Why Do We Keep Falling for Fad Diets?
Here's how to break the fad-diet habit and lose weight for good
It seems that just about every week brings a new diet craze. From low-fat to
low-carb to food combining, the diets come and go in the magazines and on the
best-seller lists. Some prove lastingly popular, but many go the way of the
latest dance fad. (Anyone remember the macarena? How about the cabbage soup
Meanwhile, dietitians keep giving the sensible advice they've been
advocating for years: To lose weight, we need to eat less and exercise
Let's face it: We all know better than to keep falling for every fad that
comes along. So why do we keep doing it?
"I think most people are put off by the fact that what we usually
promote is life-long change," says Robyn A. Osborn, RD, PhD, a dietician
and educational psychologist in Indianapolis, Ind.
Fad diets are often programs you're supposed to follow for just a few weeks.
But nutrition experts insist that the right approach to weight loss is to
change your lifestyle -- permanently.
People need to feel that the benefits of changing their behavior will
outweigh the costs, Osborn says. For many dieters, she says, the psychological
cost of giving up their fattening lifestyle seems too great. So they opt for
the "quick fix."
"Or they just identify with the individuals who wrote the book,"
says Lisa Dorfman, RD, a dietician, mental health counselor, and spokeswoman
for the American Dietetic Association.
For example, dieters may not think about whether a weight-loss plan touted
by an attractive celebrity is healthy or logical. "They just like the way
she looks and they'd like to look like her, too," Dorfman says.
Fad diets tend to appeal more to people's vanity than to their desire to
stay healthy. The focus is on inches and pounds, not reducing the risk of
diabetes or heart disease.
"They're more motivated by wanting to change the way they look than
their health," Osborn says. "Maybe that's one of our problems as
nutrition health professionals, because we so much focus on the long-term
health consequences rather than how you look. We would prefer that people are
comfortable with the way they look but they're more concerned with their
But in reality, bikini season or an upcoming high-school reunion may seem
like more concrete and compelling reasons to slim down. And fad diets are
always there, offering seemingly easy solutions.
What's more, you can't discount the warm-fuzzy factor when it comes to
advice on weight loss, which causes so much anxiety and frustration for so many
people. Authors of diet books often try to come off as nurturing and warm,
while "official" advice from the government or professional
organizations can seem clinical and cold.
Fads Are Nothing New
Although fad diets usually claim to be cutting-edge, most recycle ideas that
have been knocking around for a while -- in some cases, more than a