Why fad diets do not work
19th January, 20140 Comments
Written by: Kevin Shore BSc (Hons) Public Health Nutrition
There are so many different diets available that it can be hard to decide which ones actually work. Most diets however, only offer a quick fix and are often referred to as fad diets. Fad diets can often help you to lose substantial amounts of bodyweight, but fail to teach you the long term dietary habits that need to be maintained in the long term in order to keep the weight off.
The problem with fad diets is that they are often very low in calories and are nutritionally unbalanced. This makes fad diets very difficult to adhere to in the long term. The best diets are the ones based on healthy eating guidelines and provide your body with all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you need.
Many fad diets will promise rapid weight loss. Substantial weight loss can certainly be achieved very quickly on a fad diet, but it is not a healthy way to lose weight. If you are to go on a very low calorie diet for example, you can achieve rapid weight loss. In the very early stages of the diet, your body will use its fat stores for energy. However, body fat is essential for protecting the vital organs in the body and keeping us warm, so our body doesn’t like to lose too much fat too quickly.
When body fat is being burned rapidly at the start of a very low calorie diet, the hypothalamus part of the brain senses this and sets off an internal alarm and alters body metabolism so that you start to burn protein instead. Protein is an essential part of our muscles, organs and other fat free tissues. Losing protein in this way is not ideal. There is a direct association between fat free mass and metabolism. This means that the greater your fat free mass, the higher your metabolism, which means that people with a large fat free mass will burn more calories and are more likely to be slim and of a healthy weight. If you are on a fad diet and lose protein and muscle, your metabolism goes down and this makes it harder for you to keep the weight off, and you can also put the weight back on easily.
Another problem with fad diets, is that they do not teach you the healthy eating and lifestyle habits that need to be maintained in order to keep the weight off permanently. The best diet is one that is based on healthy eating and includes lots of fruit and vegetables, whole-grains and is nutritionally balanced. Including an exercise programme with a diet plan will be even more effective, and help to increase fat free body mass and muscle, which will keep your metabolism elevated and help you to lose weight and keep it off in the long term.
If you have lost a lot of weight on a fad diet, you would have lost mainly body water and protein rather than fat. Therefore, when you come off the diet, you will have a lower metabolism and be more likely to return to your old eating habits and put all the weight back on. Losing the weight slowly through healthy eating and increased physical activity is much healthier and is sustainable. Also, you will be burning fat slowly without the body switching to protein metabolism.
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