FAD diets are diets that only look for short term success; in a nut shell, disregarding health. Do they work? Yes of course, but are they the best approach for everyone? No probably not!
FAD diets target our emotions and play mind games with us, creating fear, through the targeting of a particular food or food groups, adopt extreme approaches, sold as a sexy approach and ultimately are designed to make money.
Normally, following a FAD diet will cause suffering, drastic cuts in calories and eliminating as many foods as you can. Every FAD diet I can think of claims fast results with a list of dos and don’ts and food lists of good and bad food which make the diet hard to adhere to and unenjoyable. Most of the time, these diets claim to be backed by science and give reasons to stop eating a certain type of food, but these claims are never true. They are normally also sold and endorsed by celebs, claiming to have achieved amazing results solely through this FAD diet. Most FAD diets also come with a list of supplements and juices you need to buy and incorporate into your life. Supplements are solely that and should supplement a diet, not be the main component of it. So if the designers of these FAD diets claim them to be optimal for health and weight loss, why do they require supplements?
Most of the traditional FAD diets that are sold, sound too good to be true, are unsustainable, dictate our life, and based on unrealistic expectations leading to either short term success or no success at all!
It is always good to question any claims or science a diet claims to be backed by. This does not make you a stubborn/arrogant person, but it allows you to educate yourself and learn how the results of research are relevant and how the concepts are applicable.
So, what works?
A Diet that fits in with our lifestyle and goals, easy to adhere to, has balance and moderation!
No specific diet works any better than another.
Diet adherence is most important.
Diet adherence has been shown to be an important aspect of any diet for success, (5) and whether it is low carb, high carb, paleo, Atkins, keto diet etc., weight loss differences are minuscule and no diet is better than the other. (6)
No diet will work if you can’t adhere to it or are not enjoying it. A diet should always fit in with your lifestyle and not dictate it.
Some individuals can follow a restricted diet banning certain types of food and reach their goals, but for many and even myself, restriction leads to cravings and it creates an awful relationship with food.
Lye McDonald, author and nutrition/training expert, lays out what he believes are the two main reasons dieters fail:
1 Being too absolute and expecting perfection.
2 Focusing only on the short-term.
Setting lots of rules is often too inflexible to sustain for any length of time, this is why a calorie controlled flexible approach to eating is far more enjoyable and sustainable. This has been shown many times in the research (1-3). So being less strict about your diet and food choices is the essence of flexible dieting. It’s going to be these eating behaviours during dieting that are going to help you maintain your new weight once reached.
In my opinion, if you see a diet with a list of food you ‘can’t’ eat, longer than the food that you can, then that isn’t sustainable or enjoyable. Smith and colleagues found that a diet which looks to include all types of foods the individual loves, not overlooking health, shows less overeating, lower bodyweight, and the absence of depression and anxiety when compared to a rigid diet which banned all ‘unclean’ foods. They also found that a strict all-or-nothing approach to dieting was associated with yo-yo dieting, mainly due to spontaneous binges, which leads to increased bodyweight and eating disorders. (4)
1. Smith CF1, Williamson DA, Bray GA, Ryan DH. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioural outcomes. Appetite. 1999 Jun; 32(3):295-305.
2. Westenhoefer J1, Engel D, Holst C, Lorenz J, Peacock M, Stubbs J, Whybrow S, Raats M.Cognitive and weight-related correlates of flexible and rigid restrained eating behaviour. Eat Behav. 2013 Jan; 14(1):69-72. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.10.015. Epub 2012 Nov 13.
3. Westenhoefer J1, Stunkard AJ, Pudel V. Validation of the flexible and rigid control dimensions of dietary restraint. Int J Eat Disord. 1999 Jul; 26(1):53-64.
4. Stewart TM, et al. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. 2002 Feb;38(1):39-44.
5. Dansinger ML1, Gleason JA, Griffith JL, Selker HP, Schaefer EJ. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2005 Jan 5;293(1):43-53.
6. Bradley C. Johnston, PhD; Steve Kanters, MSc; Kristofer Bandayrel, MPH; Ping Wu, MBBS, MSc6; Faysal Naji, BHSc; Reed A. Siemieniuk, MD; Geoff D. C. Ball, RD, PhD; Jason W. Busse, DC, PhD; Kristian Thorlund, PhD Gordon Guyatt, MD, MSc3; Jeroen P. Jansen, PhD; Edward J. Mills, PhD, MSc. Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults. A Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014; 312(9):923-933.