Fad Diets - How Effective Are They For Weight Loss?

What are you looking for in an effective weight loss programme? 

If you are looking for a quick fix rather than a gradual and sustainable weight loss, you may be falling into the trap of fad diets. Fad diets promise quick fix and promote ‘magic’ foods. Some diets have rigid rules that focus on weight loss. Claims of the effectiveness of such diets are based mostly on single studies or testimonials only.

Fad diets commonly refers to idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns that provide shortterm weight loss, with little or no emphasis on long-term weight management. These diets usually enjoy temporary popularity.*

Fad diets usually have catchy names that focus on single nutrients. Examples of fad diets include the South Beach Diet, Zone Diet, Dr Atkins’s New Diet Revolution, Cabbage Soup Diet, Grapefruit Diet, The Good Carbohydrate Revolution, Paleo Diet, to name a few.


Ms Kavita Sundaram is the Senior Dietitian in the Nutrition & Dietetics Department of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She completed her Bachelor Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Newcastle, Australia in 2005. Kavita specialises in the nutritional consultation of gastrointestinal and weight management patients.

While the South Beach Diet draws attention for its switch from ‘bad’ fats to ‘good’ fats, the Zone Diet encourages the consumption of calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat in a balanced ratio. The Atkins’s Diet has been made popular for its limited carbohydrate intake that has reportedly resulted in significant weight loss for its dieters.

How it works

Anyone hoping to achieve quick weight loss usually looks to fad diets as miracle eating programmes. These diets are usually made popular by testimonials by its dieters, who generally make claims of the diet’s success in weight loss. Fad diets often omit certain foods or entire foods groups from its menu. Though fast and significant weight loss can be achieved if you follow these diets religiously, the results are usually temporary. Losing excessive amount of weight in a short period of time is usually the result of water weight loss instead of fat loss. Thus, this is not permanent.

The Pitfalls

How long can one stay on such a rigid diet? Being on such a diet requires a great level of motivation and self determination from the dieter. Once positive results of weight loss are achieved, the dieter often forgoes the diet plan and falls back into old eating habits, hence regaining the lost weight if not more.

Inappropriate dieting can also lead to nutrient deficiencies, constipation, dehydration, fatigue and result in low mood as well. Fad diets put the pressure on the dieter to make choices guided by the diet plan. At times, the diet can be excessively restrictive. For example, the Cabbage Soup Diet limits intake to a large amounts of cabbage soup over seven days.

Healthier Strategies for Weight Loss

Instead of getting yourself disappointed by the non-sustainable results, adopt healthier weight loss approaches.

Start by devoting yourself to a healthier lifestyle that includes eating a balanced and healthy diet. Exercise is still the best approach to gradually shed off the extra pounds and maintain your desired weight.

Some strategies for weight loss include:

  • Eating a variety of foods
  • Minimising the intake of saturated and trans fats
  • Eating two servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables daily
  • Avoiding empty calories such as sweetened beverages, sweets, etc.
  • Watching your food portion sizes
  • Practising mindful eating and exercise
  • Incorporating regular physical activity into your daily life

A balanced, healthy diet allows you to enjoy a variety of foods in moderation whilst controlling your calories intake. Incorporating exercise as part of your everyday routine helps burns calories and contributes to weight reduction.

Thus, the best diet is simply a lifestyle that includes food you enjoy, exercise and healthy habits.

* Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_faddism