5 Risks of Fad Diets: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Fad Diets

They’re trendy, and they lure you in with promises like “lose weight fast.” People still fall for it too. The lure of losing weight quickly is appealing when you’re trying to prepare for a big event like a wedding or class reunion. But if you’re looking for a way to lose weight and keep it off, fad diets are not the answer. Let’s look at some reasons why you should avoid fad diets like the plague and why they do more harm than good.

Fad Diets Aren’t Sustainable

What benefit is it to lose weight but be unable to maintain your new weight? Any eating plan you can’t stick with will fail. You might get through a few days or even a week or two eating only cabbage soup, but you’ll eventually reach your fill of cabbage leaves and broth and focus your attention on anything not in the produce department. Restricted diets are not sustainable overall, so many people give up and return to their old eating habits – and feel frustrated because they failed.

Plus, fad diets often involve unhealthy practices such as taking questionable weight-loss supplements and drinking shakes instead of eating whole foods. It’s smarter to have a varied eating plan that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods. Add more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to your diet. Reduce fried foods, chips, and other snack foods that add little nutrition to your diet and don’t give you sustainable energy.

When you’re trying to lose weight by changing your diet, moderation is key. It’s not going on crash diets or extreme exercise. It’s about making small changes over time so that they become part of your daily life.

They Can Lead to Nutritional Deficiencies

Be suspicious of diets and eating plans that eliminate many foods or whole food groups. The greater the number of whole, unprocessed foods you eat, the more nutritionally diverse your diet is and the less likely you are to experience nutritional deficiencies.

When you eat whole, unprocessed foods and eliminate added sugar and refined carbohydrates, you have better blood sugar control and a lower insulin level. That’s important since a higher insulin level makes it easier for your body to store calories as fat, leading to weight gain. Plus, it’s not beneficial to your metabolic health.

Fad diets often involve strict rules about what you can eat and when you can eat it — or even whether you can eat at all. This leads some people to skip meals and eat an unbalanced diet. These restrictive eating patterns can make it difficult to get the nutrition you need from food, which may leave your body feeling weak, tired, and hungry all the time. Don’t take the easy path but the sustainable one! Nourish your body with real food.

Fad Diets Can Lead to Muscle Loss

If you’re on a fad diet, step on the scale, and see you’ve lost weight, you might do a happy dance. But much of the weight people lose with fad diets is muscle and water weight, not body fat. That’s not what you want. Instead, adopt a balanced diet that contains enough protein, unrefined carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it keeps you full and satisfied longer. Ensure you’re consuming a source of protein at every meal. Plant-based protein offers advantages because it’s higher in fiber, so you feel full.

Even if You Lose Weight, You’ll Likely Gain It Back

Did you know that 80% or more of people who lose more than 10% of their body weight gain it all back? Some gain back more than when they started. Dieting of any type doesn’t help with long-term weight control. The key is to adopt an eating plan and lifestyle that’s healthy and sustainable. You may lose weight at a slower rate but you’re more likely to retain those losses.

Fad diets cause weight gain by disrupting hormones that control your appetite and by slowing your metabolism, as it slow to preserve energy. In the long run, it’s counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve and your health.

Fad Diets Can Lead to Mental Health Issues

Fad diets are all about quick fixes, but they’re not a long-term solution to weight loss. Fad diets can cause mental health issues in some people, including eating disorders and depressive symptoms.

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can lead to death if they’re not treated. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. These conditions affect millions of men and women in the United States.  Many people who struggle with disordered eating or other forms of mental illness turn to fad diets to lose weight quickly and easily.

Think about the pros and cons of fad diets before adopting one. Some people turn to extreme measures to achieve their weight loss goals, but this is a mistake. Before beginning any type of diet or exercise regimen, consider how it will fit into your life and whether you can sustain it. Is it a balanced approach to eating long-term?


Fad diets can be a tempting alternative to traditional weight-loss methods, but they have serious drawbacks. If you want to lose weight, try exercising regularly and eating healthy foods instead of dieting.  Focus on how you feel and choose foods that give you the stamina to power through your day. Think about the nutrient density of the foods you eat, so you can supply your body with the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients it needs for optimal health.


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  • Blomain ES, Dirhan DA, Valentino MA, Kim GW, Waldman SA. Mechanisms of Weight Regain following Weight Loss. ISRN Obes. 2013 Apr 16;2013:210524. doi: 10.1155/2013/210524. PMID: 24533218; PMCID: PMC3901982.
  • “Why 80% of People Regain Weight After Their Diet and How to Avoid It.” 08 Feb. 2021, scientifictrainer.com/why-80-of-people-regain-weight-after-their-diet-and-how-to-avoid-it/.
  • “The Health Risks of Fad Diets | Oklahoma State University.” https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/the-health-risk-of-fad-diets.html?Forwarded=pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-12154/T-3623.pdf.

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