The Failure of the Fad Diet

Who’s been on a fad diet? If you have, clap your hands. Do you hear that thundering sound of applause from around the U.S.? We can also hear people joining in from all over the world. That’s how many people have tried say a cleanse, the cabbage soup, the grapefruit,the Sugar Busters!, the blood-type, the Zone and/or the Atkins diets, and on and on we can go.

Let me ask you this: how did these diets work out for you? I’m sure many of you will say that you initially lost weight. That’s very common. Here’s the $64,000 question. Did you keep the weight off long-term? I hear everyone’s collective sigh and the resounding “no” escaping your lips. I’m sure that many of you gained most, if not all, of the weight you lost and then some.

Fad diets are viewed by dietitians like me as short-term. They’re typically not as successful as we would like them to be. They can be a quick fix, but not a permanent solution. They can also cost us a lot of money and be potentially damaging to our health. They’re not good for us. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go for the plan that will work for life.

It would be wonderful if we could just go to sleep and wake up at our goal weight. It’s alluring to go on some incredibly restrictive diet in order to get into that too tight party dress in three days’ time. I get it. We all get it. But we shouldn’t do it.

Dieting is big business in America. According to a recent ABC News report, about 108 million of us in the U.S. are on diets and tend to go on a diet four to five times a year. About 20 billion dollars is spent on diet books, drugs and weight-loss surgeries like gastric bypass and the lap band. And guess what, my fellow females in arms; we comprise 85 percent of the customers who buy weight loss products and related services.

The reality is that there’s no quick fix to losing weight. It takes time to do it in a healthy manner and to make it stick. Losing one pound a week, for example, is smart weight management. Slow and steady wins the race.

One pound equals 3,500 calories. Cutting 500 calories a day through diet and exercise should result in a one pound a week weight loss. Five hundred calories may sound like a lot to some of us, but it isn’t that hard to cobble it together. While we’ll all burn calories differently, on average walking a mile in 20 minutes should result in the burning of about 100 calories. So, if you walk an hour, you’ll burn around 300 calories (by the way, the recommendation to aid in weight loss is exercising a minimum of 60 minutes most days of the week).  So, physical activity is a heavy lifter, pun intended, in the weight loss game. But make no mistake about it, what we put in our mouths also matters.

Watch your portion sizes. Eat a variety of nutritious, lower fat foods. Cook foods using healthier methods like baking, broiling and steaming. Treat desserts as an occasional indulgence and avoid sugary sodas and other beverages. It just might do the trick!

Okay, I hear the moans and groans! Change can be hard. But, it’s not impossible. Just start somewhere. Small steps become big changes. You can do it. Pick one or two things to do and build from there. If you have questions or need support, reach out. There’s a lot of support available out there from your healthcare providers, support groups like Overeaters Anonymous, friends and families, and well-regarded web sites like You can always contact me, as well, with any questions you may have at Or visit me on Facebook at Lisa Tillinger Johansen. Let’s say no to the fad diets and yes to healthy eating for life. We’ll be better off for it!

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