Fad Diets Debunked

Are we addicted to dieting? The history of fad diets goes back hundreds of years and is full of crazy methods to lose weight quickly (though not healthfully).  I am going to expose fad diets for what they really are, and empower you to jump off the diet bandwagon for good!


Podcast Transcript – Fad Diets Debunked?


Hi and welcome to Nutritionally Speaking! I’m your host, Michaela Ballmann. Today I’m going to tackle the huge list of fad diets out there without having to go through each one.  I will teach you how these diets work and why you don’t have to jump on the bandwagon every time a new book comes out promising you quick, effortless weight loss.


A brief history of fad diets

I’d like to start off by giving you a brief history of fad diets.  Our generation is definitely not the first to be obsessed with crazy ways to lose weight quickly and easily.

In 1820, Lord Byron made the vinegar diet popular.  He supposedly lost 60 pounds by dousing his food with vinegar, but some think this man actually suffered from an eating disorder.

If you think the low-carb diet is new, you’re wrong.  It first appeared in the year 1825 in the book The Physiology of Taste, and was repeated later by Banting in 1963.  In fact, the name “Banting” became a popular term for dieting.

In 1903, The “Great Masticator”, Horace Fletcher, promoted a very original term “Fletcherizing”, which means chewing your food 32 times (once for each tooth).

Calorie counting was introduced way back in 1917 by Lulu Hunt Peters in her book Diet and Health with Key to Calories.

Other crazy diets include the Cigarette diet of 1925, with its infamous motto “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”, the Cabbage Soup and Grapefruit or Hollywood diet of 1950,  the Sleeping Beauty Diet (which involves being heavily sedated for days), and the Tapeworm diet (wherein you ingest a capsule that causes weight loss. The only side effect is the tapeworm roaming around your intestines).  Ok, I hope it’s clear now that we’ve been hooked on the silly idea of dieting for way too long!

Our society seems attracted to these diet gimmicks.  We buy into the promise of rapid weight loss. We’re lured by rigid rules and food restrictions.  Maybe we even feel special when we follow a certain diet and use it as an excuse to restrict our food intake.  Are we addicted to dieting? Most assuredly!


Differences in Fad Diets

In one respect, fad diets are not created equal. Some emphasize one food group over another or restrict a different macronutrient, but in general, all of these diets work by causing you to eat fewer Calories.  That’s right! There’s no secret in the intricately concocted food combinations, the ratio of fat to carbs to protein, or the recipe for the cleanse or detox of the week.  Anything that causes you to eat fewer Calories will cause you to lose weight. PERIOD.

So, take the Atkins or Dukan diet (which is basically Atkins by another name).  By limiting carbohydrates (aka fruit, bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables, grains like quinoa, and the list goes on), a huge amount of the Calories you normally take in during the day are eliminated.  Sorry, no oatmeal for breakfast. Nope, no berries.  Uh uh, no grilled corn on the cob at your barbecue. Whole grain bread for your sandwich—no way! Do you have a problem with anything I just said? I hope so! All the foods I just mentioned that you CAN’T have (or can’t have much of) on a low-carbohydrate are good for you! What is inherently wrong with oatmeal, berries, corn or whole grain starches? Nothing! They are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and can be a healthy part of any eating pattern in moderation.  But when you cut out carbohydrates, you might eat more protein, but not enough to replace the Calories lost. Hence, the weight loss.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s take another diet.  How about the Cookie Diet? This one is alluring because you get to eat nothing but COOKIES! Who wouldn’t be up for that? Well, me for one.  On this diet, originally developed by Dr. Sanford Siegal back in 1975 to help his patients lose weight, you get to eat 4-6 specially formulated cookies a day in addition to a simple dinner that consists only of lean protein and vegetables. The cookies only have 90-150 kcals a piece and replace breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Your total Calorie intake for the day will come to a range of 800-1500 kcals/day, depending mostly on the size of your dinner.  Don’t ask me how you’re NOT going to binge at dinner after barely eating any kcals throughout the day! BTW, you will most likely need a multivitamin to supplement the nutritional deficits of this diet—not sure if you noticed that this diet is completely void of fruit, and has a super low amount of protein and vegetables.  Healthy this diet is NOT!  Weight loss, easy as pie? Or cookies! Or anything!  I don’t care if it’s a cookie, a bar, a special overpriced drink or whatever!  If it is replacing a meal with limited Calories, it will cause weight loss.  Do not put your faith or money in the label or the highly marketed product.  The answer is calorie restriction.

So, since you can tell that I feel very strongly about this subject.  I’m sure you’re wondering if I have any better ideas than the very popular diets out there.  I’m glad you asked!


The alternative to fad diets

In order to create a calorie deficit, you have one of three choices.  1—you can eat less; 2—you can exercise more; or 3—you can eat less AND exercise more.  Remember, by “eat less”, I am not necessarily talking about QUANTITY of food.  I’m talking about number of Calories.  In the book Volumetrics, which I recommend you read, author Barbara J. Rolls makes the point that the body is accustomed to a certain VOLUME of food and will eat until the stomach stretches to a certain point.  Therefore, if you replace calorically dense foods with nutrient dense foods, you can eat the same or a greater amount of food while eating fewer Calories.  This really can make weight loss much easier than you imagine.  You can eat tons of non-starchy vegetables, low-cal soups, fresh fruit, fibrous whole grains; feel full; and lose weight!  Seriously!  You can also step up your exercise routine by exercising longer, more often, or more intensely.  Interval exercise (like Spinning, circuit training, etc.) is great for weight loss.  By combining a great diet with exercise, weight loss is a sure thing!

Make sure to keep your goals realistic now! Healthy weight loss for most people is at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week, which is a deficit of 500-1000 kcals/day

If you do things my way (in other words, ditching dieting), you’ll still lose your excess weight with no money spent on fancy drinks or bars; no more books to sell at your next garage sale; no empty promises!

I hope that I have helped you to have a more realistic view of healthy weight loss, and that you can find freedom from fad diets and their fallacies!

If you have any comments or questions, go to my website or email me.  You can also follow me on Twitter at @NutriSpeaking. Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you next time!

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