Why fad diets seem to "work"
Fad diets, juice cleanses, detoxes come in and out of fashion in our industry from time to time.
The truth is they can work to some degree, if weight loss is your goal. We all have that friend who lost a ton of weight on keto, or carnivore or plant based.
How does this work? How is it possible that even though all these diets are different, they seem to be effective in helping a person lose weight?
Instead of looking at their differences, look at what these diets have in common.
By cutting out food groups, eating mostly minimally processed foods , these diets effectively put you in a calorie deficit. i.e. you are eating less than you are expending resulting in weight loss.
The Plant based Diet
Emphasises eating only plant based foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, tubers, seeds and more. The majority of these types of foods tends to be low in caloric load , yet nutrient and fibre dense. Meaning you feel fuller and more satisfied from your meals but are actually eating LESS calorically.
Putting you into a calorie deficit.
The Keto Diet
Focuses on eating foods high in fats, and very low carb. As carbs are a pretty dense macro nutrient and quite easy to overeat. This diet effectively puts you into a calorie deficit by cutting your carbs right down.
Juice detoxes or Cleanses
These “cleanses” and detoxes focus on just ingesting liquid, so of course you’re going to lose weight. You’re not eating anything essentially.
Bear in mind that no juice or tea or smoothie will “detox” or “cleanse” your body. Your liver and kidneys do this job perfectly fine.
So while fad diets and nutrition philosophies differ in what they emphasise, they all are pretty effective in putting you into a caloric deficit (i.e. making you eat less).
It is not the absence of that particular macro nutrient or food group, it is more the decreased amount of calories you are eating that is leading to the weight loss.
This is a good example of how adaptive humans can be with their nutrition, and that we can survive on various nutrition methods or diets. There is no one size fit all diet.
Whether or not this is sustainable in the long term is another matter.
Because while it is relatively easy to cut something out for 4 to 6 to 12 weeks, keeping that going is extremely challenging for many people.
A great example of this can be seen with the participants of the reality TV show. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study that followed 14 former Biggest Loser contestants over the course of six years. The participants had gained back most of the weight they lost on the show, and in some cases, they put on even more. On average, participants regained 70 percent of the weight they'd lost (Godman, 2018).
Fixing your lifestyle through nutrition and exercise is more than just cutting certain foods out, and working out twice a day.
It takes time and learning and habit forming, and a willingness to grow. It’s about accepting that perfection is not a sustainable nor possible goal, and that perfection is not needed to make progress. In fact being consistent most of the time will yield great results.
Its about being patient and knowing that it doesn’t need to feel like you’re working hard for it to be working.
The best way we have found to do this is to change one little thing at a time, and build upon those changes. And learn about your food and habits and experiences. And to learn more about yourself
No fad diet is going to do that for you, it all you. It always has been
Godman, H. G. (2018, January 24). Lessons from “The Biggest Loser.” Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/lessons-from-the-biggest-loser
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