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9 Signs You’re on a Fad Diet

By Stephanie Booth
WebMD Feature

It's easy to flock to diets that promise fast results with little effort. Reality check: Fad diets backfire, because you’ll likely regain any pounds you shed.

Does your diet show any of these 9 signs? Then it's time to rethink your weight-loss strategy.

1. There’s no plan to keep weight off for the long run.

If a diet lasts only a preset number of days, or until you reach your weight loss goal, “you’re not learning behaviors to help maintain that loss,” says Lindsay Martin, RD, dietitian at Hilton Head Health, a weight loss spa in Hilton Head Island, SC.

Since most people who diet gain their weight back within 5 years, “you need a plan that helps you create realistic meal plans and practice mindful eating,” Martin says.

2. You’re allowed only a few foods.

Eating the same few items over and over isn’t just boring. It also doesn't give your body what it needs

“If a diet rules out obvious components of a healthy regimen, like protein sources, fruits, or vegetables, stay away,” says Kristen Smith, RD, a dietitian for the WellStar Comprehensive Bariatric Services in Atlanta. “Well-balanced eating should be key.”

3. You’re promised weight loss from a specific part of your body.

“It’s medically impossible to lose weight from only one part of your body,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

She explains that you lose fat "throughout the body."

If you want to focus on a particular part of your body, your best choice is a sensible diet plus exercise that includes resistance and strength training.

4. You’re guaranteed to lose X pounds in X days.

Losing weight faster than 2 pounds a week has a downside. “Our bodies are designed to store fat for future use,” Cohn says. Losing too much weight too quickly can mean losing muscle mass. That can leave you “weak and with a slower metabolism, making it even more difficult to keep off weight," Cohn says.

Reset your expectations for how much weight you'll lose, so that you keep it off for good.

5. You’re always hungry.

Women need at least 1,200 calories a day, and men, 1,400. Any less than that, and you may have trouble meeting your nutritional needs. Also, fatigue, constipation, nausea, or vomiting may set in.

Plus, depriving yourself of food “physically and psychologically sets you up for bingeing,” Cohn says. A smart diet will suggest eating nutrient-rich foods and limiting fat while paying attention to portion sizes.

6. There’s fine print.

Take disclaimers in ads seriously. “Most programs that emphasize ‘too good to be true’ results will have potential side effects, or the results may only apply to a few people," Cohn says.

Don’t put stock in “before and after” photos either. “Pictures are easy to manipulate,” Cohn says.

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