The Dangers of Fad Diets

If you’re looking to lose weight, the most important thing you can do is change your eating habits. Unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to trying to lose weight is turning to fad diets. Fad diets are promoted as being a quick-fix to weight loss, but this can actually be a very unhealthy way to lose weight, not to mention can put your health in serious jeopardy. Fad diets not only promote unhealthy eating habits, but many of them also don’t meet the recommended nutritional requirements we need on a daily basis as a lot of them are focused on complete elimination of certain foods or food groups — which can make it all the more difficult to maintain this type of diet. In fact, people who follow fad diets are more likely to gain back any weight they lose, in addition to more. Aside from the elimination of specific foods/food groups, some examples of fad diets include those that claim to be able to help you lose more than 2 pounds per week, bases their claims off testimonials or experts without credentials, as well as those that require you to take diet pills or supplements to ensure your success. Common fad diets that have gained popularity over the years include the 3-day-diet, soup diet, apple cider vinegar diet, and grapefruit diet, though the list is much longer. Essentially, if a specific diet sounds too easy or too good to be true, then it probably is, and is something you should stay away from.

Because fad diets often cut out some very key foods, they can harm your health in a number of ways. Some of the most common side effects associated with fad diets include:

• Dehydration
• Weakness
• Fatigue
• Nausea
• Headaches

Basic dietary guidelines suggest that we should include each of the following in our diets every day: Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins, while making sure to limit saturated fats, refined grains and sweets, as well as minimizing or eliminating trans fats. You should also include dairy products in your diet (such as milk, yogurt and cheese), and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water as opposed to things like fruit juices (which are loaded with sugar) and alcohol. The healthy foods you eat are essentially your body’s fuel and can help the body build, maintain and renew cells, help protect your organs and absorb nutrients, and even provide you with more energy. For those with previously diagnosed health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or diabetes, you may have a restrictive diet (i.e. having to eliminate gluten from your diet or dairy if you are lactose intolerant), but there is plenty of information available online and in books that can help you make the right (and healthiest) food choices best suited to you and your dietary needs. If you’re unsure about the dietary changes you should make, it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor for advice. A dietitian or nutritionist will also be able to help guide you in the right direction.

Making changes to your diet can be difficult, but once you get into the habit of healthy eating it can be easy to sustain and you’ll feel better in the long-run.

Originally published at on March 2, 2019.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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