When you are trying to lose weight, whether for a special event or just to feel healthier, it’s tempting to fall into the traps laid by fad diet writers with their promises of “lose a stone in a week” or in more recent trends, “lose weight around your stomach without affecting other areas”. That last one might ring a bell with you as it’s just what the Mushroom Diet promises to do – offer selective weight loss on certain areas of your body.
Of course, this isn’t true. Losing weight comes from leading a balanced lifestyle, eating well and exercising regularly, either at home or through attendance at your local gym or health club. Islington-based Bodyjunkies is here to advise you - not only about why fad diets don’t work but also by explaining how they can actually be dangerous for you.
What Classes as a Fad Diet?
A fad diet often comes with steep promises of weight loss or other health benefits including longer life, healthier skin or shinier hair, for example, yet it’s very rare that these diets are supported by any scientific backing. Celebrities frequently appear endorsing fad diets as they pop up which is another good indication that something isn’t right. Fad diets tend to be time-dependent in their promises, like the common “lose a stone in a week”, which is not only difficult to achieve but is not good for your health in general.
Why Shouldn’t You Trust Fad Diets?
Fad diets often come with promises to attract your attention and the celebrity endorsement to “show they work”. This is just to draw potential customers in and convince them to buy products or weight-loss supplements. In fact, many of these celebrities or ‘influencers’ have professional stylists, personal trainers, nutritionists and chefs that help them maintain their figures, which is what makes their promotion of weight loss diets, techniques and products even more questionable.
Following these diets can actually cause you more harm than good, often leading to further health issues like dehydration, fatigue and irritability. In extreme cases, fad diets can even lead to digestive issues, eating disorders and problems with mental health.
On the other hand, making positive changes to your lifestyle will see the opposite effect. You’ll feel more awake and be able to sleep better, in addition to feeling less moody and irritable and you’ll soon start to notice weight loss or toning, depending on your goal.
To illustrate some of the risks behind fad diets, we have picked out a few of the most commonly followed dieting options to look at more closely.
Common Fad Diets and What They Are Missing
Almost every fad diet comes with some risks and concerns which can be avoided by a simple regime of healthy eating and exercise. Here are a few diets you might recognise:
The alkaline diet focuses on managing the pH balance within your body. Specifically, alkaline diets involve eating fewer acidic foods like vinegar, meat and dairy, replacing them with alkaline options like fruits and vegetables. Generally, the management of the pH balance is done through urine or saliva tests which are completed daily.
There are multiple flaws in this approach to dieting. First and foremost, there is no clinical evidence supporting the effectiveness of the diet, whether you are aiming for weight loss or generally improved health. Secondly, whilst the foods included within the diet are quite healthy, measuring your alkaline via saliva or urine testing is a very inaccurate method. The pH of your blood and the rest of your body are affected by the food that you eat but not drastically, primarily because your body has systems designed to monitor and maintain a certain pH. With this in mind, these tests just aren’t a great way of displaying the pH of your body and even so, the food you are eating is likely to have a fairly low impact on your overall pH status.
A final point to take note of is the fact that avoiding common sources of protein like meat, fish and dairy for too long can lead to a protein deficiency. If this continues for a long period, protein deficiencies can result in muscle wasting and a general lowering of strength. All of this can be avoided with a balanced diet that includes all food groups.
The Atkins diet takes a very different approach to the alkaline diet, focusing on increasing protein and cutting down on carbohydrates. This concept is used by many different fad diets and is based on the idea that restricting carbohydrate intake pushes the body to use stored fat for energy instead. In general, the Atkins diet cuts carbohydrates heavily whilst enabling unrestricted protein consumption including fish, meat and eggs.
Going from a large, high-calorie diet to one that restricts carbohydrate intake like this leads to fast, noticeable weight loss at the beginning that plateaus as time goes on. This pattern is common for fad diets, though the Atkins is the finest example of it.
In terms of disadvantages, the major risk of the Atkins diet is the lack of fibre intake. With a decrease in carbohydrate consumption, bread, cereals, fruits and vegetables are all eaten less frequently, dropping the levels of fibre in your body. This is why constipation is such a common side effect of the Atkins diet and if left unchecked, issues can escalate towards muscle cramps and general weakness. Depending on the protein that you are consuming, further health issues can arise with the potential for increased saturated fat intake.
In almost all situations, cutting out a major food group can lead to serious health problems. Simple, regular exercise and a balanced diet are always more effective.
Paleo or Caveman Diet
The Paleo diet is so named because it imitates the supposed diet of our caveman ancestors, i.e. meat, fish, wild plants and vegetables. The refined, cultivated and manufactured products that we commonly use like cereals and dairy items are off limits.
There are notable advantages to this type of diet and as with the Atkins diet, you can experience rapid weight loss at the start of the dieting program. However, there is no evidence to show that this weight loss will continue beyond that initial burst due to a shift in diet. Furthermore, many of the foods that are cut out during the Paleo diet play an important role in supplying our bodies with the correct nutrients, meaning that if you don’t manage your food correctly, you could end up suffering from further health issues.
Finally, the raw diet does exactly what you would expect - it restricts cooked foods. Everything that can be eaten within the raw diet must be unprocessed, which is what makes the diet primarily vegan. However, many raw dieters also enjoy animal products like raw meats and fish, depending on their personal tastes.
With no processed foods, the primary threat of this diet is too much weight loss. It is extremely challenging to find carbohydrate sources large enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle through this fad diet and particularly without meat or fish consumption, it can be very threatening to long term health due to a lack of protein.
These four diets are just a few examples of fad diets which may give you immediate results, but ultimately offer more risk than reward. As always, the most effective and healthy way to develop your body and stay healthy is through a balanced diet that includes all food groups, combined with regular, focused exercise.
Get in touch with the team at Body Junkies health club in Islington today on 0203 488 3759 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org