it is usually water weight loss. These types of diets can be very deceiving because they promise quick results with little to no work.
Two examples of common fad diets that I will discuss are juice cleanses and the keto diet. These diets promise quick results but there is little to no scientific evidence to back up these claims. Let's dive into these common but potentially harmful fad diets:
The Juice Cleanse
The juice cleanse diet was a very common diet that I heard about when I was a child from various adult conversations. You consume only juices for a given amount of time. Usually adults complete this diet within 3 days to 3 weeks. The juices are made from a mixture of fruits and vegetables with an occasional cashew milk thrown in for some protein. While fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and antioxidants, it can create nutrient deficiencies in protein, healthy fats, and certain vitamins like vitamin B12 (which is found mainly in animal protein sources). Fiber is also crucial to our everyday diets and when the juices are processed, they are stripped of their high fiber qualities. It can also lead to bone and muscle loss due to the lack of essential proteins in the diet.
The Keto Diet
The keto diet has been around since the 1920s and has been a popular go-to ever since. The diet is focused on low-carb/high-fat consumption and was initially used to reduce the occurrence of seizures in children with epilepsy. The purpose of eating this diet is so that your body thinks it is in starvation mode and will break down fats produced in your liver called ketone bodies instead of its usual energy source, sugar from carbs. This diet restricts the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that our bodies need for nutrients. The main problem with this diet is that people will lean towards high saturated fats as their source of this high-fat diet which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
Now you may be wondering, what can I do instead to lose weight in a healthy manner? The answer may be simpler than you think and restriction of any type of food group is not in the answer! One way to lose weight is by simply going into a slight calorie deficit. What does this mean? This means that you consume 250-500 calories less than your body burns a day. Believe it or not, your body naturally burns calories just by living! Breathing, walking, blinking, and even your heart beating burns calories. By calculating your estimated energy requirements (EER), which is based on your gender, age, height, current weight, and physical activity, you can calculate how many calories your body burns. The safest weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week and by eating slightly less calories than your body burns, you can safely lose weight and keep it off while enjoying a balanced and variable diet.
McCallum, K. (2020, January 6). Are juice cleanses actually good for you? Houston Methodist On Health. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2020/jan/are-juices-cleanses-actually-good-for-you/
Helms, N. (2019, June 20). Is the keto diet safe? what are the risks? Is the Keto Diet Safe? What are the Risks? - UChicago Medicine. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/ketogenic-diet-what-are-the-risks#:~:text=The%20keto%20diet%20could%20cause,%2C%20liver%2C%20thyroid%20or%20gallbladder.