How to Spot a Fad Diet
Now that the spring season is in full swing, many of us find ourselves scrambling to “get in shape for summer”. The desire for immediate gratification and instant results is human nature. Unfortunately, this can leave us vulnerable to the plethora of quick-fix promises during this time of year. With so much misinformation and pseudo-science out there, how can we protect ourselves from falling prey to a fad diet? Here are some claims that should evoke a healthy dose of skepticism, and help you steer clear of products or programs that could hurt your wallet, or even worse, your health:
- “Breakthrough Discovery!”
This is often associated with an exotic plant or chemical compound that promises to “make the fat just melt away”. While there are certainly instances of leaps of progress in the world of medicine, there is still no drug or supplement that will cause anyone to lose any significant weight on its own. There are some FDA-approved medications that can potentially assist with weight loss, but these are used in conjunction with (not instead of) lifestyle changes.
- “Scientifically Proven!”
One can design an experiment and stack the odds to prove almost anything. The process of properly validating any scientific study is a rigorous one, which involves observation, repeated testing in a systematic manner, and reproducibility (i.e. the outcome of a controlled experiment remains consistent, regardless of who is conducting it). Sometimes there is an actor depicting a doctor (or sometimes even an actual doctor) involved to make the claim sound truly legitimate.
- “You’ll Never Need To Diet Again!”
Studies have shown that over 90% of individuals who have lost a significant amount of weight and successfully kept it off have incorporated permanent lifestyle changes, such as consuming less calories and exercising regularly. In other words, weight management is not a “set it and forget it” process.
- “Lose Weight FAST!”
This is a tricky one. It is not uncommon, on many different diet plans, even healthy ones, to lose weight quickly in the first few weeks. This is usually partially due to loss of water from the body. After this initial period, a healthy weight reduction at the rate of 0.5 to 2 pounds a week is a reasonable goal. It is possible to lose weight more quickly if necessary (for example, someone with an upcoming surgery who requires significant weight reduction to decrease the risk of surgical complications) but this should only be done under proper medical supervision.
- “Look At These Amazing Results!”
This is often accompanied by impressive “before and after” photos. Remember that posture, makeup, camera angle, lighting, proper-fitting clothes, support undergarments, and other factors can easily make someone appear significantly slimmer (or heavier). Even if the depicted weight reduction is indeed accurate, there is often a “results not typical” disclaimer. There is no “one size fits all” solution to weight management.
- Secret Potion/Lotion/“Weird Old Trick”/Miracle Food, etc., Your Doctor Doesn’t Want You to Know About!”
Most doctors would love to help their patients get to a healthy weight, and they recognize that this is not an easy process. In fact, if you are struggling with weight, your physician is a great place to start. (When it comes to your health, your physician is probably even more knowledgeable than Google!)