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Resolve to avoid fad diets

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It is a few weeks into 2014 and time for a New Year’s resolution reality check.

Have you already given up? Almost half of Americans make New Year resolutions. The most common involve losing weight, getting fit and eating healthier.

Unfortunately, success rates are low: One study of 3,000 adults found 88 percent failed. Weight loss resolutions often rely on highly restrictive and or expensive fad diets. All guarantee fast and easy weight loss. The reality is that weight loss is NOT fast or easy and fad diets eventually fail when the dieter gets bored, hungry or cannot afford the required foods.

By definition, a “fad” is something that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a short period of time. A fad diet appears new and wonderful at first but often does not hold up to its promises and feels very limiting. All fad diets claim to finally unlock the “secret” to weight loss but rarely deliver lasting, long-term results.

Knowing how to spot a fad diet and identifying an alternative healthful plan will help you avoid the fad, avoid the failure, and finally make your New Year resolutions a lifetime success. Below are three types of popular fad diets, each with a fad-free alternative.


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1. Cleanse/Detox Diets:

Based on the false belief that the body needs to be cleansed or detoxified, dieters are instructed to cut out entire food groups or all solid foods and fast on liquid concoctions. Unfortunately, these types of diets are deficient in almost all nutrients and very low in calories. Any weight loss quickly comes back when normal eating resumes. In addition, the body detoxifies on its own through the functions of the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin and other organs.

Detox alternative: Eat more fruits and vegetables. Choosing fruits and vegetables at all meals and snacks tends to crowd out less healthful foods. They are great sources of naturally detoxifying nutrients like water and fiber.

2. Special Food Diet:

Cabbage soup, grapefruit, banana, cookie, acai berry and the like are usually low-calorie diets disguised behind the promotion of a specific food or eating regime. While some “special” foods may be healthful, they do not contain “magic” weight loss ingredients, and rapid weight loss usually subsides when the dieter consumes a regular eating pattern (more calories). Focusing too heavily on one food means missing out on important nutrients from a variety of foods and food groups.

Cabbage soup alternative: Eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups every day. Try to eat the colors of the rainbow. Vibrant colors, especially in fruits and vegetables, mean more vitamins and phytonutrients. Try strawberries in your hot cereal, carrot sticks and hummus with lunch or as an afternoon snack, and half a plate of different color vegetables at dinner (broccoli and cauliflower).

3. Caveman/Blood Type Diet


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Based on the premise that human genes have not changed much since early mankind, the best way to lose weight and enhance performance is to eat a diet similar to cavemen or according to one’s blood type. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims or that different blood types require different diets. In addition, we do not know exactly what cavemen ate and it is virtually impossible to consume the exact foods available to humans thousands of years ago. These diets tend to be overly restrictive, even of healthful foods, and costly. Individuals lose weight initially but find them hard to sustain for the long term.

Modern day diet alternative: Eat fewer foods that are packaged, boxed or premade. Highly processed foods tend to be high in sodium, added fat, added sugar and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating foods as close to their natural state as possible, presumably as cavemen would, can help increase intake of nutrients. Set a goal of cooking your own food at least one additional time per week than you currently do.

There are thousands of fad diets, with their own spin on weight loss. Because fad diets rarely produce lasting results, there is always another one promising success. Just because it works for a celebrity or your family member, does not mean it works for everyone or is healthful.

Remember if it promises quick and easy weight loss, requires spending money, cuts out food groups or has tons of rules, it is a fad diet. This year, make a goal to avoid fad diets and make small, realistic changes.

Come New Year’s Eve 2015, you will not have to make any weight loss and exercise resolutions because you will already be at a healthy weight, feeling fit and eating well.

Stefanie Tierney, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., is a registered dietitian nutritionist and media representative of the New Mexico Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (NMAND), which can be found on the Web at NMAND is an affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.