A Juice A Day
Fad Diets: Rapid Weight Loss At What Cost?
Posted: October 10, 2012
Although intentions may be good, some people seeking a healthier lifestyle may opt for a diet with a hid den dark side. Fad diets and other weight loss gimmicks may produce rapid results, but side effects may range from malnutrition to larger issues.
“A ‘fad diet’ is a diet that claims to produce rapid weight loss in a short period of time. It usually has some ‘catchy name’ and does not follow recommended dietary guidelines.”
“[Whereas] standard diets are based on sound, evidence-based research that has been scientifically proven to offer beneficial and safe results,” said Julie Thurnau, RD, CNSC, and Dietitian Manager with Harrisonburg Dietitians, in an email.
“You read all kinds of stuff in the news where [people] are drinking something or maybe they’ll pick out some type of a supplement … [such as] if they take green coffee bean extract or raspbeery ketones the weight will come off, said Sue Gibson, owner of Sue’s SuperNutrition in Harrisonburg.
“Supplements are just that, they’re a supplement — your diet, your food is what really matters,” she continued.
What Makes It A Fad?
Supplements themselves are not always bad; these additions are designed to help support functions within the body and many have positive affects. Relying solely upon one supplement is where many fad diets fall short of realistic change.
“A fad diet is, generally speaking, something that makes promises or eliminates an entire food group, if not more. It’s something that can’t be sustained for a long period of time, people will lose weight but they will eventually gain it back,” explained Emily Shaber, a dietician at Rockingham Memorial Hospital.
Many fad diets rely on word-of-mouth to draw in new customers, Gibson warned.
“Testimonials are great, but when people hear stuff a lot of the time … they’ll come in here and say ‘It’s supposed to be good for this; they’re making phenomenal claims about it.’ That’s a fad to me. It’s just not right.”
“[Companies] pick out one particular thing, and who’s not going to listen? Who doesn’t want to lose 10-15 pounds?” Gibson continued.
Dangers Of Fad Diets
Many people take the testimonials at face value, without considering possible side-effects different body types may face. For instance, a person at risk for diabetes would perhaps cause himself more health issues by drinking juice, high in sugar, than health benefits by losing weight.
The average hypoglycemic or pre-diabetic might pass out after skewing his or her blood sugar level with a juice-only diet, which could prove dangerous, Gibson warned.
Another risk is starving the body of essential vitamins and nutrients, ultimately wreaking havoc upon various bodily functions.
“The most extreme ones are completely inadequate in nutrients. There aren’t enough calories, it’ll put your body in starvation mode,” Shaber said.
“If it’s only juice you’re not getting any protein or fiber, or healthy fats from plain old juice,” she continued.
One fad diet calls for the consumption of large amounts of sodium, which may prove dangerous for those with high blood pressure, Shaber said. And some low-carb diets encourage higher fat intake from foods like bacon, eggs and sausage, which are high in cholesterol and may affect trilipid levels, Shaber also mentioned.
High protein diets cause vitamin and mineral loss, increasing urine output and making dehydration common, Thurnau said.
Such extraordinary measures to be “healthy” can, in some cases, actually prove detrimental to health.
The challenge with fad diets is often less with losing weight, and more with maintaining results. If you drink nothing but juice for two weeks, odds are, you will shed pounds. But after the two weeks are up, do you go back to the foods that are likely responsible for the original weight gain?
“[There is] muscle wasting form rapid weight loss, which in turn decreases your metabolism so when you return to your previous eating pattern, you are more likely to add back what was lost and some extra weight,” Thurnau said.
“This is called yo-yo dieting,” she continued.
It takes a commitment and dedication to create lasting weight loss results.
“I encourage my customers to make a lifestyle change. Once they go back to the old lifestyles the weight just comes back on. For me, I’ll take different diets and put them together,” Gibson explained.
The weight will come off, but sustaining the loss depends on lifestyle changes.
“Generally [the point] is just quick weight loss; sometimes [people] will do a fad diet if they have an event coming up. … [Real weight loss] is a lifestyle change, what you eat from day to day rather than a temporary change,” Shaber said.
Some of her customers have tried different fads as they have become popular, but Gibson distinguished between these often health-oriented people and the average person off the street jumping on a fad diet kick.
“I’ve been doing this for the last 35 years. In the '80s more people fasted. They’d fast for maybe a month, and most of them felt better after because it gave the body a chance to regenerate and kickstart itself,” she said.
“I think these people are pretty much in tune, very health oriented … these people know how to start it and how to come off of it.”
How to Lose Weight Healthfully
If you are an average person interested in losing weight, and you’ve tried a fad diet in the past, which rose and fell in popularity equally as quickly, Gibson and Thurnau suggest speaking with a professional. There are healthy ways to lose weight without putting your body through the ups and downs of a fad diet.
“There are healthy ways to [lose weight]. It’s just like with [other things] a lot of times there are healthy alternatives,” Gibson said.
Testimonials from people trying these healthy alternatives provide a realistic frame of reference for anyone interested in a popular new diet.
Tried And True
And there’s always to good old-fashioned way, commitment to changing yourself and your body.
“Increasing daily physical activity is key to long term weight loss and maintenance,” said Thurnau.
“The first thing is to exercise, that will help increase metabolism. [Exercise] at least five days a week, thirty minutes a day, to lose weight it’s more like 60 minutes,” recommended Shaber.
“Eat a variety of foods, whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean meats and dairy products to get the most nutrients from you food while maintaining calories,” she continued.
Another trick is filling half of your plate with vegetables to control calories and add fiber, Shaber said.