Are Quick Weight-Loss Plans Ever OK?
Though it's clear that fad diets don't pave the road to permanent weight control, some experts believe that, under certain circumstances, they can have some short-term benefits. If you follow the plans to the letter, says Birkenfeld, you will see a quick weight loss -- which can act as a powerful motivator.
"As long as you limit your time on the diet, and you follow up with a sensible, low-calorie eating plan to take you the rest of the way, the fad diet could be a good way to start your weight-loss engine," says Birkenfeld.
Some doctors also think it's OK to use a quick weight-loss diet as a temporary jump-start, especially if your health depends on losing weight.
"If your cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure is very high, then not only can these diets help to get some weight off fast, doing so, and seeing the results, may encourage you to pursue a more sensible weight-loss plan and to stick with it," says Stephen Sondike, MD, director of the Nutrition and Wellness Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
In all instances, he says, the key to weight-loss success lies in using the fad diet for initial weight loss only, then immediately switching to a more sensible, low-calorie eating plan that is both safe and enjoyable for long-term use.
"What also makes a major difference is having a maintenance diet in mind -- a plan that you can really live with, featuring foods you like to eat and are easy to prepare. That's the only way you can keep the weight off," Sondike says.
Indeed, studies show that even if you've lost weight following a sensible eating plan, you're likely to regain weight if you go back to your previous eating habits.
How To Spot a Fad Diet
Though it's sometimes obvious which diets are fads, it's also easy to be fooled, especially if the diet is supported by a professional-looking web site or written by an author who appears to have solid credentials.
"Too often these very legitimate-looking venues are devised by people with little or no experience in nutrition or weight control, so don't fall for a handful of testimonials by people who won't even give their last name as proof that a diet works or that it is safe," Moore says.