Can Fad Diets Work?
Many dieters are still trying to find the magic bullet to weight loss. WebMD gets the skinny from experts on the latest quick-fix diets.
When singer Beyoncé Knowles needed to lose 22 pounds in a hurry for her role
in the film Dreamgirls, she went on a crash diet that consisted of drinking a
mixture of water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup as a substitute for regular
meals. She lost the weight, and in the process sparked a run on maple syrup as
news and photos of her newly svelte figure spread. But even Beyoncé has been
quick to tell interviewers, "I would not recommend it if someone wasn't
doing a movie, because there are other ways to lose weight."
Beyoncé's own caution to dieters probably comes as good news to
nutritionists who don't think much of her quick-fix weight
loss plan. "This diet is void of essential nutrients and
probably doesn't promote healthful eating and lifestyle habits that would
sustain any weight that is lost," says Jenna Anding, PhD, RD, LD, associate
department head, department of nutrition and
food science, Texas A&M University. "Also, losing 20 pounds in two
weeks is not healthy; nutrition experts recommend a weekly weight loss of no
more than 2 pounds per week."
Our Fascination With Fad Diets
The "syrup diet" is just one of the many diet plans (albeit one of
the more extreme) to capture our weight-crazed fancy over the years. From
Atkins to South Beach to the Zone to the Blood Type Diet -- to name just a few
-- many of us are always on the lookout for the "magic bullet" that
will help us shed pounds quickly, and more or less effortlessly.
Why, despite the advice of most nutrition experts, are we fascinated by the
myriad diet plans crowding bookstore shelves? "Most individuals want
cutting-edge solutions for weight loss, and fad diets offer, at least on the
surface, 'new' ways to beat the boring mathematical reality of long-term weight
loss," explains Robin Steagall, RD, nutrition communications manager for
the Calorie Control Council.
"All diets work on the principle of cutting calories [cutting 500
calories a day can result in a 1-pound weight loss in a week]," Steagall
adds, "but every new diet has some unique twist to accomplish this
Among the newest, for example, is The Fast-Food Diet, co-authored
by Stephen Sinatra, MD, and Jim Punkre, which capitalizes on the American love
affair with, yes, fast food. While the diet doesn't promote fast food per se,
it acknowledges that many of us (on any given day, the authors say, 25% of our
population) visit fast-food restaurants because they're convenient and
So, they suggest, if you're there already, make healthy choices that can
lead to weight loss. Some tips: Choose the smallest drink size, or better yet,
switch from soda to club soda or water; order from the children's menu; or eat
a baked potato, not fries.