Too Good to Be True? How to Spot a Fad Diet

FAD//: a style, activity, or interest that is very popular for a short period of time

The Grapefruit diet, Master Cleanse, South Beach, China Study, Atkins, and many other diets pop up when Googling weight loss tips and how to lose that “last 10 pounds”. So, it’s not surprise that people are easily overwhelmed and confused with the plethora of information available on the internet. We would be too!

Now, we realize that “FAD” does not always mean “BAD”; however, when something only lasts for a short period of time, we have to question its legitimacy and its success. In the context of “diets”, shouldn’t we strive for developing long-term and sustainable nutrition habits, instead of a implementing a quick 3 month crash diet to achieve the results we want?

The diet industry is one of the biggest industries around the world, with businesses from every sector playing on the public’s increasing obsession with weight loss and eating the ‘right’ foods. 

Unfortunately, the primary goal of many of the companies serving this industry is making money and this leads to misleading, inaccurate and sometimes downright dangerous diets being promoted to the public. It’s no secret that people don’t like giving up their favourite foods in favour of a strict, restrictive diet. As a society, we are constantly looking for that miracle weight loss regime that allows us to enjoy everything we like, requires very little effort, and gets quick results. “Diet” companies give us just that in the form of numerous fad diets promising unrealistic results, promoting theories with no scientific backing and advertising drastic weight loss for “a price”.

The internet is a confusing place when it comes to nutrition. Anyone and everyone has the ability to post and modify information. Of course it’s easy for a dietitian to identify a fad diet when we see one; however, we can appreciate that most people are not able to pick out the bad apples. That’s why we are here to help!

We want to empower YOU to make informed decisions about your nutrition, learning to identify which ones are rooted in fact, and which are skeptical.

The following are a list of red flags which accompany most fad diets. If you see one or any of these while reading something on the internet, you should proceed with caution

​Common traits of a FAD diet:

  • Promises a large amount of weight loss over a short period of time 
  • Does not include suggestions to consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian
  • Encourages you to eliminate a macronutrient (such as carbohydrates) or eat from a limited selection of foods
  • Offers rigid menus that don’t consider your likes, dislikes and lifestyles. A one-size fits all type plan suitable for everyone
  • No exercise, active living or lifestyle changes are recommended or promoted
  • Provides far fewer calories than what is needed for an energized, healthy lifestyle
  • Contradicts what most trusted health professionals say
  • States you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight
  • Depends on special products, pills, supplements or treatments that block absorption of fat, calories or carbs, suppress the appetite, etc
  • Has miraculous claims
  • Relies on testimonials and anecdotes rather than scientific evidence
The bottom line is that FAD diets can negatively affect not only your workouts, but also your overall health. With some of these FAD diets being overly restrictive, it can actually break down your muscle you have worked so hard to build in order to achieve weight loss.

Always keep in mind that there are no short cuts or quick fixes for weight/fat loss. An ideal diet is a longer term solution that changes habits and lifestyle to achieve a healthier weight that can be kept that way. While FAD diets may promise amazing results, they are unlikely to deliver and even less likely to produce long term results that can be sustained.

Remember: always be inquisitive! Don’t believe everything you read, and ask for help! Our dietitians are happy to chat about all things nutrition with you, if you’re ever unsure. 

Blog written by: Alysha Coughler, FF6S Registered Dietitian 

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