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Fad Diets vs. Sustainable Changes: Choosing the Healthier Path




The allure of extreme diets is hard to resist, especially with the constant barrage of messages about fitness and weight loss. Quick-fix solutions and so-called 'miracle' products often prey on our health and body image concerns.


If you're aiming for lasting nutrition and lifestyle choices and habits, this article will guide you away from crash diets that can be more harmful than beneficial.


The Pitfalls of Fad Diets

Fad diets promise rapid results, often focusing on quick weight loss without solid scientific backing. They usually involve severe food restrictions and specific food rules, such as combining certain foods, avoiding meals after a particular time, and taking numerous unnecessary supplements.


Recent popular fad diets include detox diets, the paleo diet, the carnivore diet, and the alkaline diet. The 'clean eating' trend, which varies in extremity, can sometimes blur the lines between healthy lifestyle changes and fad diets. For some, 'clean eating' means consuming more vegetables and meal prepping; for others, it involves cutting out dairy and carbs, leading to restrictive eating patterns that can be associated with disordered eating.


Fad diets follow a predictable pattern:

  • Initial enthusiasm and positive results.

  • Difficulty maintaining the diet and eventual slip-ups.

  • Feelings of failure and guilt, often leading to binge eating or unhealthy eating habits.

  • Repeating the cycle.


The failure feels personal, but fad diets are inherently unsustainable. The diet industry thrives on this cycle, ensuring repeat customers.


Nutritionally, fad diets can cause deficiencies by excluding entire food groups. They can lead to muscle loss, lower energy levels, disrupted metabolic responses, gut issues, and a disconnection from natural hunger and fullness cues.


Additional issues with fad diets include:

  • Damaging relationships with food and increasing the risk of disordered eating.

  • Consuming excessive time and mental energy that could be spent on more meaningful activities.

  • High costs due to supplements, and specific foods.

  • Social isolation, as eating is a vital social activity.

  • Negative impacts on mental health.


Embracing Sustainable Change

Unlike quick fixes, sustainable changes focus on making realistic adjustments that can be maintained long-term. Building lasting habits is a gradual process, not about drastic, hard-to-sustain shifts.


Focusing on sustainable change promotes a positive relationship with yourself and your goals, as you experience small, gradual successes over time, rather than feeling like a failure for not achieving unrealistic targets.


Key features of sustainable changes include:

  • Being realistic and manageable.

  • Aligning with your values and being meaningful to you.

  • Involving a clear plan.

  • Being enjoyable, at least part of the time.

  • Integrating into your regular routines.

  • Building gradually over time.

  • Focusing more on the process than the end goal.

  • Embracing flexibility and celebrating small wins.

  • Having a social or community element.

  • Involving regular self-monitoring and reflection.


To make a sustainable change:

  • Focus on one change at a time (no more than three).

  • Choose something important to you with a clear reason for making the change.

  • Ensure the change fits realistically into your life and enhances your quality of life.

  • Plan how to make the change, including starting points, fitting it into your routine, support systems, and reflection methods.

  • Approach changes with flexibility and self-compassion, avoiding the myth of perfection.


Please be aware of fad diets, the internet and social media is filled with them! Always check who you are getting your nutrition information and their credentials. It is scary that people with 0 nutrition education are giving out nutrition information.

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