Do Fad Diets Have Weight Loss Benefits?

Everyone wants to look their best for summer time and will often go to great lengths to lose some weight. This is why weight loss is a multi-BILLION dollar industry! It also means that people want to pay for a quick fix or for the newest and most glamorous way to lose weight. This often results in detoxing, fasting, or restricting their diet down to celery sticks and mustard, or some other food combination that’s impossible to follow.

I’m here to give you both the bad news and the good news about fad diets.

First off, the bad news: There is no quick fix or magic pill that will result in long-term weight loss. Sure, there are tons of diets out there which will help you lose weight for the short term. However, what they all have in common is that they are not sustainable. Nobody can live on cabbage soup or smoothies for the rest of their lives, and there can be serious health implications if you follow a carbohydrate-free diet for a long period of time. Not only are some of these diets not possible, they aren’t necessary!

My two big pieces of advice when it comes to spotting red flags in dieting are:

  1. If it seems too good to be true, it is.
  2. Any diet that has you avoiding whole food groups or severely restricting calories (think less than 1,000 calories per day) is not a healthy or maintainable diet.

Now, I do believe that fad diets can have a place in weight loss. If drinking protein drinks and eating fruits and vegetables for a couple of weeks is going to jump start your motivation to overhaul your eating regimen, then go for it! If following a healthy, balanced meal plan that specifically outlines what you should eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day is something you will follow, then I give my RD OK!

Are they necessary? No. Can they be helpful at times? Sure!

For the good news: Weight loss doesn’t have to be that complicated. A healthy diet is truly as simple as making healthy food choices the majority of the time. So, what do healthy food choices look like? It looks like a breakfast, lunch, and dinner balanced with a lean protein, fruit and/or vegetable, and a whole grain.

What should that combination be? The sky is the limit and the focus should be on variety! Breakfast could be a whole wheat English muffin (yes, carbs for breakfast!) with a whole egg, slice of cheese and a piece of fruit. Lunch could be a giant salad with balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil topped with leftover grilled chicken and a piece of fruit on the side. Snack time might be 5 or 6 whole wheat crackers with cottage cheese. Finally, dinner might be a 4-5 ounce serving of shrimp, with stir fry veggies in teriyaki sauce and a fist-size serving of brown rice. That’s just a typical day for this dietitian.

Along with healthy food choices comes portion control. You can eat the healthiest foods in the world, but if you eat too much of them you STILL aren’t going to be able to lose weight! A good reason to consult with a dietitian is to find out what the right portion sizes are for you.

In my years of nutrition counseling experience, I can tell you that actual long-term weight loss is not as simple as eating healthy or calories in less than calories out. There are always barriers (emotional, physical, and psychological), motivation issues, and health concerns that can make losing weight extremely difficult.

Don’t make it harder on yourself by trying to stick with an impossible diet. Focus on changing your behaviors by planning for and choosing portion-controlled healthy foods. Setting up an accountability system for yourself — whether it’s a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal, a friend, an accountability partner or a registered dietitian — can help keep you on track.

How are you getting healthy this summer? Share your experience in the comments below.

McNamee, Kinsey 8196

Kinsy McNamee is a registered dietitian at ProMedica Wellness.  She received her master’s degree in Food and Nutrition at BGSU where she also completed her dietetic internship. She lives in Perrysburg where she enjoys spending time with her husband, two young boys, and two dogs. Her monthly blog, Eating Right in Real Life, is a hearty serving of nutrition tips and insight for everyday families.