Fad diets aren’t exactly a new thing. With the ever-increasing size of our waistlines, it’s no surprise that millions of people in the UK follow fad diets every year. So despite their popularity, why does it seem only a handful of people achieve any form of sustainable result on these diets whilst the masses are left in a weight loss dilemma struggling to keep the weight off in the long run?
What are fad diets?
Fad diets come in all sorts of different forms but they all follow one general concept: drastically restrict calorie intake whilst simultaneously depriving the individual of one or more of the essential macro-nutrients. The “soup diet”, “juicing” and “meal replacement” diets are all examples of a fad diet. Fad diets tend to promise rapid weight loss, sometimes without even the need for any form of exercise or physical activity. Fad diets are often misconstrued with being a quick solution to weight problems and with some promising losses as much as 30lbs in 30 days, it’s no surprise that more and more people are turning to them in a desperate bid to battle the bulge.
Whilst it’s true that most people will initially lose weight extremely quickly on these diets, rarely are these results maintained after the is diet finished. Most people tend to regain most (if not all) of the weight they lose and can sometimes be in an even worse position as to when they started. The weight loss industry has coined this back and forth dieting approach as “yo-yo dieting”.
Depriving food groups
Despite the range of fad diets out there, they all follow one key principle: keep daily calorie intake as low as possible through the deprivation of one or more of the essential macro-nutrients. Macros are the building blocks of calories and come from three primary sources: carbs, fats and proteins, all playing an equally essential part in the diet. You can find out more about macro-nutrients and the specifics roles they play by clicking here.
When one or more of the macros if eliminated (or severely restricted) from the diet, you can often leave your body starving for essential nutrients which contribute to the health and well-being of your body. Without proper nourishment from all THREE of the macro-nutrients, you unnecessarily put your body at risk of various health complications and make sustainable weight loss nearly impossible.
The immediate by-product of eliminating any of the macros is significantly reduced calorie intake. Macros contain calories and it doesn’t matter whether you cut carbs, fats or proteins – your daily calorie intake WILL naturally decrease, sending your weight crashing down with it. However, this method of eating is not sustainable and the reintroduction of food groups can send the scales soaring back up, potentially regaining anything that was lost on the diet.
Take juicing as an example. The juice diet consists of consuming only juiced fruit and vegetables, every day – for 1-2 months! Now whilst many people would initially think that only consuming the juice from fruits and vegetables would be a healthy approach to dieting, they’d be failing to understand the potential ramifications that stem from cutting out fats and proteins (both of which would be very hard to acquire from just juice). By limiting yourself to fruit and veggie juice, protein intake will invariably crash, affecting your body’s ability to sufficiently repair itself. Fat intake is also going to be extremely low, making it more difficult for your body to regulate hormones and near impossible to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins.
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum and look at the floods of zero-carb diets. Carbohydrates play an integral role in our bodies and are our preferred source of energy. With glucose providing our brains with its primary energy source, it’s even easier to understand the dangers in cutting carbohydrate consumption.
Another recurring theme with fad diets is the complete exclusion of exercise. Any diet or eating regime can only be so effective without the incorporation of a structured, relevant exercise plan that encompasses all of the elements of physical fitness. Anyone can lose weight by lowering their calorie intake, but to really streamline progress and shape lean muscle tissue, a resistance based exercise programme is essential. After all, no one wants to lose weight just to be slim and flabby.
What’s the solution?
It’s all well and good us talking about the pitfalls of fad diets and how anyone who follows them is destined to fail but what about the actual solution?
First of all, let’s just start out by reiterating a point we made earlier about macro-nutrients: your body needs all three of the macro-nutrients in order to get a full and complete range of essential macro and mitro nutrients. So the first point worth noting is that there’s no need to eliminate any whole food group nor is there any to replace meals, pop pills or drink just juice to lose weight.
Losing weight needn’t be as complicated or stressful as it’s made to feel. Losing weight essentially boils down to one fundamental formula: a nutritionally balanced eating plan (with a slight calorie deficit) combined with a tailored exercise plan. Start with small gradual changes and don’t be tempted to take on too much too soon. Go back to basics and nail the fundamentals like drinking enough water before you jump in with intensive exercise plans and macro-nutrient tracking.
Consistency is key! Motivation will come and go but it’s going to be your dedication in remaining consistent with your new nutrition and exercise protocols that will ultimately determine your success when it comes to weight loss. It’s not going to be what you do once in a while that will dictate your success (or lack of) but what you do consistently. Don’t be like the masses of people who fall victim to the restraints of fad diets, jumping from one quick fix to the next. Have the initiative to take charge of your results knowing that there IS a better way.