Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

//Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

Come on people—is life ever that easy?  Do we really believe that all the pounds packed on from years of poor eating decisions can be overcome in a couple weeks?  Unfortunately, many people gamble their health on the outrageous weight loss claims of fad diets.

I get why we do it—because when we are faced with a choice between something seemingly fast and easy, and something slow and tedious—fast and easy wins every time.  Our common sense has enough sense to be weary of things “too good to be true”, but not enough sense to steer us completely wide of them.  Even if there is the smallest sliver, the slightest glimmer, of hope that we can achieve our goals with ease, we jump right on board.

Fad diets have been all the rage for the past three decades.  There is constantly some new variety in the media, undoubtedly sponsored by some famous person, and loaded with images of miserable fat ‘before’ people, transformed in to a shining slimmer ‘after’ people.  But if you read the fine print of every diet, they straight out tell you it does not work—“results not typical.”

But there is no harm in dropping a few extra pounds through a restrictive diet, right? Wrong.  As I explain below, extreme caloric restrictions do not achieve permanent weight loss, put extra stress on the body, and equate to a negative health burden.

Intra-Conversion of Nutrients

All food can be broken down in to three main types of biochemicals: proteins (amino acids), fats (fatty acids), and carbohydrates (sugars).  These three food classes are the foundation for all fad diets.  Each diet has a specific take on the ideal proportion of food components through the restriction of protein, fat, carbohydrate, or a combination there of.  Unfortunately, the body is too intelligent for simple food class restriction to even work.  Let me explain…

In order to function, the body requires specific levels of each food component.  These levels are very tightly regulated, since each serves a vital role in merely being alive.  And in all of its wisdom, the body has created a redundant system whereby each nutrient can be inter-converted to the others, in order to deal with times where certain nutrients are not be available in nature, or when restricted by choice.  I will spare the gory biochemical details, but here is the pathway, in case you don’t believe me!

This is a good thing, since it would be difficult to sustain a healthy state when purposely restricting a specific nutrient.  So, if you are on a low carbohydrate diet, your body will make the amount of carbohydrate necessary for proper function, regardless of whether you eat it or not.  This comes at a major energetic burden, and makes it difficult for your body to maintain levels in order to promote optimal health.

Starvation mode

When a vital nutrient is withheld, the body reacts by going in to starvation mode.  In this mode, the body alters its metabolism in order to produce sugar, the only nutrient (besides ketones) used by the brain for energy.  In severe starvation, fatty acids derived from fat stores are converted in to ketone bodies, in order to feed the brain.  However, in mild starvation, a state induced by fad diets, the body breaks down muscle to liberate amino acids, which are then converted to sugar.  Thus, mild starvation leads to the depletion of muscle, not fat!

Further, the basal metabolic rate declines substantially during starvation and the body focuses on storage of nutrients rather than consumption of them.

Fad Diets Make You Fatter

There is no doubt that weight is lost when the body is starved of nutrients.  As already mentioned, in mild starvation the body breaks down primarily muscle, and some fat.  However, what happens when you go off the diet, since they are never sustainable?  Well, the body reacts by storing all the nutrients it can, in order to recuperate from the nutritional assault placed upon it.  But that’s not the worst part.  The weight lost from breakdown of muscle and fat is immediately regained by your confused body as only fat, since muscle only reforms with weight bearing exercise.  So now, not only have you regained all the weight lost, you also have a higher proportion of fat than muscle.  Do this off and on for many years, like the typical dieter, and it equates to a very flabby, weak body composition.

In Summary

Fad diets do not work.  Billions of dollars are spent a year on these diets, which no doubt is why those selling such diets make them seem so easy and appealing.  They provide their own independent research, which is totally bias, unrepresentative, misleading, and not worth its weight in dog dung.  Permanent weight loss is only achieved through healthy, nutrient dense food choices at a caloric intake minimally less than one’s calculated daily energy expenditure, in conjunction with daily low impact exercise.  If you are not meeting your weight goals, think about your health, and lose weight healthily, and according to the real scientific evidence!

By |2018-03-11T01:02:05+00:00November 3rd, 2011|Dr. Michael Long, ND|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Michael Long ND
Dr. Michael Long is a naturopathic doctor who practices evidence-based natural medicine. He has a special interest in optimizing athletic performance, dietary nutrition, and preventative medicine.

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