6 Ways Fad Diets Can Harm You and How to Spot Them

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6 Ways Fad Diets Can Harm You

If you’ve been a fan of Gym Free Fitness for a while, you’re likely aware that we’re not fans of fad diets and crash diets. They promise a quick fix to a problem that has no quick fix, and usually require you to do/eat things that can lead to either more weight gain, or permanent harm (or both!).

Fad diets are schemes that often involving very strict and extreme eating plans, or very low caloric intake. Unfortunately, these diets do not provide any long-term benefits to anyone. If anything, they can cause serious, long-term, health problems.

6 Ways Fad Diets Can Harm You

1. They Make You Gain Even More Weight

What usually makes fad diets very tempting are the promises of quick weight loss with little effort on the part of the participant. Sure, everyone would love to lose weight in the shortest amount of time, with minimal effort and that is always the hook.

Unfortunately, the truth is that yes you can lose weight with fad diets but often it is mostly water weight. Also, fad diets are very hard to stick with, and so while you may lose an initial few pounds, once you resume your normal diet (and everyone always does), you will gain all the weight back, and more often than not, you gain more! This is called rebound weight gain and over time it leads to more weight sticking around for longer.

Fad diets never implement or address the permanent lifestyle changes required for lasting healthy weight management.

2. They Can Lead to Nutritional Deficits

Most fad diets restrict your options to specific types of food, thereby eliminating important nutrients the body needs. When you’re limited to a specific type of food(s), you sacrifice the nutrients that you would otherwise obtain if you were eating a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Carbohydrates are oftentimes considered a no-no in many of these diets, but in reality, restricting carbohydrates can significantly hurt your energy levels, making you feel fatigued. You will not have the necessary fuel to energize your workouts and function effectively on a day-to-day basis.

In reality, carbohydrates come in all forms, and not all are created equally. Good for you carbs include fruits and vegetables along with rice and other healthy grains.

The same misconception goes for fat. Many fad diets attempt to turn fat into a mortal enemy, when in reality, not all fats are bad. In fact, certain types of fats such as omega-3 are necessary for optimum health and monosaturated fats are required for brain and heart health.

3. Muscle Wasting and Hair Loss

Fad diets can lead to hair and muscle loss because they are nutrient deficient. For one, protein is a nutrient that you need if you want your hair to be and grow healthy. Not having enough may cause hair to fall out and become brittle.

Muscle loss is another common problem. Because of the caloric deficits associated with fad diets, the body naturally turns to other means to get that required energy, and as a result, muscle wasting occurs. You do not want to lose your muscle if you are planning to lose weight, because having more muscle mass can help you burn more calories by boosting metabolism even when the body is at rest.

4. They Ruin Your Body’s Natural Metabolism

Fad diets often dictate how much to eat and when to eat, which goes against your body’s natural eating pattern. Our bodies are aware when we need to eat and when we have had enough. While fad diets may give you temporary results, there are long-term implications that can affect your health permanently.

Mindfulness is a technique taught in meditation and yoga, and can help you to get in touch with your body and real hunger. This is a much more effective and healthy way to lose weight.

5. They Often Lack The Element of Exercise

Most fad diets are too focused on the food intake itself, and neglect the importance of exercise. Since they often advise the intake of very low amounts of calories, exercise is often not recommended, and sometimes even restricted. This can be detrimental to your overall health.

6. They Are Not Sustainable

Fad diets are just that – fads. They are not meant to last on a permanent basis. These types of diets promote rapid weight loss in an unreasonable amount of time, rather than a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable for the long term. They never address lifestyle changes, such as choosing an apple for dessert over apple pie and changing your taste accordingly.

Many people can attest that they have lost over 100 pounds over a lifetime in 10-pound spurts. Lose it, and gain it back, lose it, and gain it back, repeatedly in a vicious yo-yo cycle. Usually at the center of this merry-go-round is a string of fad diets turning the wheel.

How To Spot A Fad Diet


Now that you know all the reasons to avoid fad diets, the trick is being able to spot them. Beware of any diet which includes the following:

  • Quick fix promises
  • Involvement of “magic foods” or special food combinations
  • Exclusion of a particular food group, for example, carbohydrates
  • Unproven claims that are based on limited scientific study
  • The suggestion that certain food combinations can alter one’s body chemistry

A Better Way

Instead of going for fad diets, the best way to lose weight is a gradual transition to a healthy lifestyle. By combining regular exercise with a healthy balanced diet, you are sure to achieve your weight loss goals and be able to keep it off for the long term.

Small Changes

Start by making small changes with the foods you choose. Replace three desserts a week with a piece of fresh fruit. Substitute French fries with a side salad or steamed vegetables at lunch two times per week. Then increase it to three times, and so on.

Assess your kitchen and begin to gradually remove all unhealthy snacks and foods from the fridge and cupboard. If you don’t know what is healthy and what isn’t, find out. Replace all that you have removed with better choices.


Begin an exercise regimen by taking a two block walk every day, then keep adding a block every two or three days, you cannot imagine how fast you become acclimated and fit and with gradual increases you will be walking a mile before you know it, without even noticing how you got there!

Do some type of strength training be it with weights or bodyweight exercises three times per week. Building lean muscle mass will boost your metabolism and make you stronger and healthier, which will improve your overall quality of life.

It Works!

It is not difficult to implement small changes that together make for a big difference in your weight, health, and how you feel. The best part is that you will NEVER have to go on another diet, fad or otherwise again.


Photo credit: 从峰 陈 (congfengchen) | Flickr

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Pamela Bruesehoff

Hi! I'm Pamela and I run Gym Free Fitness. Your one stop for real information. No bro science and no faux science. Just real healthy information.

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