You finally fit in that tiny dress and your cheek bones decided to show up. You’re stoked. A few weeks later, your patience wanes and so is your discipline. The pounds quickly came back with a vengeance. If this scenario is all too familiar for you, you are not alone. According to Judy Mahle Lutter in her book The Bodywise Woman, up to 50 percent of women are on a diet at any given time, and up to 90 percent of teenagers diet regularly.
Fad diets have been around for decades, they come and go in the magazines and more recently, through social media. Others have proven lasting popularity, but most die a natural death when followers realize that they cannot commit to the diet restrictions for the rest of their lives. This cycle of weight losses and gains is commonly called “yo-yo” dieting and can be explained in one word: SUSTAINABILITY.
Don’t be misled, fad diets CAN work. Dieting, which simply put, is eating in a controlled and supervised fashion, can help one lose, maintain or gain weight. There are plenty of fad diets – from low-carb diets like Atkins, high-fat diet like Ketogenic, to restrictive diets where certain food types or groups are eliminated altogether, i.e. Macrobiotic and Paleo diet. These diets are often than not designed to shed pounds rapidly, dramatically reducing weight in a matter of days or weeks, hence the term ‘crash dieting.’ However, because of the restrictive nature of these diets, it’s very common to regain the weight once you start eating ‘normal’ again.
Arabelle Minaldo, a Registered Nutritionist and Dietitian who works for a leading food incorporation, warns about the negative effects of fad diets and crash dieting to one’s health. “Crash dieting is not advisable because the nutritional requirement of the body is not met. Fad diets do not always promote balanced, healthy food choices and that may have a serious health effects. Yes, you may lose weight but not the unwanted fat. You may be slimmer but not exactly healthier.”
Another common mistake is the cookie-cutter approach because not all diets work the same for everyone. For example, Ketogenic diet focuses on high-fat food (such as bacon and butter). With this diet, the body will go on ‘ketosis’ and is forced to utilize fat as the body’s energy source resulting to fat loss. This type of diet is recommended to people with epilepsy to reduce seizures. However, when non-epileptic patients go on Ketogenic diet, they consume high amounts of fat, which may lead to cardiovascular diseases.
So, why are fad diets so popular?
According to Robyn A. Osborn, RD, PhD, a dietician and educational phycologist in Indianapolis, Ind., most people are put off by the fact that experts promote life-long change. Dieters often look for quick fixes and are more concerned with aesthetic rather than their risk of let’s say, cardiovascular diseases. The motivation comes from vanity than long-term health.
It also does not help that celebrity endorsements are everywhere. Who could forget that Beyoncé lived on cayenne lemon water for days for her role in 2006 film Dreamgirls? Or that Gwyneth Paltrow committed to 100% gluten-free diet? With the aspirations of looking like people we admire, our bigger health objective is sidelined.
While we keep on falling for fad diets, experts stick to their most simple advice that they have been advocating for years. Eat less (and good!), and exercise more. Practice consuming food in variety, balance, and moderation to maintain healthy weight instead of restricting certain food types. Maintaining a healthy diet isn’t a week or month-long affair, it’s a complete lifestyle.
When asked about her advise on how one can develop healthy eating habits, Arabelle quips, “Keep it simple: variety, balance and moderation. Mind your plate and make sure you are consuming carbohydrates, proteins, fats and micronutrients in right proportions. If you don’t know how to start, seek an expert’s advice.”
When you start thinking of dieting as a lifelong commitment to yourself rather than a bandage solution for the next beach trip, you’ll start making better choices that keep your weight off and your health at its best.
Mudambi, S. and Rajagopal, M.(2007). Fundamentals of Foods, Nutrition and Diet Therapy. 5th Ed.