Why Fad Diets Don’t Work Long Term

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday September 25, 2020

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Fad diets can often sound appealing — mostly because they’re too good to be true. Many people would love to drop weight easily, quickly and simply, but it’s never that simple. Often, the methods of weight loss that fad diets promote is unhealthy and unsustainable. They cause more harm than good most times, and usually don’t follow through on their promises.

Fad diets are methods of weight loss that heavily restrict your food intake, focus on a specific food or macronutrient and are usually popular for a short period of time. They’re sensational, but drastic. The Atkins diet, weight watchers and the keto diet are examples of fad diets, though there are many more. Lifestyle changes like vegetarian diets, veganism or going gluten-free due to an allergy or sensitivity are not fad diets, as they don’t actually restrict what you are allowed to eat beyond the exclusion of a few specific ingredients.

Often, fad diets are restrictive and risky, offering quick, drastic results only after adhering to an unnatural and rigid set of guidelines that are difficult to maintain over a long period of time. Fad diets aren’t designed to last, or even provide lasting results.

1. You Lose Muscle, Not Fat

One of the most problematic elements of fad dieting is the fact that the quick, drastic weight loss is often unhealthy weight reduction. While the number on the scale goes down, it might even be difficult to see and feel those changes within the body because you won’t lose the kind of weight you anticipated.

Fad diets often focus on calorie and macronutrient deprivation, which tend to burn muscle, not fat. Especially if you’re dieting rather than exercising, or in such a calorie deficit that you go into starvation mode, your muscle could be the first thing you kiss goodbye. 

2. They Make You Feel Sluggish

When you deprive your body of the nutrients it needs, you will understandably become tired and sluggish more often. Food is fuel for your body, and when your focus is weight loss rather than fuel — causing you to restrict calories and important macronutrients — you can easily feel deprived.

This is especially true of low carbohydrate diets. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy that the body relies on, and trying to function without them can lead to headaches, fatigue and even immune system compromise. While some fad diets claim that lack of protein actually makes you tired, there is simply no scientific evidence to support this. In fact, diets that force your body to rely on fat and protein for energy use even more energy in the process that it takes to convert those macronutrients. 

Your body needs a sufficient amount of calories and a balanced macronutrient profile to provide you with the energy you need to live life. It’s as simple as that.

3. You’ll Likely Gain the Weight Back

One of the hallmarks of fad dieting is the intense, restrictive nature of the meal plans you’re given. They’re difficult to stick to, as they leave you feeling hungry, tired and uncomfortable. With all these pitfalls, it’s no surprise that people can’t usually stay on fad diets for long.

Even if you do lose weight on a fad diet, going off will likely bring it all back — in fact, many people gain more weight than they began with after stepping away from a fad diet. This is due in part to the impact fad diets often have on the metabolism. When you spend long periods of time restricting your food, your body adjusts to the low calorie intake even if it’s wildly unsustainable. 

Restricting your diet heavily can even increase your cortisol levels, which, among other things, can cause heart issues and raise your sensitivity to weight gain. All this being said, returning to your regular diet after you’re done with the fad can bring your previous weight back and then some.

4. They Might Risk Other Elements of Your Health

Humans weren’t meant to heavily restrict diets and calories to the point of discomfort. When you’re not eating a balanced diet or a sufficient amount of calories, you’ll inevitably run the risk of doing serious damage to your health in other ways. Many higher fat and protein diets can raise your risk of things like heart disease and type 2 diabetes by increasing your intake of higher cholesterol and fatty foods. The keto diet is often known for this. 

The damage you risk is often specific to whatever diet you choose, but restricting your intake of nutrients and calories, or increasing your intake of specific foods that perhaps aren’t natural to eat in large quantities can pose a threat to your overall health.

Finding Balance

Health and wellness will ultimately never come from a fad diet or a crash diet. The truth is, the long-lasting results you want will come from a healthy, balanced diet that makes you feel satisfied, with room for a bit of fun in moderation. You don’t need to deprive yourself, and you certainly don’t need to risk your physical and mental well being for weight loss.

Eating a balanced diet that works for you is key. It’s the long game, but it’s certain to pay off tenfold.

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