Q: First off, what are "fad" diets?
A: A fad diet is one that bursts on the scene making promises that it will cause rapid weight loss and cure every mental and physical malady you might have, usually by eliminating or severely restricting certain food groups.
Q: Do fad diets actually work?
A: Frequently fad diets work in the short-term, but they are too restrictive to be followed in the long term. And they frequently eliminate foods which provide essential nutrients. They are usually so different from the way that the person is used to eating that transitioning to a healthful maintenance diet is almost impossible. When weight is lost rapidly, muscle, bone and water weight are lost and this can serve to only decrease your metabolism.
Plus, subliminally, no one needs to stick with a diet like that for long, because we know there will always be another diet on the best seller list.
We almost have a magical belief that an extreme diet will “cure” our struggle with eating, when in actuality once you have been overweight, you will forever have to be vigilant with the way you eat.
Q: As a registered dietitian, what do you think about low-carb diets like the popular Keto Diet or Atkins?
A: What do I think about the low carb diets? The low carb diets have been around for probably 50 years or more. If they worked, we would all be thin.
They reduce or eliminate some very healthful foods. Many studies have proven that whole grain consumption and fruit consumption are linked to longevity and reduced chronic disease. Low carb diets are rewarding initially due to the rapid loss of water weight, but it is just not a good strategy for a long-term weight loss plan.
Q: What about diets that refrain from consuming processed foods like the Paleo Diet or Whole 30?
A: Regarding processed foods, in general, eating minimally processed foods is a good thing, but there are some nutrients which are absorbed better by the body if the food has been processed. The lycopene in tomatoes is an example. It is absorbed better from tomato sauce than from a raw tomato.
One problem that I see with the Paleo type of diet, is the demonizing of grains, legumes and dairy. Statements are made suggesting that these foods cause inflammation, and this is not true unless they are eaten to excess. Overeating calories is a source of inflammation, not these foods themselves.
Q: Can intermittent fasting help you lose weight?
A: Intermittent fasting research still has a long way to go before we know how the body reacts to this. It may work for some people because it gives them structure as to when they can consume calories and when they can’t. But as far as whether it actually increases calorie burning or fat burning, I don’t think that is known. People may make these claims, but a conclusion like that needs to be based on quite a bit of research.
Q: What can people do instead of following these rigid, and sometimes unhealthy diets if they are trying to lose weight?
A: Basically, sign up for the long haul. As has been said, we didn’t put this weight on in a day, and we won’t take it off in a day.
Most of us learned about a balanced diet in grade school. We need to realize that quick fixes don’t work. Everyone knows that maintaining a weight loss is even harder than losing weight. You must design your diet so that you do have a calorie deficit — i.e. you expend more calories than you consume — but your plan has to be similar to what you will do after you have lost the weight. A large, quick weight loss will mean nothing if you put that weight back on plus more.