The ads are everywhere:
- Lose 15 pounds in one week!
- Feel better and have more energy instantly!
- Just follow this diet (and buy this product…) and your weight problems will disappear!
However, experts who are invested in health rather than dietary supplement sales agree that diets and products that make these kinds of outrageous claims will not work for long-term weight loss. Initial results may seem promising, but after a week or a month, the weight comes back.
These lose-weight-quick diets fail because they simply aren’t designed to last long. Most marketing heavy diets are very restrictive – e.g., only certain foods can be consumed at certain times. This extreme restriction makes it hard to stay on the diet, and many people quickly find themselves falling off the dietary wagon.
More to the point, people get frustrated, bored of eating the same food all the time. As a result, they become discouraged, and then the weight starts to come back. The failure and disappointment can send people back to the unhealthy eating habits they were trying to kick in the first place.
Why Fad Diets Don’t Work
There are always “new” diets being created and sold to people. However, many of these diets rely on the same claims and themes. For the most part, these fad diets can be grouped into a few categories that explain they don’t work.
Single Food Group Diets
Diets that eliminate one food group or emphasize eating only one food – such as the grapefruit diet or the cabbage soup diet – will almost always fail in the long run. Initial results may be positive, getting more people to try or buy the product. But in most cases, the early results come from a cut in calories, not from sustainable, healthy eating habits.
One of the real dangers of this kind of diet is the lack of essential vitamins and nutrients. Different nutrients come from different foods, and if you cut something out of your diet, you have to find another way to get the nutrition it provides.
For example, if you are interested in trying Atkins Diet, a ketogenic diet, or another high-fat diet, keep in mind that some carbs in your diet help with brain function and give your body energy. Too much protein over time can damage your kidneys and liver, and high-fat diets can lead to cholesterol problems – especially if you are not careful about what types of fat you eat.
Detox diets and cleanses focus on removing “toxins” from the body. They include liver flushes, cleanses, added hormones, and colonics. The problem with these diets is there is no scientific evidence to support them.
Guess what? Your body already cleanses the toxins. That is the function of the liver, kidneys, and the immune system – and they do their job very well. And toxins that these organs can’t handle are not going to somehow get flushed out of your system just because you eat a certain kind of food.
The latest diet that promises to detox or cleanse the body is called the Alkaline Diet and deals with the pH level of the blood. It replaces foods that produce acid, such as diary, meat, and wheat, with foods that don’t, like fruit, vegetables, and tofu. While some of these are healthy switches that can result in weight loss, there is no scientific evidence that what food you eats affects the pH of the blood. Diets based on junk science are no good in the long run.
Miracle Food Diets
Every year, at least one new “superfood” emerges with the promise of curing all problems from obesity to curing cancer. Some examples of historical superfoods include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Green tea
- Bitter orange
- Acai berry
The problem is that most of the health claims made about these foods are backed by small, problematic studies. Some of those studies didn’t even use humans, meaning that supposed health benefits are based on how the foods affected rats or other animals.
The kicker is that these diets often include supplements or potions that you need to buy. Ultimately, these diets are little more than marketing manipulations. When it comes down to it, there is no single food or ingredient that will help you lose weight.
Fasting and Extreme Calorie Cuts
Diets like the Hollywood Diet or Master Cleanse promise results from fasting or from an extreme cut to calories. You’ll lose weight initially, but it won’t stay off.
By fasting, you reduce your body’s metabolism. The weight you lose will be a mixture of water, fat, and muscle. When you start eating again, your metabolism won’t jump right back into operating mode, and you will begin gaining weight almost immediately – with a lower metabolism!
While fasting for a day or so has been around for centuries, long-term fasting is not good for weight loss. Rather, it’s better to maintain a maintain a steady caloric intake based on your age, sex and level of activity.
Diet the Right Way
The best and most sustaining way to lose weight is to go slow. Losing about a pound per week is a healthy target. But diets are like people, they come in different shapes and sizes. Modify your diet based on your lifestyle and what works for your body. You should also talk with your doctor or registered dietician to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs
To safely lose weight and keep it off, experts recommend understanding what you are eating, recognizing your problem areas, and making small adjustments to your habits. If you like to snack in the afternoons, keep some vegetables or yogurt handy instead of visiting the vending machine. If your portions are always too big, start by taking a little less. Every few months you can add another small change to your eating and exercising habits. This method will take 12 weeks or more to see results, but you will be more likely to stick with it and keep the weight off.