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Let's debunk 'fad diets'

Fad diets, what's the problem with them?

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet is a diet that becomes very popular, very quickly. Similar to a trend in fashion – one minute it’s the big thing, the next it’s not. They often promise weight loss at a very fast pace, which is sometimes unrealistic and unachievable.

You’ll often see these plastered across magazines, newspapers and in more recent times, shared by social media influencers.

Some examples of fad diets include:

  • Meal replacement shakes
  • Fat loss pills
  • Cleanse Diet

So, what harm do they cause?

First and foremost, we aren’t against dieting and as a personal training gym we understand that nutrition is a key pillar to your health and fitness journey. Especially if your goal is based around aesthetics such as losing weight.

However, the problem lies with the lack of scientific evidence to suggest that these diets are truly beneficial for your health and fitness. It’s more likely than not that social media influencers are just trying to make a quick quid by promoting something they’ve never actually done before or is scientifically proven (a topic for another day)….

Take the meal replacement diet for example.

Meal replacement diets are simply self-explanatory, you replace your meals with a low-calorie shakes.

Of course, if you cut carbohydrates out from your diet, you’ll likely lose weight because you’ll likely be operating in a calorie deficit. But what side effects might you experience? Lack of energy, potential headaches, hunger, lack of concentration?

Also, throw in the mix the fact it will be pretty unenjoyable, as you will be consistently tired and unable to eat a pizza on a Friday night!

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But ‘fad diets’ get me results?

In the short term, this might be true. Like we said earlier, cutting out certain food groups such as carbohydrates will result in you losing weight as you’re probably going to be operating in a calorie deficit.

However, is the diet actually sustainable? 9 times out of 10 the answer is no.

Cutting out your favourite foods is going to lead you to become frustrated, fed up and before you know it you’ll be tucking into a pack of biscuits and feel like you’ve failed.

This often means you’ll find yourself back at square one, and cycle round and round until you find the next fad diet.

Do you see the issue?

This feeling of failure is not what we want. The goal instead is to develop the confidence to manage your nutrition in a healthy manner.

How can you tell if it’s a fad diet?

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If it’s a new, flash diet then be wary! It will probably lack any real evidence that it works.
  • Who is the source? Are they fitness professionals or previous Love Island contestants?
  • Does it sound unrealistic? Are they asking you to live off beans and rice like you’re in I’m A Celeb.
  • Is the diet a replacement for supplements or shakes?
what is the problem with fad diets

So, what should I do?

If your goal is to lose weight, then the science behind it is pretty simple.

You need to operate in a calorie deficit.

Effectively, this means the calories you burn must be greater than the calories you consume.

You might currently consume 2,000 calories a day and be thinking no way can I burn over 2,000 calories. The good news is you don’t need to. We all have a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which means we all burn a certain amount of calories per day without even getting out of bed.

From there, you just need to focus on controlling your calories, whilst burning a greater amount than you consume.

How can I do this?

Let’s start with calories.

A popular method here is to track your calories so you become educated on how many calories you do currently consume per day. You can use My Fitness Pal to achieve this.

The goal here is not to track forever, it’s not the most enjoyable task and can take a lot of time and energy. Saying this, if you feel a bit clueless as to how many calories are in foods then it’s a good place to start.

When people go on a diet or watch their calories, they instantly think that means they can’t eat their favourite foods such as pizzas, chocolate or ice cream. However, a good rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule. Effectively, you attempt a well balanced and nutritional diet 80% of the time and the other 20% you can treat yourself. This keeps it less restrictive, resulting in you more likely sticking with it long term!

How do I burn more calories?

Again, nothing mind-blowing. It’s a case of getting more active.

This does not mean you need to run the next London Marathon, far from it actually.

A good place to start is to increase your NEAT (non-exercise activity Thermogenesis). This means the energy we burn when we’re not sleeping, eating or working out – for example, could you walk to the shops instead of driving or could you take the stairs instead of the lift?

Following on from this, you could increase your level of physical exercise.

We’re a personal training gym but that doesn’t mean you need to go to a gym. You could do anything from dog walking, sports, swimming and so on.

You just want to find something you enjoy, so you stick with it long term.

This is a very simplistic way of putting it, and other factors are important to consider such as:

  • Stress levels
  • Sleep
  • Lifestyle
  • Plus more!

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. This is why it’s important to find something that you enjoy and that isn’t too restrictive so you can still enjoy life!

A final note…

  • Fad diets are often only beneficial in the short term and also sometimes lack any real scientific evidence.
  • If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is!
  • Finding your why and what you want to achieve is important, sometimes being on a strict diet is necessary.
  • The long or short of losing weight is that there is no quick fix, so don’t be overly strict and try and enjoy the process.

We hope this has provided some clarity, but if you do have any other questions about nutrition, training or anything in between, please do reach out.