There’s something exciting about awaiting the next new trend. It can spark a level of anticipation that rivals an upcoming concert or event, and you never have to wait long. Part of the fun of trends is how quickly they go viral, and then spiral out of control. Everywhere you look, people are jumping on the bandwagon and then suddenly, even you feel compelled to join in. This addiction to trends is a common trait for humans, driven by our self-interest and a sense of pack mentality. It’s played a major role in our evolution and social spheres, utilizing “tribalism” to label a cluster of individuals as a group.
As human society has advanced, it’s clear many of these behaviors are antiquated and have lost their edge in controlling our behavior. But trends remain – or rather, come and go.
So even though we all know the hottest fad diet out there may not be here to stay, why is it that we gravitate towards them anyway? Do we really believe that whatever diet one celebrity follows will work just as well for us? And are these fad diets really helping us in our weight loss journey or could there be a darker side lying just beneath?
These questions are worth pondering, and most likely, that fad diet that might have worked for someone else could be making you feel worse – and those benefits you were promised could be fleeting. It’s unfortunate, but the truth is fad diets make money, and once they’ve faded and the public wisens up - it’s time for a new one. There is a lot of money to be made in the health and wellness industry, and it’s often at the expense of the people who actually “buy in.”
But you don’t have to take it from just us.
In this article, we’ll review what specialists in the field have said about fad diets, and how the science just doesn’t add up. We’ll even touch on the common health hazards associated with fad dieting, and how your needs differ from your neighbors.
Where Fad Diets Go Wrong
Just like the cool kids in school – just because they’re popular, doesn’t mean they’re right. Fad diets often take a single nutritional truth and rapidly expand it to the point that it’s barely recognizable from its scientific basis. This explosive trend often distorts the benefits and provides the public with a narrow, restricted view of what a “healthy” diet entails. Rule of thumb, if you are restricted to eating only a handful of things, over and over again, it’s not doing your body good. In fact, following them for long periods of time – and even short periods depending on the diet – can cause severe consequences. Here are a few of the top signs that the fad diet you’re on is causing your body harm:
Some diets that limit carbohydrates may jumpstart your weight loss, but if you’re following an extremely restrictive diet, you might not be realizing what that means for your hydration levels. Carbohydrates are sugars that make great energy sources, but they are also very hydrophilic – a term that means they attract water molecules. If you have a high carbohydrate diet, some of your weight gain may be due to higher levels of water retention. However, restricting carbohydrates could result in greatly reducing your body’s ability to keep water inside it. These diets have been shown to induce dehydration and other detrimental effects associated with carb-restriction. Conversely, many of these fad diets overemphasize meat consumption which can also increase the daily water requirements needed to flush out remaining protein from the kidneys. Dehydration and kidney strain? Not an ideal situation to be in.
With dehydration already on the plate, fatigue can be a natural complement. Dehydration can induce fatigue-like symptoms but feeling exhausted can be sourced from many fad diets for a number of reasons. Typically, these restrictive diets focus less on a variety of nutritional foods and instead shift toward a very specific set of items. Whether you’re eating the same set of foods each day, or circulating a small set of items throughout your week - you’re lack of variety in foods could be a big factor in the diversity of your gut microbiome. Creating imbalance in your gut ecosystem can greatly reduce the opportunity to glean many beneficial nutrients we need to keep our body operating at its best. Several nutrient deficiencies such as in iron, magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 can result in fatigue. It may not seem like a dire symptom, but fatigue can often be the first sign of something more severe. Paying attention to how your body feels is the best way to monitor what’s working best for you.
Many fad diets don’t always leave you in a comfortable state for many reasons, but constipation seems to be a common theme. This may be due to a number of causes, including a lack of emphasis on fiber, fruits and vegetables, and even the effects of dehydration. Fiber can have a powerful impact on our gut health, whether through better motility of our bowels or feeding many beneficial microbes. Unsurprisingly, this discomfort you feel can interrupt your daily activities and be relatively painful. Long-term effects of constipation can be even more profound, causing impacted bowels, hemorrhoids, and conditions.
What do fad diets have in common? Aside from this list of reactions, restrictive diets increase your risk of malnutrition. Even if you’re consuming plenty of healthy foods, drastically cutting calories can be extremely harmful for your body. If you’re unsure about what signs of malnutrition might be - muscle atrophy, significant weight loss, depression, long healing time for wounds, inability to concentrate, fatigue, and increased risk of infection are all markers you might be facing malnutrition. It’s more than just consuming less than what your body needs, malnutrition refers to significant nutrient deficiencies that reduce our ability to perform natural healing and maintenance properties. It’s a serious condition. No weight loss goal is ever worth putting your health at risk.
Without you, there is no miracle of life. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The first wealth is health.”
The main issue with fad diets isn’t even their often poor, generalized science behind their recommendations: it’s their emphasis on weight loss over health. Moreover, it’s this emphasis that a quick “diet” fix is enough to get you on a healthier path. You’ve heard it before, and we’ll say it again – health and nutrition are a lifestyle. One that requires constant attention, and adaptation. Going back and forth with the next trend might result in the yo-yoing effect typical of fad diets. This translates to rapid weight loss followed by significant weight gain - both of which cause stress to your body.
Rather than emphasizing ways to drop your weight, Viome takes a snapshot of your current state of health and assesses where you could use improvements. Then, we provide actionable recommendations that give you the personalized touch you need to get your health back on track. These recommendations are sourced from a complex algorithm and combined with expert advice. You can even check out our blog article that gives you real insight into where your recommendations come from.
By suggesting real, whole foods full of variety, we can begin to optimize the state of your digestion and overall health. And with every Gut Intelligence Test, you may see changes to your food recommendations and scores based on the state of your gut. Your body is in a constant state of change and we believe the best way to stay on top of your health is to check in and let your body do the talking. We are built to adjust and thrive, adapt and evolve – and every change we make to our diet has the potential to facilitate real change with the gut microbes that live inside us. Together, we can live in a symbiotic relationship that translates to better health, and a better relationship with food.