Why fad diets don’t work for long-term weight loss

Fad diets are those “quick fix” diets that promise results in a short time. However, they are not sustainable for healthy, long-term weight loss.

Hello Alpha Team
Hello Alpha
Published in
4 min readMay 4, 2021


Fad diets are popular diets — like the baby food diet or juice cleanses — that promote quick weight loss through eating certain foods or following a certain eating regime.

While these diets might seem attractive for shedding pounds fast, they are not actually sustainable for long-term weight loss. Once the diet ends, people may once more gain the weight they lost.

Fad diets may also come with risks like nutrient deficiencies. Read on to learn more about why fad diets don’t work and what you can do instead to lose weight in a healthy way.

How to recognize a fad diet

As mentioned above, a fad diet promotes quick weight loss and may be hyped by celebrities, on social media, or through weight loss books or blogs as the best way to lose weight.

These diets might require you to eat specific foods or food groups, thus eliminating other groups.

According to Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit medical center, and Verywell Fit, here is how you can spot a fad diet:

  • Claims sound too good to be true
  • Recommendations are based on a single study
  • There are “good” and “bad” foods
  • They are based on studies that have not been peer-reviewed, meaning reviewed by scholars in the relevant field to ensure quality of research
  • They eliminate one or more food groups
  • They do not include exercise
  • Certain foods need to be combined or eaten together
  • Fat-burning or weight-loss supplements are included

Why fad diets don’t work for long-term weight loss

They eliminate certain food groups

Fad diets may eliminate certain foods or food groups in the name of promoting weight loss. However, getting nutrients from all food groups is an important part of having a healthy diet.

By promoting some foods or groups over others, fad diets could exclude important nutrients. This can lead to health problems or nutrient deficiencies over time.

They are not sustainable for long-term weight loss

Fad diets offer a temporary solution as people often gain the weight they lost after stopping the diet.

Some fad diets are extreme and not sustainable for a long time. That means that people may try them for a short period or cycle through different fad diets in an attempt to keep weight off.

They focus on looks rather than health

In a WebMD article, dietitians noted that fad dieters may be more motivated by vanity or looks than a desire to stay healthy.

Dietitian and educational psychologist Robyn Osborn, RD, PhD said that nutrition health professionals focus on long-term health consequences rather than looks.

“We would prefer that people are comfortable with the way they look but they’re more concerned with their health,” Osborn said.

What to do instead

Eat a variety of food groups

A healthy diet incorporates food from all food groups, including lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and proteins.

It includes cutting down on fried food, fast food, and processed foods.

For example, replacing white bread with whole grain bread or replacing sugary sodas with a glass of water are some ways to move towards a healthier diet.

Practice portion control

Instead of skipping meals, try eating smaller meals in order to manage portions.

Some ways to reduce portion sizes include: eating from a salad plate instead of a large dinner plate, storing snacks in small sandwich bags, or sharing meals with friends when eating out.

Replace snacks with healthy foods

High-calorie, high-fat, sugary foods like chips, cookies, cake, and ice-cream should be enjoyed in moderation.

If you have a sweet tooth or sugar cravings, try going for a spoon of peanut butter, a handful of berries, or another healthy alternative.

Exercise 150 minutes a week

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Guidelines for Americans recommends getting at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly, which you can break up into smaller time chunks.

Find a type of exercise that you enjoy, whether that’s running, lifting weights, brisk walking, biking, doing dance cardio, or something else. Having an exercise buddy can make it more enjoyable while helping you stay accountable.

In conclusion, fad diets do not necessarily address the reasons that people gain weight in the first place. Instead, people trying to lose weight should focus on having a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and sufficient exercise.

Fad diets may be appealing because they present a specific eating regime as the path to losing weight. It can be hard to figure out how to eat healthy food on your own, but there are lots of resources out there for developing a healthy diet without cutting out food groups.

For example, MyPlate.gov and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans website provide resources for healthy eating.

A registered dietitian can also help people come up with a healthy eating plan to promote gradual weight loss. This eating plan may include recipes, keeping a food diary, and grocery shopping tips.

Alpha provides diet and nutrition counseling online. Once you complete an online consultation, one of our registered dietitians will help you come up with a nutrition plan that suits your needs. Please note that dietitians cannot prescribe medication for weight loss.

To learn more about the conditions we treat or get started with your online consultation, check out our website and sign up today!



Hello Alpha Team
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