10 ways to spot a fad diet

On the lookout for a fad diet

Are you a bit confused about what constitutes a healthy diet? Well, you’re certainly not alone. There are so many so-called ‘experts’ peddling their own fad diets or espousing a particular way of eating, that it’s bamboozling to know what to eat. So many questions abound: should you add butter to your coffee, eliminate gluten, cut out fructose, go low carb or simply drink water? Heck, it’s even confusing for us health professionals to stay on top of all the latest crazes. Nevertheless, there are some sure-fire ways to spot a dodgy fad diet. Here are some of the red flags you should watch out for.

A celebrity or someone famous with no nutritional background endorses the diet

We all have TV idols or movie-star crushes, however, just being famous on the silver screen, or even on TV, doesn’t make someone an authority on nutrition. That includes celebrity chefs and personal trainers too. You wouldn’t ask your mechanic for legal advice, right? Well, the same goes for nutrition advice. Get it from a nutrition expert

The diet promises to change your life in every way

In fact, washing your car is the only thing it doesn’t promise to do. Sure, losing weight and eating healthily can improve your mindset and general wellbeing, however, vacuous claims of reducing stress, anxiety, depression and general improvements in mood are baseless. Please don’t fall for the daft claims made by these charlatans.

There’s talk of superfoods, detoxification and wellness

No food will provide you with all the nutrition you need, it’s simply a matter of getting the balance right. And the idea that we need a diet to rid ourselves of certain toxins is ridiculous! We have lungs, a liver and a lymphatic system, which do all the detoxifying we need. Wellness is a half-baked and meaningless term. We all want to feel well. Ditching whole food groups and following a highly restrictive diet will not do anything to boost your happiness.

You’re told to exclude dairy, grains, fruit, fructose and your favourite foods

These foods are somehow considered “toxic” or harmful. Yet the evidence strongly shows that including foods from all the five food groups in one’s diet promotes health and well-being. Alarm bells should be ringing if you’re told to forego the good stuff.

You’re asked to buy how-to-guides or recipe books

How else will the creator of the diet make some moolah? They don’t care about your health and well-being, they’re simply in it for the health of their own hip pocket. 

There are supplement pills to pop

See points 3 and 5.

There are testimonials

Everybody loves seeing ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. However, a population sample of one is hardly conclusive. Fad diets may help to reduce one’s weight in the short term, but are they successful in the long term? Studies show that those who go on crash diets end up bouncing back above their original weight when they return to their previous eating habits. Don’t be fooled!

You’ll lose heaps of weight and gain vitality or something like that

See above points.

There are pretty girls promoting it

See point 1.

There’s a time limit e.g. a 12-week challenge

A ‘diet’ or a way of eating should be for life. It’s all well and good sticking to a fad diet for a short period of time, however, the key is to ensure that any dietary changes you make will be long-term. Perhaps framing foods in the context of “sometimes” and “every day” will go some way to improving our health outcomes, not to mention our relationship with food.

So let’s kick dieting in the bum! There’s no substitute for healthy eating. Michael Pollan once said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. It’s pretty sound advice really.

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