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Recognizing the Fads

Not every popular, new diet can be classified as a "fad" diet, says Basom, which she defines as one that is more of a "quick fix" that is not going to lead to improved health, and that can't be pursued on a long-term basis.

There are several ways to recognize a fad diet, suggests Steagall. A fad diet:

  • Doesn't include the variety of foods necessary for good health and/or doesn't teach good eating habits.
  • Claims you can "trick" the body's metabolism into wasting calories or energy.
  • Makes dramatic claims for fast and easy weight loss.

"In reality, all of the glitz and glamour approaches will probably not be effective for safe and long-term weight loss if they don't incorporate a balanced, healthy diet and increased physical activity," says Steagall.

Fat Smash Diet

One popular diet that vigorously promotes exercise is the Fat Smash Diet, seen by TV viewers on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club. Host -- and author of the diet -- Ian Smith, MD, has made exercise an important focus of the program, with a "prescription" for 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, in the initial stage of the program, and an increase in activity in each of the remaining three stages.

Smith has said that the 90-day program is designed to change our approach to eating and exercising by making lifestyle changes. You first "detoxify" by eating mainly fruits and vegetables for nine days, with no meat, bread, cheese, coffee, or alcohol allowed. During the "foundation" phase, which lasts three weeks, more foods appear on the permissible list and exercise is kicked up 10% to 15% above phase one. The four-week "construction" phase allows for an occasional treat, and exercise jumps 25% over phase two. Once dieters reach the lifetime "temple" phase, Smith claims they will have constructed a routine of good habits that will last a lifetime.

While there may be some credibility to the "jump start" that dieters can get from an initial quick-loss phase of a weight loss regimen, most successful diet plans are designed for gradual weight loss and modified behavior, says Robert Eckel, MD, president of the American Heart Association (AHA).

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