Myths and Facts of Fad Diets


Most diets that are followed rigidly will, in the short term, result in weight loss. It is in the long term that they fail. Why? The reasons are that if you put your body on a continual overly restrictive diet, it will slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight. Many people restrict themselves so much on diets, which lack essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and once the initial weight loss has been achieved many dieters will simply revert back to their original eating habits that caused the weight gain initially. Thus we have the term “yo-yo” dieting.

Throughout my Healthy Eating pages I continually advocate the enjoyment of food and everything in moderation with my 80/20 rule. If you are careful with what you eat for 80% of the time and have an exercise routine then for the other 20% of the time you can afford to indulge a little. You do not get fat by having one day where you have eaten more than normal. It is only the continual over indulgence of calories that causes this.

The media and mass advertising constantly shove dieting and diet products of all kinds in our faces. The bottom line is these will not help you to maintain a happy healthy weight loss and balanced life in the long term. Such “diets” can cost a lot of money and potentially have serious health consequences.

It is healthy eating a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and sensible consumption of alcohol that are the “miracle” in helping you to get to the recommended weight for your build. Form a daily and weekly menu plan and enjoy good healthy food. Eat smaller more regular meals – aim to have 50% of your plate filled with vegetables, 30% with lean protein and 20% with complex carbohydrates.

Some examples of popular diets I have researched and their pros and cons include:-

The Atkins Diet

Weight reduction is achieved here because foods high in protein and lean fats are consumed with a restriction of foods high in carbohydrates. This means that the body is starved of its primary energy source, carbohydrates, and will look to its next source, fat for fuel. The issues here are that you’re not really getting a well-balanced diet and reducing carbohydrates to this extreme may result in a lack of calcium and a possible heightened risk to osteoporosis.

Weight Watchers

An extremely popular and effective diet, of which I really enjoy some of their recipes. Sometimes it is felt that this diet is not rigid enough for those who may be inclined to temptation. Also, followers can begin to see food as nothing more than “points” rather than the enjoying the experience of eating and trying difference foods. However, the principles of eating a balanced, healthy diet and within reason what you want are exactly as to how sensible healthy eating should be. The success rate here is extremely high achieved through local support groups and weekly weigh-ins and meetings.

Mediterranean Diet

The key components of the Mediterranean Diet include eating a generous amount of fruits and vegetables, consuming “healthy” fats such as olive oil or canola oil, eating small portions of nuts, drinking red wine in moderation, consuming very little red meat (perhaps once a month) and eating fish on a regular basis. A multitude of benefits are attributed and proven from following this diet such as reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of some forms of cancer, reduced risk of developing diabetes, reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease, reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and the reduction of the instances of allergies in children.

Whilst I highly favour this diet, and Lynne and I will try and follow it’s eating principles, it is worth pointing out that in Scotland (where I live) we do not receive as much sun as the Mediterranean does, and also for others, the regular consumption of fish may not be affordable or practical. Fortunately we do live next to the sea, so this factor is not an issue for us.

The Zone Diet

Again a diet which changes the balance of foods eaten. Here there is emphasis on eating more protein. Diets follow a 30-30-40 breakdown of 30% of calories from protein, 30 % from fat and 40% from carbohydrates. Feedback from followers of this diet is that the rigid plan can feel restrictive and may be light on certain essential nutrients. However, it is very close to being an exactly balanced macronutrient diet.

Paleo Diet

This diet is based on the diets of our ancestors from the Paleolithic era. It is predominately based on foods that can be hunted or gathered such as wild plants and animals. Anything not thought to have been available at that time (10,000 years ago) like grains, dairy and processed foods are avoided. Overall, the diet is extremely healthy being rich in soluble fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, mega 3 fatty acids and low GI carbohydrates. However, the diet is heavily reliant on meat and as we know too much red meat is not good for us, nor is it particularly lean. Also with such restrictions on dairy and pulses it is said to be lacking in specific micronutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

Volumetrics Diet

Foods that will fill you up on fewer calories are the key to this diet plan. So basically you are allowed to eat as much of particular low calorie foods like fruits and vegetables and those with a high water content which should eliminate the feelings of hunger, fatigue and depression that often accompany other diets. Higher calorie full fat foods, sweets and cakes are avoided. This diet also recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and keeping a food log to keep a track of calories consumed. Overall this diet is very effective and in the long term following it precisely you will lose weight, keeping to the recommended 1600 – 2000 calories per day. Also, unlike other fad diets, physical activity is advocated here. All in all, this is very close to the eating plan I follow, and is definitely less of a fad diet, more like a lifestyle, so I like this diet. Albeit I could not do without the occasional cake or treat.

Raw Food Diet

As the name suggests this diet is based on the consumption of unprocessed, ideally organic, plants of which a minimum of three quarters of this diet should be uncooked foods. Followers of this diet are mainly vegans, although some followers consume raw meat and raw animal products e.g. fish (sushi). Followers of this diet believe that because they are eating raw, uncooked food it enhances their body’s ability to prevent diseases, promotes weight loss and reduces cholesterol. They believe that the cooking of foods destroys the natural food enzymes. Whilst the benefits of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables are scientifically proven and clear, I would urge much caution with this diet. Some foods are toxic if they are not cooked or are eaten in large amounts, such as buckwheat, kidney beans and raw eggs may contain salmonella.

Macrobiotic Diet

Macrobiotics is a diet form Japan. It is based on almost exclusively cooked foods with a minimum of 5% fruits. Dairy foods and eggs are usually avoided. Only whitefish such as halibut, trout and sole again only 5% of the diet. Whole grains make up a large part of this diet. Weight loss is achievable but it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Vegetarianism / Vegan diets

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include the abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. Throughout the world hundreds of millions of people are vegetarians, either through necessity or choice. Contrary to popular belief, vegetarians, with careful planning, can meet their recommended intake of all nutrients by combining fortified foods and/or supplementation to aid their intake.

There are many reasons for becoming a vegetarian. These include, but are not limited to health benefits, environmental concerns, animal rights and advocacy, cultural and religious reasons and the lack of availability or affordability of animal products. Below is a summary of the different types of vegetarian diets:-

Types of Vegetarian Diets

I don’t consider there to be anything wrong with any of the vegetarian diets above. Those are a personal choice. My personal belief and opinion is that I don’t want to be taking any supplements if I don’t have to, where I can normally find all of the vitamins and nutrients that I require by consuming my 80:20 lifestyle diet.

My diet research is an ongoing project. This page will be updated with new information and diet facts continually in order to provide the reader with a valuable and truthful set of facts on which you can form your own opinion. Comments welcome!

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