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Why Fad Diets Do Not Work, and What Does Work

May 08, 2021 3 min read

Why Fad Diets Do Not Work, and  What Does Work

Fad diets are widely advertised and promise simple methods to shed unwanted ‘weight’ quickly (note ‘weight’ not necessarily body fat!) 

Often times, when something feels like it is too good to be true, it usually is. However, with mounting pressures surrounding weight loss and body ideals, this market continues to grow as a result ofcapitalising on those who are desperate.  

During 2017-2018, an estimated 67% of Australians aged 18 and over were either overweight or obese. With shocking statistics like these, it is not surprising many have turned to fad diets to solve their issues. 

What are fad diets?

For the sake of consolidating a broad variety of drastic nutritionalpractises, in the case of this article, a fad diet is anything that is promoting a ‘quick fix’ nutritionally. As the name suggests, these approaches often fall in and out of fashion.  

These trends often entail drastic protocols or short term challenges. While the list is exhaustive, a few notable mentions include the infamous Vogue ‘egg and wine diet, more recent “Juice Cleanses” and “Broth diets”, products like “weight loss/fat burning shakes” or evenpractises like “No carbs before 12 noon”. 

Why do fad diets exist?

In some cases, there can be new science emerging that gives some credibility to a particular dietary approach. For instance, avoiding carbs in the morning may actually be a useful approach forcertain individuals. Here, working with a nutritionist or dietician is of significant importance, as the one-size-fits-all approach fad diets promote will not hold true. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with the reasoning behind a fad diet, whereby a lot of these trends are actually based around financial gain.  

When a company can sell the idea of a ‘quick fix’ product, money is there for the taking. The supplement and weight loss world is no different, being valued as a growing, multi-billion dollar industry. Aggressive marketing glorifies products like ‘fat loss shakes’ and ‘juice cleanse kits’ to health and fitness newcomers, who have a lesser understanding of what does and doesn’t work. It’s very counterproductive, where fad products often fail to meet their hype, let down customers, and bring disreputation to legitimate businesses and products. 

There are also scenarios where no one business stands to gain, but a drastic approach can build hype and become trendy. A humorous example of ‘gallon of milk a day’ or ‘GOMAD’ hasbeen circled for a few decades now as a superior way to build muscle. However, that’s all these approaches amount to: hype. 

Why don’t they work?

Fad diets ultimately fail to promote the most important fundamental of health, fitness and nutrition; a sustainable approach. Whatever the goal, it’s going to take hard work, dedication and time. More often than not, it is the consistentbehaviours of an individual, not their specific approach, that yields the positive outcome. Further to this, it’s vital torecognise that different approaches are not only available, but also necessary, as individuals have legitimate reasons to take a varied approach. Often, a strict fad diet won’t promotebehavioural change or account for an individual’s needs. This heavy restriction can actually leave dieters worse than when they started, with malnutrition from being overly restrictive, and a decreased level of motivation and self-confidence, having already ‘failed’ to get the unrealistic result of the fad diet. 

So, what does work?

The good news is, many, different approaches work, and have proven to be safe and effective. Opting for a tailored approach is always going to suit an individual more than following a roughly set out, fad-orientated plan. Being patient and having a realistic understanding of what it’s going to take to reach a goal will help to set one’s mindset for success.   

Following sound nutrition science principles such as creating a reasonable caloric deficit or surplus, including a wide variety of foods, and adjusting the approach to an individual’s needs are the basis for legitimate dieting. Here, reading widely to better understand nutrition science, or working with a nutritionist or dietician will be good places to start. All of which, will have your best interests as the number one priority, and not be based around a trend! 

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