By Dr. Amy Lee
Fad diets are diet plans that are marketed as the “best” or “fastest” approach to losing weight. They’re known as “fad diets” because they’re popular for a time and then they fall out of fashion.
And here’s the truth about fad diets – while they may work temporarily… over time, they can do more harm than good.
They often eliminate certain food groups which, in turn, can eliminate essential nutrients from your diet. They’re also generally poorly researched – or the research isn’t substantial enough.
In the chaos that is 2020, there’s no better time to assess your current eating habits and to understand the best way to approach your relationship with food — and your health. And that starts with shedding some light on fad diets.
So, which fad diet trends should you kick to the curb, and what plans should you stick to as the new year approaches? Read on.
What Is A Fad Diet?
First, it’s essential that you understand what a fad diet looks like, so you can spot it easily.
If you’re not sure, ask yourself these 10 key questions:
1. Does it make you eat one thing (or limited things) all day long?
2. Does it promise quick results (i.e. lose five or more pounds per week)?
3. Does it rely on certain processed foods to offer an advantage to conquering weight loss?
4. Is the diet advertised by a celebrity?
5. Is there a lack of any real scientific evidence (or more than one study) showing how the diet works? Is the research seemingly sponsored by the diet?
6. Is exercise advertised as unnecessary for weight loss?
7. Do the results simply sound too good to be true?1
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions… you might be looking at a fad diet.
The Truth About Weight Loss
The truth is, without the right tools and knowledge, losing weight permanently can be difficult. It’s absolutely possible for you to succeed – but it takes determination, smart food choices, and at least some exercise.
Why is exercise so important?
You need to exercise to build lean muscle mass. Not only do these muscles burn calories more effectively, but less muscle can lead to weakness and a loss of mobility as you age.2,3
Any diet that doesn’t help you to maintain lean muscle mass is doing you a great disservice.
What Plan Should You Focus On Instead?
Well, you don’t want to focus on anything trendy. What you do want to turn your attention to are long-trusted, proven approaches. Lifestyle changes that you can stick to long-term are important.
Look for advice that comes from reputable sources, like The American Heart Association, or registered dieticians. Good dietary plans:
- Place emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Include plenty of lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and eggs, for protein
- Are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Embrace healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, avocados, and flaxseeds
- Choose complex carbs such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, and beans rather than simple, processed carbs
- Make movement and exercise a priority, including strength training
- Manage stress effectively. Stress may lead to overeating.4-7
Ready For A Fresh New Start?
Right now, we’re all ready for a fresh start as 2021 approaches. But in terms of your diet, this new beginning should feel relatively boring. That is, no bells and whistles – just fresh, unprocessed foods, regular exercise, and a careful eye on calories.
All fad diets and trends should be left behind. Now, and always.
About Dr. Amy Lee
Dr. Amy Lee is a graduate of internal medicine at USC and completed a fellowship at the Center of Human Nutrition at UCLA. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and is a member of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists and the American Board of Obesity Medicine.
Dr. Lee has given medical talks for HBO, Hulu, and PBS. As Head of Nutrition for Nucific, her mission is to help people achieve the body and life they deserve.
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