I am not a fan of fad diets for many reasons. For one, they tend to be very restrictive and have a lot of “rules” such as “good” foods and “bad” foods or a list of foods you can’t eat. I believe that all foods can fit into a healthy, balanced, sustainable way of eating and that the way we eat should NOT add more stress to our lives. There are no “good” or “bad” foods; food is just food and ALL foods serve a purpose. Yes, some foods have more nutrients than others and our bodies respond differently to different foods and food groups, but unless you have an allergy or medical reason not to consume a food, I don’t recommend cutting out any foods or entire food groups.
Another reason fad diets don’t work in the long-term is because they are often very different from your current way of eating. Making a lot of changes at once tends to leave people feeling overwhelmed, which may cause them to throw in the towel. This can even lead to bingeing if they are trying to follow a super restrictive diet plan. Studies show that dieting does NOT lead to long-term weight loss. In fact, most chronic dieters gain back the weight they lost and also additional weight than they had before the diet.
So what should you do instead? I teach my clients to focus on ONE thing they can do today or this week that will move them in the right direction. I firmly believe that small, realistic changes can lead to big results. We may focus on 1-3 things to focus on but typically no more than 3 at one time. I also encourage my clients to focus on what they can ADD into their daily routine versus what they can take away. This helps to avoid the restriction and deprivation mindset that can happen with a lot of fad diets. Based on their current habits and their goals, we may start with hydration, fruits and vegetables, protein, fiber, pre or post-workout nutrition, etc. I work with the client to set goals that are important to them but also that they feel confident they can achieve. The long-term goal is to get to a way of eating that feels good for them and aligns with their lifestyle, schedule, food preferences, and goals.
Jill Merkel, MS, RD, CSSD
Sports Dietitian & Owner of Nutrition for Endurance