Fad diets come in many different forms. Some are straight up weird, and some are less crazy than others, but pretty much all of them share a few key characteristics. This video shows you how to spot health industry snake oil from a mile away.
We've been fed appetising solutions to quick and easy weight loss for centuries, with diets like the vinegar diet and history's first recorded low-carb diet, the Banting diet, tracing back to the Victorian era.
Today we still see updated, new-age science fad diets because many of us still fall for them. This video by TED-Ed suggests looking out for these red flags:
- The diet focuses on intensely cutting back kilojoules or entire food groups (like fat and carbohydrates).
- You're allowed to only eat very specific foods with very specific instructions.
- Most of the foods they recommend you eat are expensive proprietary bars, powders, drinks and other products.
Another red flag that isn't mentioned is endorsement by a celebrity or a self-proclaimed "health guru" who makes a living not treating patients, but selling books and going on speaking tours.
Admittedly, fads like the blood-type diet, alkaline diet, lemonade diet and so on could all work... for a while. In fact, any diet could "work" if you manipulate kilojoule reduction through strict rules, elaborate rituals (no carbs after 8pm!) and eliminating entire food groups and sources of high-kilojoule junk.
In the end, you're eating fewer kilojoules, which means you'll lose weight. Whether that lost weight is water, muscle, fat, or your sanity is another thing though.
Still, what works in the short term doesn't translate to long-term success or even good health — mainly because for most people these diets aren't sustainable. The video does touch on a fair point that sometimes rapid weight loss may be warranted in very specific medical circumstances.
For everyone else, the real methods for the most rewarding and lasting changes to your mind and body are unsexy.
How to spot a fad diet [TED-Ed]