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Conventional wisdom about diets including health recommendations by the government seems to change all the time and yet ads routinely come about claiming to have the answer about what we should eat. So how to distinguish what’s actually healthy from what advertisers just want to believe is good for us? Marketing takes advantage of the desire to drop weight fast. However, quick weight loss can be achieved only through fad diets.

‘Stronger, Slimmer and Brighter’ and in the big picture diet plans promising dramatic results known as FAD DIETS. A diet that is just too good to be true.

So where do diet fads even come from? While the ancient Greeks and Romans rallied behind large-scale health regiment centuries earlier this phenomena began in earnest in the Victorian Era which crazes like the VINEGAR DIET and the BANTING’S DIET.  Since then diet has advised us all sorts of things: to excessively chew or to not to chew at all; to swallow grapefruit per meal to non-stop cabbage soup, even consumption of arsenic or tapeworms.

If the idea of diet crazes has withstood history, could this mean that they work in the short-term?

 The answer is often; YES! Low carbohydrate plans are popular. Atkins or South Beach diet has an initial diuretic effect. Sodium is lost and the body can balance itself out and temporary fluid weight loss may occur. With other high-protein diets, you might lose weight at first. By restricting your food choices you are dropping your overall calorie intake but your body then lowers its metabolic rate to adjust to the shift; lessening the diet effect over time. Slowing down of metabolic rate is mainly due to muscle loss and fat loss. And this muscle loss shows your dropped weight, which is invisible but bad for your health and is definitely temporary and add back as soon as you go back to your normal diet. So when these diets may be alluring early on, they don’t guarantee long-term benefits for your health and weight.

So the simple problem with fad diet is that they do not make you learn to eat healthy and that for a long term and is not easy to follow. You’ll usually end up frustrated and craving for your favourite foods, eventually consuming a lot more calories than before.

A few simple guidelines though; can help differentiate between a diet that is beneficial in maintaining long-term health and the one on that only offers temporary weight changes.

Here are a few tip-offs:

  1. If a diet focuses on intensely cutting back calories or in cutting out entire food groups like fat, sugar or carbohydrates, chances are it’s a fad diet and;
  2. Another red flag is ritual when the diet in question instructs you to only eat specific foods, prescribed combinations, or to opt for particular food substitutes; like drinks, bars or powders.
  3. The truth is; shedding pounds in the long run simply doesn’t have a quick fix solution not all died crazes tout weight loss.
  4. Promises a quick fix.
  5. Promotes ‘magic’ foods or combinations of foods.
  6. Implies that food can change body chemistry.
  7. Has rigid rules that focus on weight loss.
  8. Makes claims based on a single study or testimonials only.

What about claims of super foods, cleanses, and other body-boosting solutions?

Marketing emphasizes the allure of products associated with ancient and remote cultures to create a sense of mysticism for consumers.

While so called super foods like blueberries or acai, do add a powerful bunch of nutrients; their super transformative qualities are largely exaggeration.  They are healthy additions to a balanced diet, yet often, they are marketed as a part of sugary drinks or cereals in which case the negative properties outweigh the benefits.

Cleanses too can be great in moderation since they can assist with jumpstarting weight loss and can increase the number of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed daily.

Scientifically speaking though they have not yet been shown to have either a long-term benefit or to detox the body any better than natural mechanism is already in place.

Fad diets with quick weight loss can even cause health problems:

Because they often cut out key foods, fad diets may cause the following symptoms:

  1. Dehydration
  2. Weakness and fatigue
  3. Nausea and headaches
  4. Constipation
  5. Inadequate vitamin and mineral intake.

 Everywhere we look; we are offered solutions to how we can look better, feel fitter, and generally get ahead. Food is no exception, but advise on what we should eat is best left to doctors and nutritionists who are aware of our individual circumstances. Diet and food fads aren’t inherently wrong. Circumstantially they might even be right, just for not everyone all of the time.

So what can you actually do maintain or lose weight?

Variety is Key

That means the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat — as well as a host of other nutrients. When you go on a fad diet and exclude necessary nutrients, you’re putting yourself at risk for becoming ill. Getting too little of any nutrient may not cause an immediate problem. But if it’s lacking for a long time, you may find you have health problems.

Practice Portion Control

Food servings have grown larger and larger over the years. And fast-food restaurants aren’t the only places you’ll find supersized meals.

Say no to bad fats.

Minimize how much saturated fat you get from animal sources, and eliminate trans fats from the fried foods, snacks, and fast-food products you eat.

Get plenty of fruits and vegetables.

How many depends on your age, sex, and activity level. A good reference point for adults is 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 servings of fruits a day.

Exercise at least 150 minutes each week.

This can be divided into smaller blocks of time. For example, you could do a brisk walk for 10 minutes three times a day for 5 days to reach 150 minutes.


M. Sc. Gold Medalist

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