Why Do We Keep Falling for Fad Diets?
Here's how to break the fad-diet habit and lose weight for good
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
"Claims that an author has a permanent solution or a new answer are
pretty much bogus, because there's hardly a diet that shows up that hasn't been
written about before," says Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of Yale
University's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders.
- A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet was first described in 1863 by
William Banting, who took the dieting advice of his friend, a British
- New York doctor William Howard Hay's theory that proteins and carbohydrates
should never be combined in a meal was popular in the 1920s and '30s, and it's
still popping up in diet books.
- Anyone promoting a "natural" diet is about 170 years too late to
claim originality. The Rev. Sylvester Graham started preaching to Americans
about natural foods in 1830.
But no matter how far-fetched, faddish ideas continue to appeal to
"People are very much intrigued by those things that seem to demystify
the whole thing -- there's some magic hormone, or there's something in your
blood type, you have to eat certain foods together because of how they're
metabolized," Osborn says. "That has to be it. It couldn't be something
as simple as I need to eat less and I need to exercise more."
Confusion about nutrition is the very reason fad diets exist. If we all knew
how to eat, there would be no need for diet books.
"A lot of people may feel out of control and not know what it is they're
supposed to do," Osborn says. "Some of the fad diets that are very
regimented I think make people feel more comfortable because it takes all the