How to spot a fad diet to avoid

Published November 1, 2019

Rebecca Kraay, Nutrition Therapist

By Rebecca Kraay, Nutrition Therapist


With a new year of resolutions upon us, you may once again wish to eliminate unwanted pounds once and for all.

The problem is, most crash diets being pitched are simply quick - and often temporary - fixes for a long-term problem. Crash diets often involve unhealthy calorie restrictions without making true lifestyle behavior changes. So not only are you not getting to the root of the problem, but your weight loss may not be sustainable.

Crash diets also can back fire, causing you to lose muscle, not fat. In addition, if you are trying to lose weight by excessively restricting your calories only, your body will adjust by slowing its metabolism, which decreases the amount of calories you need. Not only will this eventually stall your weight loss, but once you go off your diet, you are more likely to regain the weight and more, as your body has adjusted to living off fewer calories.

How to spot a fad diet:

How can you tell if it’s a fad diet?

  • Be honest with yourself. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • The sales pitch is "quick weight loss."  
  • The diet is extremely restrictive. Like the grapefruit diet, these diets are not sustainable over the long-term and you likely will be missing out on important vitamins and nutrients.
  • No real, statistically valid studies back up the diet. Watch for words like "clinically proven." 
  • The diet lists “good” and “bad” foods. Eating healthy is about making smart choices and eating in moderation. If you eat in moderation, you shouldn’t have to completely eliminate any types of foods.

Detox diets for example, are often advertised as quick fix ways to flush toxins out of your system to help with weight loss. Detoxing isn’t necessary because the body filters and detoxes naturally through the liver, kidneys and its immune system. Restricting yourself too much to “detox” can leave you extremely hungry, causing you to overeat once you do eat normally again, resulting in weight gain. Instead, strive for following a well-balanced eating plan with adequate amounts of fluid and fiber to promote regular bowel movements.


Need Help With Weight Loss? 

Nebraska Medicine’s Bariatrics Center can help. The Bariatrics Center offers both medically managed weight loss programs and surgical solutions to help you reach your weight loss goals. To schedule a free information session, please call us at 402.559.9500.


    What does a good diet look like?

    The best weight loss plan is based on a well-rounded diet that focuses on lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables and fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy while limiting your intake of foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Regular, intentional exercise should also be a part of your regimen with a goal of getting about 150 minutes a week that includes a combination of cardio and weight training. This can be obtained by exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. For long-term weight maintenance, studies show that those who have lost more than 10 percent of their body weight and are trying to maintain that weight loss, can best achieve that by striving for 300 minutes of exercise per week.

    Consider these additional tricks for losing weight:

    • Eat your meals on a salad plate
    • Portion out snacks ahead of time in small bags to avoid overeating
    • Share an entrée when eating out
    • Self monitor your food intake with an app or food journal. Research shows that people who record their eating habits are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off
    • Avoid beverages that are calorie-filled and full of added sugars
    • Limit eating out excessively
    • Focus on eating three meals a day and not skipping meals
    • Avoid yo-yo dieting, which can cause your metabolism to drop, making weight loss more difficult
    • Be careful where you are getting your nutrition and weight loss information. If it is on the internet, make sure it is from a reputable and reliable source


    Remember, there’s no quick fix to losing and maintaining weight loss. It’s about adopting healthy behaviors that you can maintain over the long-term.

    Note: Weight loss results vary depending on the individual. No guarantee of weight loss is provided or implied.