Five Ways to Spot and Avoid a Fad Diet


Emily Dionne, RD

Emily Dionne, RD

With infomercials, books and magazines bombarding us with information about diet plans and their promises of fast and easy weight loss, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of these “quick fixes” when trying to get to a healthier weight.

Unfortunately, fad diets are notorious for failing in the end. These diets can also be harmful to your health—some even altering your metabolism or worse yet, contributing to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure.

In order to reach and maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to make long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Here are five signs that the weight loss option you’re considering is one you should avoid:

  1. It Promises Rapid Weight Loss. If a diet promises rapid weight loss, that usually means you’re losing water and muscle mass, not fat. I often tell patients that losing one to two pounds per week is generally a reasonable and healthy goal. Very low calorie diets that achieve rapid weight loss are unsustainable in the long term. They also leave the body at risk of nutrient deficiencies, which can have serious health effects.
  2. It Claims You Can Eat Whatever You Want and Still Lose Weight. The reality is if you want to lose weight, you have to decrease your calorie intake, increase the amount you burn, or do a little bit of both to create a caloric deficit. Many fad diets that suggest weight loss is possible while still eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet must have a highly intensive exercise program with it, or extra-small fine print which specifies something entirely different. Maintaining a healthy weight means making healthy food choices most of the time.
  3. It Instructs You to Cut Out Certain Foods Entirely. Eating less food equates to consuming fewer calories, which may result in weight loss. However, cutting out specific macronutrients or food groups, such as healthy carbohydrates like fruit, can leave you at risk for nutrient deficiencies, sapping your energy and endangering your health. A balanced diet of nutritious foods from all food groups is essential for weight loss and good health.
  4. It Requires You to Skip Meals or Replace Meals. Skipping or substituting meals with special drinks or food bars can mean you don't get the proper nutritional support needed for good health. Even with a daily multivitamin, you’ll still be short on important nutrients.
  5. It Claims that No Exercise is Necessary. If you burn more calories in exercise, you are likely to lose weight, providing you eat the same or fewer calories than before trying to lose weight. Diets that promote weight loss without any form of exercise are likely to limit food intake severely. Apart from weight loss benefits, being active is important for your overall health, well-being, metabolism, and even your mental clarity.

When searching for a healthy way to lose weight, it is always best to consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian to tailor a plan that is right for you, especially people with diabetes or hypertension. The ideal “diet” is one in which permanent changes to your lifestyle help you to achieve and maintain a healthier weight.

Remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


If you’re looking to kick start your new year with great nutritional changes aimed at weight loss, consider meeting Emily or one of South Shore Health's registered dietitians. We offer individual sessions to help you meet your goals.