Often people will look to fad diets to help in their weight management journey. There are so many out there, so much conflicting information and it's all so bloody confusing! Whilst fad diets may result in weight loss in the short term, they rarely help in the long term and can often lead to even more weight gain.
The biggest drawback of fad diets is they usually involve severe calorie restriction. Low calorie dieting will actually slow the metabolism (how many calories your body will use) due to a combination of hormonal changes and muscle loss. When the body is in a large calorie deficit, it tends to conserve fat. Whilst doing this, the body will also turn to lean muscle as a source of energy in order to further conserve its fat stores. When muscle protein is broken down, it releases nitrogen, which must be flushed away by water from tissue cells. The result is not only muscle loss but also water loss and therefore what appears to be a substantial loss on the scales. Unfortunately this loss is not fat loss - the water weight will be quickly regained and the muscle loss will only serve to slow down the metabolism. Therefore, your basal metabolic rate will decrease due to consuming too few calories AND it will also further decrease due to losing muscle, as lean muscle requires more energy to maintain. Researchers believe this may account for why more than 80% of people regain weight once they cease their calorie restrictive diets (reference - healthline.com/nutrition/calorie-restriction-risks).
Some new fad diets are also promoted and sold by people who have absolutely NO qualifications in nutrition – pay them the money and they’ll send you a generic, “one size fits all” diet plan. The calories are as low as only 500 per day! They proclaim that you don’t even need to exercise (probably because you’ll pass out from a lack of energy). They even promote these for pregnant ladies, people with diabetes, ladies with PCOS and even people with cancer! In my training, ALL of these are conditions that MUST be referred to the appropriate medical health professional who can then work with the patient’s nutrition coach/weight management practitioner.
Another disadvantage of fad diets is that they often have very restrictive menus, which will tend to cut out whole food groups. Being so restrictive not only becomes difficult to maintain but it will also result in nutritional deficiencies. For example, there are many diets that promote going “grain free”. Unless you have an underlying medical issue, this is not necessary and by eliminating grains, you risk not getting enough fibre, B vitamins, minerals such as iron, plant based proteins and phytochemicals. Whole grains may even help to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
In summary, if you want to lose body fat, seek qualified help. Move a little more (your heart and lungs will thank you for it) and eat food that is going to provide you with the most nutrients for the calories it contains. Don’t make it so complicated and restrictive! Following the Australian Dietary Guidelines is a healthy place to start.
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these 5 food groups every day:
i) Vegetables and legumes/beans
iii) Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high fibre
iv) Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
v) Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, most reduced fat.
The key being ENJOY!