Fad diets have been around for a long time. The most recent one I’ve heard of is a”metabolism booster” diet which involves eating lots of steak, chicken and drinking large amounts of black coffee, and that’s about it. After hearing about a few colleagues who had lost 5-7kg weight loss in just a few weeks, a couple envious people have come to ask me “Is their diet any good? I’m thinking about trying it.”
Let’s face it – fad diets do sound wonderful. They give promises such as “lose 5kg in one week – no exercise required!” So what’s the issue with fad diets?
- They are too low in energy (aka calories)
To lose weight you do need to lower your calorie intake, but the issue with going too low for more than a few days in a row is you’ll slow down your metabolic rate. We all have what is known as a “basal metabolic rate” – that is the amount of energy required just to do your day to day living. If you eat less energy than this over time, your body slows down it’s metabolism to compensate.
- There are consequences of cutting calories too low
While people do lose large amounts of weight in the first few weeks of extreme/fad dieting, the large amount isn’t all body fat. Yes, you will lose some body fat. But you’ll also lose fluid and muscle. When you reduce your calorie intake, your body will use up glycogen (glucose stored in muscles/liver). Glycogen holds fluid with it, so when you lose glycogen you also lose fluid. This accounts for up to 2kg of this weight loss. You’ll also lose lean muscle tissue. This is an issue as lean muscle tissue uses much more energy than fat tissue. When you lose muscle tissue, and you’ll slow down your metabolism, meaning you’ll gain weight easier than before.
- They don’t teach healthy eating patterns
Fad diets promote yo yo dieting. You lose weight, but within a few days of stopping your diet you’ll gain back the fluid weight. Because it’s not sustainable eating, people go back to their old, not so good eating habits and often gain more weight than before.
- They do not teach you to listen to your body
Food rules and extreme restriction are not conducive to a long term healthy relationship with food. Dieting often leads to patterns of restriction and overeating rather than a more moderate approach where you can learn to enjoy the treat foods you love occasionally in small portions.
So while it doesn’t sound exciting, simply being more active, focusing on whole, nutritious foods in small portions and reducing high sugar, refined fatty processed foods is what will keep you healthy, fit and balanced. Listen to your hunger signals. Learn to deal with emotional eating. Stop labelling food as good and bad. Love and accept your body as a whole, rather than thinking of all the parts you don’t like. The best thing you can do is ditch the diet mentality and get back in tune with your body.
Fad diets – just don’t do it!