Fad Diets – The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly
It’s the time of year again… the year where many people feel they need to atone for their holiday excesses, and start a new year… by losing weight.
When many people make this their goal, one of two things usually happens: they feel like they need to make healthy lifestyle changes all at once… getting discouraged, hungry, and cranky because of the abrupt changes. Or, they choose a fad diet that promises a quick fix.
As you can imagine, both of these options have their share of problems. Personally, I’m a big fan of the slow and steady approach, making gradual lifestyle changes versus the cold turkey, make all the changes all at once approach. And being a healthy living advocate, I’m absolutely not a fan of the fad diet…
Time for a quick disclaimer first: Unless your doctor has specifically told you to lose weight to address health issues, or you’re struggling with day-to-day tasks as a result of your body mass, you’re likely just fine the way you are. Also, I’m not a dietician. I’ve done a lot of research, and think carefully about what I choose to feed myself and my family, but it’s often a good idea to check in with a registered dietician before making any serious changes to your diet.
Okay, so, without further ado, fad diets…
Because fad diets often restrict calories, eliminate entire food groups, or time when and what you can eat, weight loss often follows quickly. While that in itself isn’t a reason these diets are good, it can serve as a bit of a self-esteem boost, or at least a reason to keep going for those who are embarking on a healthier lifestyle. When you see quick results, it does serve as a bit of a reinforcement to stick with your goals. A bit of a carrot, if you will.
The Bad, And the Ugly
Just because you’re seeing quick results, doesn’t mean that the diet you’re following is healthy. Eliminating entire food groups from your diet, for instance, can result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies. It can also backfire by creating severe cravings for whatever you’ve eliminated (usually as a result of those deficiencies). Long-term, some of those deficiencies can contribute to health issues. For example, when it comes to the hugely popular keto diet, some experts believe putting your body in a constant state of ketosis for an extended period of time (more than 90 days) may contribute to muscle loss, and, in some extreme cases, can do damage to the heart. Additionally, in people with lover or kidney issues, the keto diet isn’t necessarily safe.
Too often, it’s also not sustainable to follow a restrictive diet, especially if it’s severely calorie-restrictive. It’s simple biology… you’re going to be hungry if you don’t eat enough. With extreme calorie restriction, it’s likely that you’ll binge. It’s also likely that after a period of weight loss, you’ll stall because your body will think you’re starving, and hold on to every precious calorie.
Finally, when it comes to calorie restriction, or cutting out whole food groups, it’s likely you may experience some unpleasant side effects. Some of these diets have been blamed for constipation, dehydration, malnutrition, and more.
Ideally, eating a wide array of foods, mostly unprocessed, but giving yourself the occasional treat, may be the most effective way to pave the way for healthier eating habits.
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a quote that I often use (and love), “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That may be the biggest key to ongoing healthy eating ever.