A fad is by definition a trend that’s here today and passes tomorrow or in a few months. From this definition a fad diet can be defined as a way of eating that you can only sustain for a short period of time before it falls by the wayside. This is why the quote at the beginning of this article is very important because what one woman can see herself doing for the rest of her life is a way of eating that another woman might not survive on for more than two weeks.
From a more technical perspective, a fad diet can also be defined as a diet that requires you to make drastic changes for a short period of time to get a specific result. By this definition, one can think of a month stint on a meal delivery service, a 3-day Fruit Fast, or a The Master cleanse as fad diets.
How Do You Evaluate a Diet for “Fad-ness”?
The three questions I use to evaluate a diet for fad-ness are:
Does it Require Cutting Down or Cutting Out a Key Nutrient Entirely?
This is a crucial question from a health perspective, because cutting out any major nutrient from your diet can have negative implications for your health. For instance severely cutting down carbs on a low-carb diet can mean a serious case of constipation if you’re not getting fiber from an alternate source.
Does it Require Me to Lower My Calorie Intake to a Dangerously Low Level?
Anything below 1,600 calories a day raises flags for me. And any diet that drops me below my estimated resting metabolic rate (RMR) is a no-no. This is because if you do it for a long enough period of time, you can mess with your metabolism in a way that will cost you in the long run. When you don’t eat enough calories, you don’t have enough energy to exercise, your body becomes more efficient and starts burning fewer calories to stay alive, and your body can even tap into your muscles for fuel which means that you’re burning fewer calories at rest.
All these things are terrible if long-term weight loss is your goal.
P.S. Exercise not only helps you burn calories but if you do the right types of exercise, you’ll build muscle. Building muscle can help you lose weight and keep it off easier than if you don’t have as much of it. If you’re worried about looking like a man, check out this [TEAM] post where I address the pressing question – Will Lifting Weights Make You Look Like a Man? The answer will surprise you.
Can I See Myself Eating Like This for the Long Term?
If you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off for the long-term, this question is particularly important. A fad diet can take the weight off you in no time, but the weight will come back (with more added even) once you go back to your pre-diet way of eating. And if you cut your calories low enough, the weight you gained back would be harder to lose because your metabolism has been altered – and not in your favor.
These three questions are good yardsticks for determining if a diet might be a fad for you or not. The word fad when it comes to diets has come to have a negative connotation i.e. no diet wants to be called a fad. But for your personal purposes, it’s always good to evaluate any new way of eating this way to cross it off your list or put it high up there with things you can’t live without.
Why Should You Care about Your Diet’s Fad-ness?
Your goal will determine just how much a fad diet can help or hurt you. Knowing your diet’s fad-ness can help you set realistic expectations about what the diet will get you. If you’re trying to shed some quick weight for an event, you can make the executive decision to go ahead with a 3-day fruit fast to shed water weight or the 10-day “insert special diet here’ diet. Knowing this information can also help you walk into it with the knowledge that after you return to you “normal life” after your event is over, your body will also return to the way it was.
If you want to lose weight for the long term without compromising your health, knowing what a fad diet is you can help you identify a program that you can live with long term. This doesn’t mean that you should only go for diet programs that will not require you to change your eating habits, it just means that these changes:
- have to make sense for how you like to eat
- have to make sense for your wallet
- have to be moderately easy for you to incorporate into your daily life
For example, if you have a family that loves meat and you work 10 hour days, going on a vegetarian diet to lose weight will be impractical because you’ll have to cook separate dinners for yourself and your family after a long day at work. This can get old really quickly. This example is actually one that I’ve lived; I love the idea of being a vegetarian for ethical reasons, but for all the times I’ve tried it, my undoing has always been having to cook two different dinners most days. Now I eat less meat at breakfast and lunch (when it doesn’t really matter what the other members of my family eat) and make dinner a universal meal.
P.S. This information was written to help you evaluate diets based on your goals, but I always recommend going in favor of a long-term weight loss strategy over a fad diet.
Do you see yourself using this information to evaluate a potential diet? If so, how?