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Five pounds in five days?

A look at the dangers of fad dieting

Olivia Luzzio

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“Want to lose five pounds in a week?”

“Looking for ways to drop weight fast?”

We’ve all seen it. Whether you are trying to get rid of the “Freshman 15” or simply striving to get in shape, it is difficult to ignore the callings of fad diets. In a world that appreciates speed, celebrity doctors and health “experts” offer quick solutions for weight loss that appeal to young people—college students in particular.

But, the truth is that highly restrictive, pseudoscience-based dieting does not guarantee long-term weight loss. It also threatens health and well-being in the short, and long, run.

According to HealthResearchFunding.org, 65 percent of people who successfully complete a fad diet end up gaining all the weight back that they lost.

Diets such as the Ketogenic diet, Whole 30 and Paleo rely on the elimination of specific foods, like carbohydrates and dairy, for fast and significant weight loss.

Not only do these diets often shock the body, but they also fail to teach lasting healthy eating habits and neglect to address the problems that cause weight gain in the first place. Rather than encouraging exercise and a balanced meal plan, fad diets provide a shortcut that, in the long term, often proves to be a complete waste of time.

In addition to their failure to generate sustainable weight loss, specific food-restrictive diets can cause digestive problems and malnutrition. According to myfooddiary.com, attempting to lose weight fast often leads to severe diarrhea as a result of the loss of water weight, accompanied by dehydration and subsequent constipation, particularly when fiber is under-consumed.

Furthermore, by cutting out certain foods, fad dieters risk preventing the body from acquiring the vitamins and minerals it needs. Calcium, iron and magnesium are vital for healthy bones, blood cells and muscular strength, as well as a plethora of other bodily functions. So, eliminating dairy products, legumes or whole grains from the diet is dangerous, as these are significant sources of such minerals.

What’s more, fad dieting in the form of removing certain food groups, cleansing or fasting can lead to both diet addiction and eating disorders.

According to myfooddiary.com, diet addiction commonly occurs as a result of the hope and motivation drawn from the promises of fad diets, and the continued search for this drive after such diets ultimately fail. Cycling through diets is also a precursor to the development of low metabolism, negative body image, cravings, binges and the inability to rely on the body’s ability to regulate food intake, all of which are indicative of eating disorders.

So, before you decide to cut carbs or resort to caveman-esque eating habits, it is important to understand the consequences of fad diets. Aside from their inability to foster long-term weight loss, these restrictive eating habits have the potential to cause significant issues with regards to physical and mental health.   

Arguably, the safest and most sustainable means of weight loss, or the maintenance of a healthy weight, is a balanced diet that consists of meals from various food groups that are rich in the vitamins and minerals the body uses to thrive. With the help of physical activity and sleep, this diet is sure to beat the fads and lead to a healthier and happier future.

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The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University
Five pounds in five days?