Separating Fact from Fiction When it Comes to Fad Diets

By Guest Blogger Jane Sandwood

When something sounds too good to be true, the chances are that it probably is. Fad diets promise a quick fix to cellulite and a flabby tummy, but how well do these plans really work? While many fad diets do result in initial weight loss, this is often just water weight. Progress quickly tapers off, and dieters may find themselves facing more problems than before. In addition to being ineffective, fad diets can be uncomfortable, unrealistic, and even downright dangerous. Here’s the low-down on some of today’s most popular fad diets and their effects on the body.

The Atkins Diet

While not as widespread as it once was, the Atkins diet is still a popular weight loss method. It aims to cut carbs from your meal plan, forcing you to eat fresh meats, leafy greens, and low-carb vegetables. While this might sound like a good plan on the surface, eliminating any one food group can wreak havoc on your body. Cutting out high-carb fruits and vegetables severely limits your nutrient intake, and you won’t be getting enough fiber to digest your meals without taking supplements comfortably. What’s more, a high-protein diet can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Intermittent Fasting 

Popular in various cultures across the globe, intermittent fasting has become popular in the western world due to the 5:2 diet, which restricts the number of calories consumed on two days of the week to around 500-600. The rest of the week you can follow your normal diet, being careful not to binge on unhealthy foods. This plan promises that you’ll lose body fat, lower sensitivity to insulin and even enhance the digestive system. But is it as effective as it sounds? Although it does seem that there is evidence to suggest that weight loss can be expected when following this plan, it also increases the chances of some very unpleasant side effects. As with other low-carb diets, bad breath can be expected, alongside anxiety, dehydration and excessive lethargy during the day. 

The South Beach Diet

This diet aims to help you restrict calories over a given period by altering your carb intake. Instead of cutting out carbs completely, after a brief phase free of all carbs, you can slowly introduce what are considered “good” carbs into your meal plan. In the third phase of the diet, you resume eating as usual, though in moderation. While the second and third phase of this diet are nutritionally sound, the initial carb-restricting period can be unhealthy.

Ketogenic Diet 

The process of ketosis uses the body’s own fat burning system to help you lose weight. Rather than relying on sugars from carbohydrates, the keto diet encourages the consumption of high fat meals and cuts out carbs to the point where molecules called ketones build up in the blood stream. Rapid weight loss is reported to be achieved in as little as 10 days, but studies reveal that those on low-carb diets tend to regain some of their weight within a year. 

The Paleo Diet 

This weight loss plan is based on the nutritional intake of primates who lived during the Paleolithic era. The idea is that they survived on raw, natural foods such as fruit, vegetables, animals and animal products (eggs and honey). It is thought that compared to the average person today, Paleolithic people consumed more fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, had a much wider range of vitamins and minerals and ate less salt and saturated fats. Sounds sensible so far? The downside is that it can be difficult for vegetarians to follow, particularly as beans are not allowed. Additionally, it does cut out a wide range of food products that are known to be packed full of goodness because they weren’t available to cavemen. Hummus, peanut butter and grains such as oats are all off the menu. 

The Sugar Busters Diet

As we all know, sugar is the bane of a healthy diet and lifestyle plan. This plan doesn’t restrict calories, but instead, restricts the foods that you’re able to eat to cut back on your intake of sugars, complex carbohydrates, and starches. The Sugar Busters diet allows for the consumption of foods with a low glycemic index, such as oatmeal, sweet potato, legumes, fruits. This diet bars you from eating other healthy foods, however, such as certain fruits and vegetables. Because of its harsh restrictions, people who follow this diet are often nutritionally deficient and are forced to take supplements.

Fad diets may claim to help you lose weight fast, but in the long run, they may actually end up impeding your weight loss efforts. To reach your goals, its best to avoid fad diets and stick to a simple, nutritionally balanced meal plan.

Photo by GREG KANTRA on Unsplash

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