Knowing next to nothing about health and nutrition for most of my life, I always thought that they key to getting fit and trim was to simply go on a diet. You’ve probably even tried it for yourself once or twice before.
Maybe you heard about it on the interwebs, or perhaps your aunt told you for the tenth time about how she lost two jeans sizes by following the latest Oprah diet. You know, those weight-loss plans that are for just a few days or weeks, promising cover-model-esque results.
Yet, after ten whole days of eating nothing but grapefruit, you lost just a few pounds, only to quickly gain it back right after returning to your regular meals and snacks.
As unfortunate as it may seem, these types of diets are designed to fail.
“A Diet” vs. “Your Diet”
The word “diet” can be broken down to two distinctly different definitions:
“A regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight.” – “A Diet”. i.e. your common everyday diet. Typically lasting just a few days or weeks, these diets significantly reduce or restrict types and amounts of food to try and force your body into losing weight. Whether that weight loss comes from fat, muscle or water, is a big TBD.
“Habitual nourishment. Food and drink regularly consumed.” – “Your Diet”. i.e. the usual types of food you put in your body, or your dietary intake. This is something you can work to gradually improve over time. By taking stock of what’s in your diet, you can systematically determine whether something is healthy enough to be accepted into your lifelong diet.
The first definition refers to the short-term attempts to undo years of damage and stored body fat, otherwise known as fad diets (or crash diets). These never truly work, and are rarely healthy.
The second definition refers to your daily intake, which you can clean up piece by piece. After all, health and fitness is a lifelong journey. It’s not something that you simply do once and set it and forget it. So if you haven’t made the distinction just yet, I’ll give try and help you out.
What Is A Fad Diet?
If you heard about it on TV, or it was paid for through some sort of advertisement, chances are it’s a fad diet.
Fad diets tend to be similar in that they offer incredible results, in a short amount of time, and with little effort. Doesn’t it just sound fishy already?
Here are the main characteristics of a fad diet:
Short-term focused – 5 days, 3 weeks, 2 months, it’s all less than a year. Don’t you want to be healthy further out than that?
A drastic reduction of your calorie intake – The average daily intake for an adult is 2,000 calories, but some can go as low as 700 calories or less!
Restrictions on certain foods – Cutting out foods and food groups in their entirety is no way to be truly healthy. Whether cutting out carbs, protein or fats, your body is missing out on many essential nutrients.
Requires some sort of bar, shake, powder, pill or other supplement to see the effects. An obvious marketing scheme, trying to push sales of their product. While supplements are nice, you should be able reach all of your health goals with real food.
Fad diets can include one or all of the above, there’s really no limit to the different types of diets that can be marketed and sold to consumers.
Here are some of the most popular fad diets examples of our time. Perhaps you’ve heard of them:
South Beach Diet – This is a low carb diet, meaning no breads, pastas, cookies or cupcakes.
Atkins Diet – Similar to above, but can dip as low as zero carb.
Raw Food Diet – Eating foods in their natural, raw state, you’re fairly limited to fruits and vegetables.
The Zone Diet – Timing your meals around biochemical reactions to stay in the fat burning “zone”.
Each of these diets does have some merit. In fact, you could probably piece them all together and come up with something that works pretty darn well. But, the fact of the matter is that they’re all short term, and we want to be healthy for the long term.
If you take away one thing from this post, it’s that fad diets simply don’t work. So, don’t waste your time blindly following the latest diet trend.
If They Don’t Work, Why Are Fad Diets So Popular?
Fad diets are popular because most people don’t know enough about their own health, and are misled by the promise of fat loss that usually demands a lot of hard work and exercise.
These days, we drive to the park to go for a run and we take the elevator up a single floor. It’s all about quick and easy convenience. Who wouldn’t want to lose bodyfat without having to try too hard, and for only a few short weeks?
Crash diets are often the brain children of corporations. They are heavily marketed because there are other products and services that can be sold, such as supplements and dvd’s. The motivation is always a profit, so keep in mind that if they actually did show you how to lose weight and keep it off forever, they’d end up losing a customer for life. There are millions of dollars hard at work making sure you come back for more.
Beyond that, fad diets can be painfully restrictive. It can take near- super human strength to overcome some of the cravings you’ll have when walking past the donut shop on your way to work, declining any sense of being sociable at your office happy hour, and not to mention Super Bowl sunday.
Besides, even if they did work (calories in vs. calories out), chances are that you will also lose a bit of muscle and water weight in addition to any body fat.
Diets Are Bad. So, How Do You Lose Weight?
Losing weight isn’t rocket science, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park either.
To successfully stay in shape for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to make positive changes to your dietary intake. This means taking on newer, healthier habits, while eliminating those that aren’t doing you any favors.
Here are some quick and easy ways to clean up “your diet”:
Eat 5-6 well-balanced meals spaced evenly throughout the day
Choose real, whole foods, such as fruit, lean meat and grains. Treat the protein shakes and meal replacement bars as exactly what they are – supplements.
Don’t eat too much food. Be sure to take in just enough calories to fuel the body. Anything in excess is stored as fat.
Limit sugar in your diet. Start ignoring that sweet tooth. Sugar converts to fat so fast, that you can basically kiss your goals goodbye.
Limit liquid calories. Booze or soda, either way it does nothing for you. Your muscles can’t use any of it, and it soon turns to fat.
A healthier dietary intake forms the basis for any fitness goal, but always be sure to exercise regularly. Even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. Your body needs to move in order to stay alive, so get out there and go!
Think Long Term Journey To Health
If you want to lose weight and feel healthier and happier in your life, focus on making positive changes to your dietary intake, rather than toying around with a fad diet.
I always aim for the 90/10 rule. Eat healthy 90% of the time, and the other 10%, allow yourself to have fun and enjoy the “naughty” foods in life. For you, it may be 80/20 or 70/30. There’s a fine balance, and I’m determined to find that.
If I ever had the urge to step on stage for another bodybuilding competition, the ratio might have to be 100/0 for 12 weeks, but for now, I’m pretty happy at my comfortable weight with 90/10.
What are your thoughts on fad diets? Have you ever had a positive experience with any of them? Let me know in the comments down below!