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Weight loss veterans know that losing weight and keeping it off requires a long-term commitment, yet even savvy dieters can occasionally be tempted by the quick weight loss promised by fad diets. As each new “lose weight fast” gimmick comes along, some people forget about the negatives associated with most fad diets. From a lack of nutritional value to food restrictions that are hard to live with. While others might not know if the weight-loss plan they’re considering is a fad or a program that could be helpful over the long haul. Here’s how to tell a flash-in-the-pan plan from an effective one.

Here are some of the red flags that indicate a weight-loss plan is an ineffective fad diet:
  • The diet promises that you will lose weight fast or at an unrealistic pace. The claims sound too good to be true. The diet’s recommendations are based on a single study, or no research at all.
  • The diet’s recommendations seem extreme.
  • Statements made about the diet are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
  • It refers to foods as “good” or “bad.”
  • Personal testimonials are used to “sell” the diet.
  • The fad diet involves crash dieting, or very intense reductions in eating and drinking.
Why do fad diets become the rage?

A number of factors typically fuel their popularity, including:

  • Celebrity endorsements. Who doesn’t want to be as popular and slender as the latest starlet?
  • The promise of quick weight loss. In this age of instant everything, there’s a natural temptation to fall for a weight-loss plan that promises quick weight loss in only weeks rather than months.
  • The “elimination” mentality. The idea that cutting out certain foods will result in quick weight loss plays into popular beliefs about dieting. “Many of these diets promote elimination of one or multiple food groups for a set number of days or in very specific combinations with some sort of gimmick. Many people equate misery and deprivation with dieting and so are more willing to accept this type of weight-loss plan, at least for a brief while.
  • Peer pressure. If all your friends are following the fad, it’s tempting to join in.
Fad Diet Safety Questions

The most important question about any weight-loss plan is not whether it is effective, but whether it’s safe and healthy for you.
Many fad diets work for a short period of time, usually causing you to drop pounds due to possibly unhealthy calorie reduction or water weight loss. Occasionally you may learn a trick or two about adding healthy foods to your diet or maybe a new recipe that you enjoy.
The fad diets succeed at jolting you from the grind of mindless snacking, eating junk food on the run, and all the calorie and fat-packed extras like whipped cream in the cappuccino, or grabbing a slice of pizza on the way home from work. Just making these lifestyle adjustments is usually enough to see some weight loss.

However, while you are reaping the benefits of your new quick weight-loss plan, you should consider its overall nutritional makeup. Unfortunately, many fad diets do not meet the nutritional needs of most people.

Here are some signs that a fad diet is not healthy for you:
    • Muscle cramps
    • Dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Fainting
    • Dehydration
    • Severe constipation or diarrhea
    • Mood changes
    • Constant hunger

People who are on medication or have chronic health concerns must be especially cautious with fad diets and should always talk to a doctor before trying any new diet. The fact that the diet resulted in quick weight loss without meeting your nutritional needs can lead to regaining weight rapidly if you revert to your old eating habits and, ultimately, to yo-yo dieting.
The sad fact is that fad diets set the individual up for failure. When the diet fails, the dieters may blame themselves and develop a feeling of demoralization and hopelessness that they are unable to lose weight. This can make it harder to make the healthy changes needed for long-term weight loss.

Find Better Alternatives to Fad Diets

If you are concerned that a weight-loss plan could be a fad diet, do some research — look for the science behind the diet’s claims. A better solution is to work with a nutritionist or registered dietitian to create a realistic diet that will be effective for you.
People should follow recommendations made by reputable organizations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as The American Heart Association. The reality of weight loss is that, in the long run, a slow and steady approach brings more lasting results than any quick weight-loss fad.

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