Why Do We Keep Falling for Fad Diets?
Here's how to break the fad-diet habit and lose weight for good
Fast Weight Loss Isn't Good Weight Loss
Promises of rapid weight loss are a common feature of fad diets. But
dieticians say you should aim to lose no more than 2 pounds a week.
"Any diet that's promoting more than a one- or two-pound weight loss a
week, most of that's going to be fluid," says Martha McKittrick, RD, a
dietician at the New York Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center. "It's
almost impossible, unless you weigh like 500 pounds, to lose more than one or
two pounds a week of fat."
Fad diets that prohibit or severely restrict carbohydrates may live up to
their promises of quick weight loss at the beginning, but that's because
cutting back on carbs causes your body to purge stored water, McKittrick says.
But as soon as you start eating carbs again, the water weight comes back.
It's fat you want to lose, not water, and definitely not lean muscle tissue,
which your body will start to metabolize if don't eat enough.
"If you're chronically taking your calories too low, you can slow your
metabolism and lose muscle mass," McKittrick says.
A Short-Term Solution
If you still like the sound of a fad diet plan, try it, Dorfman says Â- but
only for the short term, to jump-start weight loss and get yourself on the way
to a healthier lifestyle.
"Perhaps you can lose that first few pounds and get yourself into an
exercise outfit, to get yourself to the gym," she says. "If it helps
you to get to that point, perhaps it was worth the $16.95 [for the
But be warned that doing that again and again can lead to weight gain.
"The more somebody diets, the more difficult it is going to be to develop
the kind of healthy eating program that's going to be needed for them to lose
weight," Dorfman says.
In the long-term, staying slim is much more important than getting that way
And the best way to wean yourself from fad dieting may be to succeed in
losing weight the old-fashioned way. To that end, here are some tried-and-true
tips to help you develop healthy habits:
- Keep a record of what you eat. If you feel you need structure to help you
lose weight, log what you eat for a few weeks. This will help you identify bad
habits, and give you a general idea of how many calories are in various
- Move your body. "Do something you like, do it on a regular basis, and
do it for more than 20 minutes," Dorfman says. If you enjoy it, you'll be
more likely to do it regularly. You don't have to be a hard-core triathlete to
be active. Start with 10-minute walks and move up from there.
- Each week, set two small goals. For example, if you love doughnuts, pledge
not to eat them for one week. Instead eat an extra serving a day of something
healthy, such as a fruit or vegetable. If you succeed with that small goal,
you'll feel good about yourself and gain momentum for adopting healthy
- Try new things. Eat the healthy things you know you like, and also
experiment with new tastes to stave off boredom and cravings for junk food. You
probably haven't tried every fruit and vegetable available at your local
- Allow for treats. Have your favorite high-calorie treats -- occasionally.
Don't splurge all the time, but don't make yourself miserable, either.