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DO FAD DIETS WORK?

WRITTEN BY JACQUELINE WICKENS AND KRISTEN ASHBAUGH
ILLUSTRATION BY HEATHER KLINGER

fad diet illustration WEB

With so many diets (such as keto, Whole30, plant based, and paleo) out there right now making headlines, it can be tough to sort fiction from fact and decide what actually works best for you. The reality is, nutrition is a gray science, and everyone’s body responds differently, so it’s important to keep it simple and determine what’s effective for you.

Here are our four tips for finding a way of eating that works for you:

  • Eat simply. Diets should be simple. The more rules surrounding what you eat, the harder it is to stick to the diet long enough to see results. Prepping meals in advance and using fewer ingredients can help with this. Eating more whole foods (especially fruits and vegetables) and fewer processed foods is a good place to start cleaning up your eating habits.
  • Find balance. Diets that promote restriction of entire food groups or certain macronutrients can cause long-term damage to health or metabolic functions. It’s important to get enough nutrients from a wide variety of food sources to make sure your diet is balanced. Instead of taking the approach that certain foods are bad or completely off limits, recognize that some foods require moderation while others don’t. Balanced eating will look different for everyone. Reassess frequently and see what’s working for you and what isn’t.
  • Be consistent. Your path to better health is a marathon, not a sprint. Changing your eating habits should be about living a longer, healthier, fuller life, not just about losing weight. Many people turn to fad diets with the goal of losing weight, but the long-term results happen when you commit to the lifestyle change and stay consistent over the long haul.
  • Slow and steady is best. Instant-gratification mentalities can be barriers to successful weight loss. When a drastic change in body weight is made in a short amount of time, the body can have a hard time coping, making it tough to keep the weight off. Safe weight-loss goals should be set between one and two pounds a week. This slow-and-steady approach will make it easier for the body to find a new set point and maintain a new body weight when you’re ready.

So do these trendy diets actually work? The answer is yes, and no. Be wary of any diets that promote unhealthy restriction, poor eating behaviors/habits, or fear of certain food groups. This can cause yo-yo weight changes as well as metabolic harm. It’s about finding what safely works for you and being consistent over a long period of time.

The only diet that will work for long-term and sustainable weight loss is a plan that you can stick to without over-restricting, causing metabolic dysfunction, or creating negative food relationships.

POPULAR DIET CHEAT SHEET

Diet Include Avoid Limit
Weight Watchers & Jenny Craig Everything in moderation with a focus on eating more fruits and veggies Nothing Calories and portions
Paleo Lean meats, fish/seafoods, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds Cereal, grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, starchy vegetables, processed foods, salty foods, fatty meats, soft drinks, fruit juices, candy, honey, and sugars Oils, “paleo“ sweets
Atkins

Most vegetables,

fish/seafood, meats, eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy and cheese, low-glycemic fruits (berries, cherries, melons), no-calorie sweeteners, low-carb snack foods, legumes, juices

Sugars, refined flours, grains, trans fats, sugary sodas, alcohol Carbohydrates
Mediterranean Fruits and veggies, whole grains, fish, healthy fats (e.g. olive oil), nuts, avocados Nothing

Slightly limit: Yogurts, cheeses, poultry, eggs, wines

Significantly limit: Red meats, sweets

Ketogenic (“Keto”)

80% of daily calories from fat

20% of daily calories from protein

Carbohydrates Calories
Whole Food/Plant-Based Whole/minimally processed plant foods, grains, fruit and veggies, legumes All animal products, oils Refined or processed, plant-based foods
Whole30 Foods with very few ingredients, whole and unprocessed Added sugars (real or artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, junk foods, baked goods Fruits

Jacquie and Kristen together headshots

Jacqueline Wickens (right) has a bachelor of science in nutrition and dietetics and is a health coach and nutrition coordinator at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center in Reno. Kristen Ashbaugh (left) is the marketing supervisor at SMFC.

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