Are Fad Diets Sustainable In The Long Run?

Doesn’t everyone want to look and feel like the best version of themselves in the shortest period of time? With the emergence of fad diets, weight loss is thought to never have been easier. But is that really true? We consulted accomplished and certified nutritionist, Mishel Akbar* to help us understand why fad diets don’t work in the long run. Keep reading!

What Are Fad Diets?

Mishel defines fad diets as short-term “popular” diets that promise immediate results in a short period of time. Fad diets usually involve following a strict regimen which include omitting a certain food or macronutrient deeming it to be ‘unhealthy’ to ensure drastic results. 

Why Don’t Fad Diets Work In The Long Run?

Fad diets are usually marketed as a healthy diet plan that ensure drastic and maintainable weight loss. However, Mishel argues that the restriction of certain foods and macronutrients is unsustainable in the long run. This is primarily due to the nature of these diets and how they often demand difficult strategies and unrealistic eating standards like cutting off carbohydrates or not eating fruits. A lot of these foods contain macronutrients which source your body with energy. Cutting out these foods, like carbohydrates, may be putting yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies. These unrealistic standards paired with strict diet regiments are difficult to sustain, therefore, failing these diets in the long run as they mostly reverse over time. 

What Do Fad Diets Particularly Target?

Mishel believes that fad diets target individuals who are seeking immediate weight loss. These diets promote exaggerated claims instead of well-balanced diets. Fad diets heavily rely on dramatic results and so promise things like “lose x amount of lbs in x amount of time”. 

What Are Some Of The Physical/Psychological Effects Of Fad Diets?

Restrictive diets that omit certain foods or compel individuals to follow low-calorie diets not only damage the metabolism but also cause many nutrient deficiencies, Mishel explains. Adding to this, the psychological impact of constant food restriction and unsustainable eating standards may result in the development of an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, in the ketogenic diet where you are restricting carbohydrates and constantly counting net carbs, you may become stressed when you find yourself eating more carbs than what the diet suggests. You may also worry about attending social events in fear that they may not offer “non-keto” food. All these factors may result in unhealthy coping mechanisms which fuel food anxiety and eating disorders. 

Why Do People Gravitate Towards Fad Diets?

Mishel argues that the reason why people gravitate towards fad diets is because they offer quick, unrealistic results and often “appear” to be easy despite this being far from the truth. It seems that people gravitate towards weight-loss solutions that don’t include normal diets or exercise. Mishel reiterates this by saying these quick and unsustainable diets are easier to fall into rather than a diet that requires more hard work and patience. 

She points out that in Pakistan, in particular, due to the lack of nutrition education, it is easy for most individuals to fall trap to such trends and diets that promise false results. 

Are All Fad Diets Ineffective?

An effective diet is a balanced diet. Mishel explains that an effective diet is one which helps you reach your goal in a healthy manner without cutting off any foods or macronutrients. It is effective if you can sustain the results even after completing that specific diet. Since most fad diets are highly restrictive, they are often difficult to continue long term.

*Mishel Akbar has done BSc Biological Sciences, BSc Dietetics and MS Clinical Nutrition.

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