What are Fad Diets?

The reason why we need to have a conversation regarding Fad Diets is owing to their popularity. And owing to the risks involved in undertaking the diets. Every time a new fad diet is introduced, there are far too many who keenly try them out. Most are disappointed. Wasn’t the offhanded, dismissive title presented to these diets (the dictionary meaning of ‘fad’ refers to a topic of interest whose popularity or craze is short-lived, according to Collins) a hint?

Fad Diets typically promise extreme results in relatively short spans of time. They restrict the food intake to a few food groups only. Most of these diets are either scientifically unsupported or are the outcome of shady studies with far too few test subjects for that study to amount to anything. These diets are picked up by the media and other influencers and advertised to the readers as proven scientific diet programs that show actual results.

The Issue

It is sad that most readers are simply so attracted to the promise of quick results that they never stop to verify these ‘studies’ that are falsely claimed to have taken place. If you dug deeper, you would find that these studies have test groups of a few hundred people. Now, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome is amongst the rarest diseases in the world and at any one time, there are about 200-250 children who are living with this disease. That’s still more people than the number of people who have tried out your miracle diet.

And then there are diets that have been designed specifically for those afflicted by a certain disease or condition (eg. Epilepsy, Diabetes). These diets are like medicine, and just like you would not pop pills that are made for Epileptic patients, you should not undertake something you do not fully understand. Besides, although initially, these diets may seem like they work, it is often found, on prolonged adherence to these diets, that they cause health problems.

Some of the drawbacks of Fad Diets are as listed below:

1. You skip essential nutrients

Because most of these diets are restrict consumption of specific food groups, the body does not have access to the nutrients that are only found in those food groups. This is the start of either malnutrition or another health problem. In reality, the body requires the nutrients from all food groups (yes, even carbs and fats) to function properly. (eg. The Raw Food Diet , Cookie Diet )

2. Weakness

Your body is not getting all the nutrients it needs, and in addition to that, your calorific intake is too less. You should keep a calorific deficit of 500 at the most for effective and sustainable weight loss. In most fad diets, the calorific deficit is much higher. This leaves you with no energy for either your work or your workout. (eg. Juice Cleanse )

3. Dehydration

Those 5kgs you were happy to shed in the first month were the water weight in your body. Left with no reserves, you suffer from dehydration.

4. Slow metabolism

When your body starves , it anticipates an existential crisis and in order to prepare you for that by making sure your body still has some energy for that time, your body will reduce your metabolic rate and start storing fats. So that, in case you are deprived of food, your body burns those fats and creates energy for you. The body also loses lean muscle mass and that can directly lead to weakness, among other ill-effects. Thus, most Fad Diets will work counter intuitively and now your metabolic rate is very low and your body is hoarding more fat.

5. Hair-loss and skin problems

Your health is always visible on your skin. As your health deteriorates, so will your skin. Along with the skin problems, you may experience severe hair-fall. Speak with any worthwhile nutritionist and they will ask you not to go on extreme diets citing this amongst the reasons.

6. Mood shifts

Most fad diets aggravate hormonal problems and imbalances because of the nutritional deficiencies. This is more apparent in women since up to 36% of women in India are affected by PCOS at some point in their lives. Diets and starvation also cause stress and depletion of Serotonin levels which result in mood shifts, anger and frustration.

7. You can’t sustain these diets

Such extreme diets take a toll on your physical as well as mental health. They are not sustainable over a long period of time. When dieters default, they can’t control their hunger pangs and they fall back into bad eating habits and an unhealthy lifestyle. As a result, most people end up at the same weight they started at or gain more weight in a short time after they give up on the diet.

The best way to lose weight is through a healthy lifestyle change. While this change might take a while, a balanced healthy diet coupled with intuitive eating is a safe and sustainable solution for sustainable and effective weight-loss without putting your health in jeopardy. After all, the goal is to be healthy and happy, isn’t it!

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