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? There are not sustainable

There are many myths and facts of fad diets that can reviewed in great detail. My article however, will only focus on a few points regarding myths and facts of fad diets in order to provide a concise point of view to my readers. I will also review some popular fad diets and discuss their pros and cons.

Most diets that are followed rigidly will, in the short term, result in weight loss. However they fail in the long term. Why?

The general consensus is that if an individual puts their body on a continually restrictive diet, it will slow down their metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.
Many people restrict themselves heavily on diets, which lack essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Once the initial weight loss has been achieved many dieters will simply revert back to their original eating habits that initially caused the weight gain.
Thus we have the term “yo-yo” dieting!

The following sections include my reviews about current fad diets and their pros and cons.

The Atkins Diet
Weight reduction is achieved through this diet 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 are 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 of osteoporosis.

Weight Watchers
This diet is 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. Another con that this diet may have is that their 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 within certain limits of what an individual may want are exactly how sensible healthy eating should be. The success rate with this diet is extremely high and 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 include; 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 its 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
This is another diet which changes the balance of foods eaten. With the zone diet there is an emphasis on eating more protein. The diet follows 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 Palaeolithic 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 an individual is allowed to eat as much of particular low calorie foods like fruits and vegetables and foods 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. Truthfully however, 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 should comprise 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


The media through mass advertising and other forms of communication are constantly promoting dieting and diet products of all kinds. Most of these products are promoted as being beneficial to the user with quick benefits and weight loss. Ultimately however they will not help a person 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 if followed incorrectly.

Proper health management can be achieved through eating a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and sensible consumption of alcohol. These recommendations are seen as the “miracle” in helping you to get to the recommended weight for your body.

Other recommendations to achieve proper health management include:-

  • 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.

Throughout these Healthy Eating pages I continually advocate the enjoyment of food and everything in moderation through the 80/20 rule. If a person is careful with what they eat for 80% of the time and have an exercise routine then for the other 20% of the time a person can afford to treat themselves a little.

People do not get fat by having one day where they have eaten more than normal. It is only through continual over indulgence of calories that weight gain is caused.

Conclusively fad diets have their benefits and disadvantages, hence why I choose to advocate my recommendations. However it us up to the individual person to choose a diet that is appropriate for them. Consultation with a GP is recommended before undertaking any form of dieting to reduce the negative risks of dieting and to gain a wholesome, healthier and happier lifestyle.

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