Guest Column: Navigating through the ongoing world of fad diets

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By Emily Schmidt

Albert Lea resident Emily Schmidt is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. She enjoys writing, cooking

Emily Schmidt

and spending time with her son and family.

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When it comes to weight loss, some go to extremes to shed the pounds. From Atkins to Paleo to Keto diets, there are countless nutrition-related trends people follow in attempt to lose weight. If you find yourself stuck in the vicious cycle of following fad diets like these, you may be asking yourself, “Do fad diets even work?”

Diets like these might work great in the beginning, particularly with weight loss, but just because something is labeled as a “diet” doesn’t mean it is a healthy, long-term weight-loss method. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether your new eating guidelines are safe and healthy.

Do you eliminate entire food groups? Unless you have a food allergy or genuine intolerance to certain foods, fad diets that call for eliminating food groups, like no grains or fruit, are typically unhealthy. Your diet should be balanced and include a variety of food groups to ensure you are getting appropriate vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients. For instance, since fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate, following an extremely “low carb” diet may lead to inadequate fiber intake — which may be harmful to your digestive and cardiovascular systems.

Do you constantly think about food and eating? Although you should be mindful and conscious of food choices, there is a fine balance between striving for weight loss and an unhealthy, almost obsessive focus on eating. If you are frequently preoccupied with thoughts of your next meal, strategies for avoiding treats at work or how much exercise you need to burn off your lunch, you may be too focused on what you eat. Consider moving away from restrictive diets and focus on changing a few small goals at a time.

Do you frequently experience weight loss and gain? The rollercoaster pattern of weight loss and gain that goes along with trying different fad diets can actually be harmful to your health. Instead of following strict fad diet rules, make small, gradual habit changes. Drink more water, reduce sugary beverages, walk an extra 10 minutes each day or add a new vegetable to your diet. If you change multiple, small habits over a longer period of time, you will be more likely to have long-term weight loss success.

Do you find yourself extremely hungry at certain points throughout the day? If so, you might not be eating enough throughout the day. Listen to your body and pay attention to a growling stomach, lack of energy or increased irritability. If a fad diet instructs you to fast for long periods of time, skip entire food groups or eat a very low amount of calories (usually less than 1,200 calories per day), you may be depriving yourself. Fuel your body with lean proteins, healthy fats and fiber when you’re genuinely feeling hungry. Otherwise you may end up eating too much later on.

Eating healthy is about finding balance and making realistic, gradual habit changes. New diet trends are constantly developed and promoted because most of them are not created to last long-term. The world of fad diets can be confusing and make you frustrated. So I suggest you take a deep breath, relax and find the middle ground for your next positive lifestyle change.