How to identify a fad diet

The internet is flooded with different diet tips, tricks, pills and promises. So how do you tell the difference between good diet advice and just another fad?

With around two-thirds of Australian adults battling the bulge, there is growing pressure on us to take control of our weight.
 
In a bid to shed unwanted kilos, Australians are currently spending more than $600 million a year in the weight loss industry. But do these services and products promise real results?

Losing weight

With so much conflicting advice about nutrition and weight loss, it can be hard to know what to believe, and which one of the countless weight loss programs is the best.

But Bupa dietitian Rosalyn D’Angelo says there’s no one program that works best.

“In really simple terms, to lose weight, we need to expend (burn up) more energy than we take in,” she says.

“It’s best to tackle this equation from both sides. Expend a little more energy through moving more, and take in a little less energy by eating less processed convenience foods, and focusing on eating unprocessed, nutrient dense real foods. If you’re still not seeing results, you might need to look at the portions you are eating. We can put on weight eating perfectly healthy foods, just too much of them.”

What about fad diets?

While the best way to lose weight is slow and steady, many of us are tempted to reach weight loss goals by following a fad diet, even though they don’t work for long-term weight loss.

People who are frustrated by their lack of success in the past and are desperate to lose weight are usually those most tempted to go on one.

So how do you recognise a fad diet?

D’Angelo says fad diets are those that promise quick, easy, and miraculous results, are short-term, and have lots of rules.

“Fad diets are often advertised using sensational language like ‘fat blasting’ and ‘supercharge fat loss’. They often tell us that ‘traditional’ guidelines are wrong and may demonise one nutrient like carbohydrates, and hero another nutrient, such as protein or fat,” she says.

Other tell-tale signs that a diet is just a fad include:

  • reliance on pills or potions
  • a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach
  • celebrity endorsement
  • making claims based on poor quality studies or testimonials
  • inability to be sustained for the long-term.
Fruits and vegetables

Dangers of fad diets

D’Angelo warns that fad diets that severely restrict the amount of food you eat can lead to nutrient deficiencies, low energy levels, dizziness and a compromised immune system.

Quick weight loss can also mean you lose muscle mass. The more muscle we have on our bodies, the higher our metabolism and the more energy we burn each day.

“Yo-yo dieting slows down your metabolism and can make you gain weight in the long-term. This cycle of yo-yo dieting can also increase your risk of heart disease,” she says.

Tips to lose weight

Other than making small, sustainable changes to support a healthy lifestyle, D’Angelo offers two tips to help you lose weight.

Her first tip is to eat more vegetables.

“Vegetables are full of fibre to keep you full, plus antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to keep our bodies running well, but they are very low in energy, or kilojoules,” she says.

“My second tip is to eat more slowly, pay attention to your meals, enjoy them, and stop when you start feeling full and satisfied. Portion control is extremely important.”

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