Fad Diets-Trick or Treat

Fad Diets-Trick or Treat 11October

It seems that Americans are constantly looking for a “quick fix”. On television we see countless commercials for cosmetic gimmicks aimed to take away wrinkles and smooth out fine lines in our faces. Plastic surgeons advertise outpatient treatments to shrink belly fat. And, then there are the fad diets! Do a “Google” search and you will find a ceaseless number of diets that each claim to produce quick weight loss, cure an illness, or prevent disease if one only follows the program faithfully. But, do these things really work? Are they clever “tricks” targeted at money making and notoriety of the inventor or are they “treats” that will actually help us to improve our appearance and health? Merriam-Webster defines “fad” as “a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal.” With this definition in mind, fad diets are generally followed with enthusiasm for the short-term rather than allowing for a long-term lifestyle change. They tend to produce a quick weight loss that may not be sustainable long-term. You may have heard of the “Cabbage Soup Diet”, and the “Grapefruit Diet”, both have been around for years. Then there are The Atkins Diet, The Paleo Diet, The Ketogenic Diet, and Intermittent Fasting just to name a few.

So, let’s look at some of the most popular weight loss diets and see what we think, “trick” or “treat”.

The Cabbage Soup Diet:
The Diet:
The Cabbage Soup Diet has been around for years. Individuals are encouraged to eat cabbage soup every day for seven days, along with other foods like green vegetables, chicken, brown rice, and bananas. According to the diet, the more soup that an individual eats, the more weight they will lose. The diet is recommended to be used for the short-term.
• If an individual follows the rules of the diet, claims report a 10 – 20-pound weight loss the first week.
• It might be just the “ticket” to help one fit into that special dress before a wedding or prepare for one’s upcoming class reunion.

• Not recommended for long-term.
• Does not provide behavior changes for long-term weight loss.
• Very restrictive and may cause nutrient deficiencies.
• Much of the initial weight loss is “water weight”.

The Grapefruit Diet:
The Diet:
Like the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Grapefruit Diet has been around for a long time, at least since the 1930’s. The individual is advised to eat grapefruit before each meal along with a very restrictive diet that includes eggs, bacon, chicken, salad, and cooked vegetables. Other fruits are prohibited as are all grains, dairy, and beverages other than black coffee, tea, and water.
• Grapefruit is a very nutritious and low-calorie fruit but probably does not affect weight loss.
• Some people are very successful with losing weight in the short term.

• This is a very restrictive diet that tends to be very low calorie and not recommended for the long term.
• It excludes many nutritious foods like whole grains and other high fiber fruits.
• It can lead to consuming excessive saturated fat since it recommends eating meat at least twice daily and bacon and eggs for breakfast.
• This diet touts Grapefruit as a “fat burning” fruit which is not true. Eating any fruit before a meal could help with weight loss by reducing hunger and curbing total calories consumed.

The Atkin’s Diet:
The Diet: The Atkin’s diet was created by cardiologist Robert Atkin’s in the early 1070’s. It is one of the most famous low-carbohydrate diets in the world. It is a four-stage diet that starts by restricting carbohydrates to 20 g. per day and allowing unlimited protein and fat. This 2-week “Induction Phase” causes the body to begin converting stored body fat to ketones for use as its main source of energy. After two weeks, carbohydrates are gradually added back into the diet in increments of 5 grams. This is so that the dieter can determine their “critical carbohydrate levels” that will cause them to lose weight and maintain the loss. Controlled studies have shown that although high in protein and fat, the Atkin’s Diet can be effective for weight loss without contributing to heart disease.
• The diet can produce significant weight loss when followed exactly as it is written, .

• The diet is very restrictive.
• A low carbohydrate diet can be low in fiber and other nutrients found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
• The Atkin’s Diet can be very high in saturated fat and cholesterol which could contribute to heart disease.
• Because it is so restrictive it may not be sustainable long-term.

The Paleo Diet:
The Diet: The Paleo diet is short for Paleolithic Diet which is based on the diet that hunter-gatherers ate thousands of years ago. This diet is classified as a “fad diet” because it is very restrictive. It restricts dairy, legumes, and grains. On the positive side, it does encourage its followers to eat a variety of plant and animal foods and eliminates processed foods.
• The Paleo diet is balanced and a healthy way of eating that eliminates processed food and encourages animal and plant foods.
• This diet can lead to weight loss and improved health.

• Very restrictive.
• Can we really eat like the Cavemen did?

The Ketogenic Diet:
The Diet: This very low carbohydrate diet is very popular today. Like the Atkin’s Diet, the Ketogenic Diet is low in carbohydrates, providing less than 50 grans of total carbohydrates per day and often less than 30. The Ketogenic Diet does produce results! But, it is very restrictive.
• Produces significant weight loss through ketosis.
• Some studies indicate that the Ketogenic Diet may also reduce inflammation in those who are overweight or obese.

• The diet is very restrictive.
• A low carbohydrate diet can be low in fiber and other nutrients found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
• The Ketogenic Diet can be very high in saturated fat and cholesterol which could contribute to heart disease.
• Because it is so restrictive it may not be sustainable long-term.

Intermittent Fasting:
The Diet: There are many versions of Intermittent Fasting. Some “diets” ask the dieter to eat normally on 5 days of the week and “fast” on two days of the week. The “fast” can be a total fast, that is no calories at all. Other “fasts” ask the dieter to limit their calories to 500 or fewer on their “fast” days. Other versions of the diet have the dieter fasting every other day. The ultimate goal is to restrict calories.
• Some research has found that intermittent fasting can be effective for weight loss and loss of belly fat.
• Research also suggests that the dieter does not increase caloric intake on non-fasting days as a result of fasting.

• Restrictive on two or more days of the week.
• Does not provide for behavioral changes with eating.
• May not be sustainable long term.

“Trick or Treat”

In conclusion, when looking at only a few of the “Fad” Diets or “Popular” Diets that are mentioned plus many more, what they all have in common is that they restrict calories in one way or another. By restricting calories they also may restrict certain important nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Low carbohydrate diets also restrict the body’s main source and “preferred” source of energy, yes, carbohydrates. Fad diets will always be around. New weight loss plans will be created to address our desire to lose weight quickly. Fad diets have been effective in weight loss, but is that weight loss sustainable in the long-term? The “trick” is, to lose weight one must either consume fewer calories and/or burn more calories. To achieve and maintain your weight loss goals, it is important to find a way to eat that you enjoy and can follow for life. The “treat” will be sustained, healthy weight loss and a healthy future. It is important to always check with your Primary Care Provider and Registered Dietitian before embarking on any weight loss or exercise plan. For more information, contact Debra Loder, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Wickenburg Community Hospital. 928-684-1803

Debra Loder, RDN

Debra Loder, RDN


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