Does Dieting Really Work?

What is a ‘FAD diet’ ?

Restrictive diets that promise quick weight loss results or sudden health benefits over a short period of time, not supported by evidenced based research are generally referred to as ‘FAD diets.[1] These diets involve eliminating food groups such as carbohydrates, fats, dairy etc. which are essential to support your overall health. Some diets may also focus on one particular type of food, for instance, the banana diet, juice diet, the all kale diet, egg diet,  which can result in long term health complications.[2,3] FAD diets may also have unrealistic claims, products and time lines or could even be promoted by your favourite celebrities or influencers, paid to promote products or a particular way of eating.[2]

Does it work?

Generally, when an individual follows a very restrictive diet, by nature the individual will be in a calorie deficit, meaning that the amount of calories they consume is less than their calorie expenditure. Due to this, the individual will see short term quick weight loss results.[2,3,4] However, these diets lack major nutrients, which may lead to individuals feeling lethargic, moody, irritable, bloated and constipated.[3,4] The individual may also find it difficult to manage the rigid diet when going out, at work, meeting family and friends and will eventually lead to terminating the diet. Consequently, the quick loss in weight will be regained quickly resulting in the individual feeling demotivated and frustrated attempting to follow an unrealistic diet which was created to set people up for failure.[1,4] This tells us that ‘Fad diets’ or the concept of ‘dieting’ doesn’t help to keep off the weight in the long term. Science also tells us that FAD dieting has been linked to increased morbidity and mortality rates from cardiovascular disease along with a negative impact on mental health.[5]

Easy ways to spot a FAD diet

  • Promotes a particular food with ‘magical properties and benefits’.
  • Infers a change in your physiology and body chemistry.
  • Restricts carbohydrates, dairy or other major food group.
  • Has rigid rules.
  • Promises a quick fix.
  • Includes fat burning or weight loss supplements.
  • Recommends 1-2 foods to be eaten together.
  • Lists out ‘good and bad foods’.
  • A product/diet continuously promoted by a celebrity or influencer.

Nutrition tips

  • The best diet is not a diet at all. Aim to build a positive relationship with food, exercise and healthy habits instead of following a FAD diet.
  • Add variety into your diet and always include the five food groups such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, meats or meat alternatives and dairy or dairy alternatives.
  • Focus on building healthy habits through behaviour modification rather than a ‘FAD diet’.
  • Re-learn eating habits, hunger and fullness cues and consider what foods work well for you and continue.

If diets really worked, there wouldn’t be a new diet coming up every year. Stop focusing on the ‘FAD’ and focus on yourself and obtain scientific, accurate health information from a trusted health professional.

References

  1. Hill, A., 2004. Does dieting make you fat?. British Journal of Nutrition, 92(S1), pp.S15-S18.
  2. Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. 2011. Weight loss and fad diets – Better Health Channel. [online] Available at: <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/weight-loss-and-fad-diets>
  3. Navaro D.A., Raz O., Gabriel S., Shriqui V.K., Boaz M. 2017. Functional foods in Fad Diets: A Review. Functional Foods in Health and Disease 7(9); 702-715.
  4. Malinauskas B M, Raedeke T D, Aeby V G, Smith J K and Dallas M B 2006. Dieting Practices weight perceptions, and body composition: A comparison of normal weight, overweight and obese college females. Nutrition Journal 5: 11
  5. Bronwell K D, Rodin J, 1994. Medical, Metabolic and psychological Effects of weight cycling. Arch Inter Med 12: 1325-1330
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