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People in the developed world have over the last few decades have shown a great interest in achieving and maintaining ideal body weight. Saltzman, Thomason, and Roberts (2001) report that at any given time, 44% of women and 29% of men in the U.S. are trying to lose weight. This determination has, in part, been promoted by the advice given by health care workers and nutritionists.
These professionals have highlighted that an individual’s body weight impacts his/her health. Specifically, it has been pointed out that being overweight leads to many negative health outcomes. Obesity is linked to diseases such as diabetes and a higher risk of heart attacks. The mental health of the individual is also affected by being overweight since research links being overweight to higher depression rates. For these reasons, many people are keen to maintain proper weight.
However, most people hope to achieve this with a minimal amount of effort. As such, instead of engaging in healthy eating and exercising, many people prefer diets that promise quick results with little effort. To meet this demand for quick weight loss solutions, many authors and nutritionists have come up with diets that provide short term results with little concern for long term weight loss or the health of the individual.
These diets are referred to as fad diets, and their major characteristic is that they are extreme diets that people follow as a trend to lose weight. Fad diets are very popular in the U.S., and most people have experimented with at least one.
The popularity of fad diets has been increased by the high prevalence of obesity and the relatively moderate success of traditional weight-control methods. This paper will set out to argue that fad diets should be avoided since they lead to health problems, are expensive, and do not lead to sustained weight loss by the dieter.
Arguments against Fad Diets
Fad diets are bad because they cause health problems to the dieter. Typically, fad diets are based on either avoidance of particular foods or intake of macronutrients in particular proportions. These variations often have negative health effects on the dieter. Debruyne, Pinna, and Whitney (2011) assert that most fad diets are not based on any credible research on their benefits or dangers. Dieters are, therefore exposed to various health problems.
Fad diets that encourage very low carbohydrate intake may lead to ketosis, which is a condition characterized by elevated levels of the ketone. In this case, the body uses fat to produce energy since it is unable to use glycogen bodies (Source Number Two, n.d.). The body can tolerate ketosis for a short time, but if it is allowed to continue for extended periods, the body’s P.H. level changes to acidic (Saltzman, 2001). This leads to dehydration and kidney problems due to the high levels of glucose in the body.
Increased protein diets, which are characterized by protein intake exceeding current recommendations and moderate levels of carbohydrates intake, may have adverse health impacts. High protein diets increase the risk of calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis (commonly referred to as kidney stones) formation (Saltzman et al., 2001).
Source Number Two (n.d.) confirms that as high protein diet provides more protein than most people need, “the liver and kidneys have extra work to do in breaking down and excreting the excess” (p.2). In addition to this, high protein diets are linked to increased urinary calcium excretion and bone resorption. Dieters, therefore, risk having fragile bones since the bone density is reduced as a result of these diets.
Another demerit of fad diets is that they are expensive to maintain. To begin with, the individual has to purchase the diet book that has a detailed explanation of the permitted foods and the quantity of each serving. Once a person has purchased the book or the diet plan, he/she has to follow the instructions fully for the best results.
Many people are lured to fad diets by the claim that you can lose weight with little effort. However, most fad diet plans involved complicated rules and regimes that the individual has to follow. Dieters are often required to purchase special products that will aid in their weight loss.
In some cases, the dieter must consult a nutritionist to calculate his/her food intake correctly. Moyad (2004) explains that some diets require assistance to compute the daily protein requirement since this depends on the dieter’s weight, level of physical activity, and percentage of body fat. In addition to this, the foods required in some diet plans are expensive.
Moyad (2004) notes that most diets include the regular intake of fairly expensive beverages such as flavored seltzer and the consumption of vegetables and fancy garnishes. In addition to this, some diets include pharmaceutical supplements that must be purchased and consumed regularly as part of the diet plan. Source Number One (n.d.) indicates that in the U.S., over $40 billion is used on dieting and dieting related products each year.
A significant demerit of fad diets is that they do not lead to sustained weight loss by the dieter. Most people take up diets with the hope that they will lose the excess body weight and sustain the desirable body weight. However, this is not possible to achieve by relying on fad diets. Debruyne (2011) observes that while fad diets might appear to work for a while, more often than not, their success is short-lived. Most fad diets achieve quick results since the diets cause the loss of more body water in the short term.
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However, the weight is regained as soon as the diet is discontinued. It is impossible to continually engage in fad diets since most of them are impractical. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the High-protein, low-carbohydrate fad diets are nutritionally inadequate (Source Number Three, n.d.). As such, they are unsustainable over long durations of time. Research indicates that 95% of all dieters regain their lost weight in one to five years (Source Number One, n.d.).
The argument in Favor of Fad Diets
A major argument in favor of fad diets is that they lead to tangible results for the dieter within a few weeks. These results serve as motivation since individuals realize that it is possible to attain their desired weight or size. Saltzman et al. (2001) state that most fad diets assist individuals in achieving the type of weight loss that appears impossible by traditional means. After realizing that fad diets are unsustainable, most people move on to sensible weight loss programs to achieve the results first obtained through fad diets.
In addition to this, the diets increase awareness of the various types of foods and their benefits to the body (Crowe, 2008). A person is, therefore, likely to engage in healthy eating after experimenting with a diet. While it is true that fad diets might encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles, this is not the case with most people.
The positive results of fad diets encourage some dieters to engage in pathological dieting, which may be harmful to their health since fad diets are nutritionally inadequate. In addition to this, some dieters develop full-blown eating disorders due to their involvement with fad diets.
This paper set out to argue that fad diets are deleterious and should, therefore, be avoided by all individuals who are attempting to lose weight. It began by noting that fad diets are very popular because of their offer the promise of quick and easy weight loss in a nation overwhelmed by obesity. The paper then noted that fad diets are undesirable since they expose the dieter to a number of health problems. In addition to this, the diets are expensive to sustain and may require the dieter to purchase specialized equipment.
Finally, fad diets only offer temporary weight loss, making them unhelpful since the desired goal is a sustained weight loss. The paper has taken care to note that fad diets may serve as an incentive for people to adopt healthy habits. However, this positive outcome rarely happens, and most people only end up becoming pathological dieters or develop eating disorders. In light of the numerous negative effects associated with fad diets, there is little reason to encourage anybody to follow any of these diets.
Crowe, T. (2008). Nutrition Messages Given by Fad Diets Can Alter People’s Food Perceptions. Nutrition, 19(2), 1-4.
Moyad, M. (2004). Fad Diets and Obesity – Part III: A Rapid Review of Some of the More Popular Low-Carbohydrate Diets. Upologic Nursing, 24(5), 442-445.
Saltzman, E., Thomason, P., & Roberts, S. (2001). Fad Diets: A Review for the Primary Care Provider. Nutrition in Clinical Care, 4(5), 235–242.
Source Number One. Fad Diets.
Source Number Three. Cautioning Patients About Extreme Diets.
Source Number Two. A Myth or Miracle: Fad Diets.