Looking to shed some pounds? Here’s how to spot nutritional nonsense

Shanthi Appelö, Knox.biz
Published 8:29 a.m. ET May 1, 2020 | Updated 9:15 a.m. ET May 1, 2020

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Ever wonder what Hollywood eats to stay healthy? We’re checking out the stars who follow vegan, vegetarian and paleo diets to stay fit.

It’s encouraging to hear promising inch-shedding results in only a few weeks’ time with minor input or effort. Fad diet marketers feed off this desire to lose weight quickly and many advertise their products to be followed for just a few weeks. But isn’t permanent change what we want? Fad diets’ restrictive nature or focus on “superfoods” deprive their followers of important nutrients. In fact, fad diets can cause problems like inadequate mineral and vitamin intake, gastrointestinal issues, dehydration and more.

Additionally, many people actually gain more weight in the long run. Before considering beginning a new fad regimen, you should understand that just because something markets a quick fix, doesn’t mean the results are long-lasting. Words like “clean,” “natural” and “detox” may sound promising, but they aren’t directly associated with health. Let’s explore some tell-tale signs of fad diets: 

Quick fixes     

If a diet promises a quick fix, it’s likely nutritional nonsense. Human body weight fluctuates daily due to fluid, waste and a storage form of carbohydrates called glycogen. It’s common to see more rapid weight loss at the beginning of a new regimen because these factors get altered. Though not a fad diet, low-carbohydrate diets help shed a lot of fluid in the first few weeks as glycogen stored with water is released. Low-carbohydrate diets tend to be effective in losing weight quickly because they often cut caloric intake, but they may not be for everyone long-term when compared to other diet strategies. Diet pills, meal replacement shakes and similar products may promise a quick fix, but they are likely not sustainable or nutritionally sound.

The American diet is not a healthy one. Typical eating patterns don’t match current dietary guidelines set by federal health agencies. The majority of people don’t eat enough vegetables or fruits, yet eat too much sugar, saturated fats, and salt. Food trends develop every year. Many people go to great lengths to shed a few pounds – from following very restrictive diets that health experts warn are not sustainable long-term to spending a lot of money on foods that ingredients labels deceivingly describe as healthy. (Photo: Dreamer Company / Getty Images)

Bold claims

If the diet markets a “secret” ingredient that powers weight loss, it’s likely bogus. Social media influencers and entertainment stars are common advertisers of fad diets, but it’s important to look further to see the originator of the product and if they used  sound science in product development. Check the credentials of people making claims in support of the product, and use advice from only trusted sources. Registered dietitians complete at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from an accredited institution, 1,200 hours of supervised practice in various settings, and many complete advanced degrees. When exploring resources online, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association are reliable sources of information. 

Severe restrictions

Discrimination against an entire food group is a red flag for a fad diet. Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of people with glowing weight loss results after following diets with rigid rules. However, these strict guidelines usually need to be followed long-term to keep the weight off, and that’s not sustainable. More often than not, once people are “done” with their diet, they get a taste of freedom with a pizza slice and go down a slippery slope that results in weight gain greater than where they started. Choose a weight-loss plan that allows you to eat your favorite foods in moderation and includes all food groups.

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