How to spot a fad diet

Personally, I don’t like the term ‘diet’. When people say they’re on a fat loss diet they often say it with a painful expression on their face. I associate it with feelings of deprivation, missing out on socializing when it involves food, cravings and feeling guilty when a ‘forbidden’ food is eaten or when the ‘diet’ food is cutting too much into the family’s food budget. When the ‘diet’ is not strictly followed this can add tension to an often already stressful life. On top of that, it can negatively influence (future) eating behaviours and self-perception of younger members of the family, especially girls. But then why are weight loss diets ever so popular? When it comes to weight loss, often so-called diets initially do work, simply because they usually ‘prescribe’ to cut out all refined sugars and junk foods what means that foods and drinks known to increase body fat are off the table. If you’d like to take a leaf out of those diet books, then start with swapping these foods for green vegetables of any type and notice what happens. You’ll see that even though you’re still eating things you’re not supposed to according to the fad, or not taking their promoted supplements, you’ll already see some results just by doing that. However, everything else about the diet is often not sustainable. After an initial weight loss people often bounce back to their previous weight or even add more to it. Why? Because, when you want to lose body fat (and not water or even muscle!) there is more to it than just food and supplements… Fad diets entice by offering new solutions that are supposed to work through too-good-to-be-true simple solutions. However, mindset, emotions, gut function, hormones and physique to name a few factors, should be considered next to calories to make a difference that lasts. The whole body, mind and environment needs to be dealt with. Promise yourself right here and now that you’re done with unrealistic quick fixes, magic bullets and short cuts. Stop depriving and start nourishing to give yourself and your family the gift of a normal relationship with food for great physical and mental health for years to come!

Photo by Natasha Spencer

Unfortunately, fad diets have an enormous marketing budget and often popular influencers that do get compensated for their advocacy. They get into your head and make you jump onboard while often digging deep in your wallet. Be aware of marketing strategies and the use of famous faces that trick you into buying into it. Before you jump into the next diet trend try to stop and think about the following;

  1. Does it promise quick fixes with minimal effort?
  2. Does it all sound too good to be true?
  3. Does it passionately warn not to consume certain foods but instead buy their food products and supplements?
  4. Are recommendations made by a celebrity that receives a financial compensation for their advocacy?
  5. Do the recommendations conflict with those of reputable scientific organizations?
  6. Is the theory behind the diet not in line with our current knowledge of physiology?  
  7. Do reviews of the work point out inaccuracies in its theory or warn for negative side effects?
  8. Does it give recommendations based on only one scientific study or is there no scientifically tested background at all?
  9. Does it give recommendations that are simplistically drawn from a complex scientific study, ignoring that the study maybe was not on humans and differences between people or other limitations?
  10. Is the published work not peer reviewed?

If you can answer with “yes” to any of these questions you’re likely dealing with a fad diet that is not worth your efforts, time and money. Instead, I’d like to suggest to first explore your emotional and hormonal landscape, your physical health status and physique, environment and related eating behaviours that stand in the way of achieving and maintaining your preferred physique. This means you’ll likely have to let the focus on your scales go and instead focus more on achieving health (both physical and mental health). A qualified nutritionist can guide you in getting a clear picture of how your current lifestyle and beliefs stand in the way of body fat loss and can show you how nutrition, tailored to you, can benefit your mind and body. By working on improving these aspects in your life your weight often follows. Oh, and scrap the word ‘diet’ from your vocabulary 😊

Don’t let a fad diet stand in the way of your relationships. Rather enjoy REAL food together and fuel your body and mind with food that nourishes you. Photo by fauxels.

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