In my fitness journey, I have tried pretty much every type of diet. Some fad diets initially produce dramatic results, yet what are its long term effects? Are the results from these fad diets sustainable?
Types of Fad Diets
1. Low Calorie Diet (i.e. Cohen Diet)
When you do not get enough calories in your body, your body will go into starvation mode.
Rationale: Eating a low calorie diet (less than 1200 calories, some even reach as low as 600) is below the amount of calories needed a day to function. Naturally, when you take fewer calories than what you burn in a day, you will lose weight. Cohen’s Express Meal Plan can go as low as 600 calories per day.
My Experience: I was always dizzy and hungry; because, I was eating less than what my body needed.
Long Term Effect: Being on a prolonged low calorie diet will burn muscle to compensate for calories needed for the body to function. This can also slow down your metabolism, making your body store more fat, instead of burning it.
2. Nutrient/Food Group Elimination (i.e. Atkins, Vegan)
This means getting rid of one of the food groups (either carbohydrates, fats, or protein) in order to lose weight. For example, Atkins advocates a low carb diet (less than 20g during the initial phase). This means you can eat fat and protein, but very little (or even no) carbohydrates. Vegan diets eliminate animal products and their byproducts.
Rationale: Eliminating a food group would mean not getting the essential nutrients from the eliminated group. You will lose weight because your body will use excess sugar or fat to produce missing nutrients to build muscle.
My Experience: When I went on a low carb diet, I craved for carbohydrates (and the unhealthy ones at that) as my body was telling me that I needed it. I ended up bingeing on carbohydrates at the end of the day or week. I also felt tired often, or that something was missing in my body. I have learned to listen to my body, as I believe that it’ll tell you what you need.
Long Term Effect: You will miss out on nutrients that your body needs to function. For example, a vegan misses out on nutrients such as Vitamin B12 (for the brain and nervous system, and formation of red blood cells), which are found in meat. On a low carb diet, a person could lack fiber in the body.
3. The Meal Replacement
Have a break. Have a shake.
In this diet, a person will replace a meal with a low calorie snack or shake.
Rationale: Having a low calorie snack or shake puts your body in a calorie deficit. This will make you lose weight, as you ingest much less than what you burn in a day.
My Experience: I tried one of the fad shakes, and in truth, it never made me feel full. I had dizziness spells, and I actually started to miss chewing. Do you know that feeling of enjoying a beautiful full meal? This diet does not offer that. It is also a more expensive alternative.
Long Term Effect: These replacements usually do not contain a lot of fiber, which is needed in healthy digestion. Like the low calorie diet, this will slow down your metabolism.
4. Single Nutrient Diet
All fat, all protein or all carbohydrate diet. Yes, they exist.
This concentrates on ingesting one food group, while suppressing the other two. This means: All fat, all carbohydrate or all protein diet. Yes, you can actually do that.
Rationale: This is very much like the Nutrient/Food Group Elimination; fat or glucose will try to produce lacking minerals, and induce weight loss.
My Experience: I haven’t had the guts to try this.
Long Term Effect: It’s one thing to miss out on nutrients from one food group, but missing out on two food groups would mean lacking out on more. Also, imagine eating a prolonged ‘all fat diet’, and what it could do to your health.
So what’s the deal with all these fad diets?
Fad diets are actually recommended for people who need to lose weight in a short amount of time.
Fad diets are actually recommended for people who need to lose weight in a short amount of time. This is especially true for people who are obese, prone to diabetes and heart disease. Are fad diets bad? In truth, I think they encourage people to lose weight, as they initially give dramatic results. After losing weight quickly from the diet, people become more committed to continuing the weight loss journey. On the other hand, being on a prolonged fad diet will have adverse effects on your metabolism and on the amount of nutrients that your body absorbs.
Note: I am very thankful for the support that has been given to this blog. I have received comments from women of all shapes, sizes and walks of life. It has been such a blessing to be able to take to a doctor that specializes in metabolism. Thank you all for the continued support. Thank you Dr. Katrina Festejo-Villamiel for all your additional insights. Featured image from:fashionayiti.com