Fad diets are a specific term used to describe a diet that has as many empty promises as soda has empty calories. Fad diets are normally identified by their larger than life claims to help you lose weight with little effort and little exercise. As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes, “If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
What are fad diets?
It’s easy to spot fad diets. They most often:
- Promise rapid weight loss
- Focus on single products or types of food, such as the Atkins diet that restricts carbohydrates or the cabbage soup diet that requires you to eat cabbage soup for the majority of your diet
- Draw very simplistic conclusions about a process or type of food
- Show their success solely through testimonials or little-known studies
- Make claims that are meant to sell a line of their products
Fad diets are especially harmful for those with chronic pain conditions because of the additional stress they can put on the body.
Why should pain patients avoid these diets?
Since fad diets so often introduce radical changes in order to help a person lose weight, they can have unintended consequences for people with chronic pain. Any type of stress can cause a pain flare-up, but those based around fad diets can be especially harmful.
Often the drastic weight loss that accompanies fad diets are due to water loss. This can lead to dehydration which places extra stress on the body. Diets that avoid entire food groups, like carbohydrates, can cut out essential nutrients that help the body run smoothly. It may also lead to downward spikes in blood sugar, which is especially harmful for those with diabetes.
For those diets that have accompanying products or supplements, you should be especially careful. These products may contain untested or unsafe ingredients or they may have ingredients that react badly to other medications that you are already taking.
Worse, the pain and deprivation that is experienced when following a fad diet will most likely be in vain. Most of the weight lost during a fad diet is often gained back after a person stops the program (often due to overly restrictive or ridiculous rules). Going back and forth while losing weight with one diet to gaining it back to trying again can create a harmful yo-yo effect in the body that can also raise stress levels and may actually damage your metabolism.
If you’re concerned about your weight, it’s best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to find a weight loss program that works for you. Weight loss can do great things for your body, but not when it’s done in a rushed or unsafe way. Once you’ve talked to your doctor, you can consider some of the diet options presented in U.S. News’ Best Diets Rankings which was organized and evaluated by health experts.
Have you ever followed a fad diet? Did it work for you?