Nutrition-Bites-Fad-Dieting

Nutrition Bites: Fad Dieting

With New Years' Eve around the corner, many people's thoughts shift to healthy changes. Diet advertisements featuring well-known celebrities or shocking weight loss transformation photos motivate thousands of Americans to follow new diets at the start of each year. Yet, with a billion-dollar diet industry in the United States, it is important for consumers to decipher fad dieting from healthy lifestyle changes.

Fad diets may produce rapid weight loss, but often the risk of malnutrition or sustainability is overlooked. The majority of fad diets center around macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fat, often demonizing one macronutrient and celebrating another.

For example, low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets, such as the Ketogenic and Atkins diets, claim to promote weight loss. High fat may keep the stomach satiated for longer periods of time, but carbohydrates provide necessary energy for muscle and brain cells. Without adequate carbohydrates, the body may feel lethargic. High-protein diets, such as the paleo diet, are also popular. These high-protein, low-carb diets often restrict healthy fruit and grain intake, which may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. For these reasons, it is important to discuss any potential risks with a dietitian before starting a diet.

With the heavy promotion of diets, it can be difficult as a consumer to decipher fad dieting from real healthy lifestyle changes. Any diet that promotes rapid weight loss, includes elimination of a specific nutrient or food group, follows a strict menu, or doesn't require exercise is most likely a fad diet. Powerful weight loss testimonies often accompany such claims, but fad dieting is not sustainable. Those who follow fad diets often experience the yo-yo effect, where they quickly gain their weight back after breaking the diet. Losing or maintaining a healthy weight is not about quick fixes, but it is about a lifestyle change. Individual planning, slow and steady weight loss, and focusing on physical activity are all essential to implement a healthy lifestyle.

Weight loss goals and big changes in lifestyle can be an overwhelming experience, and as a result, fad diets may appear to be a quick fix to the problem. Long term change is only won through real lifestyle changes. Contact a registered dietitian in your community to help set realistic goals and tailor a diet for you!

By Jaime Traverse, Tulane Dietetic Intern
December 2018

Topics:   diet , food environment , nutrition , physical activity , wellness

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