Why Fad Diets Don't Work, and What To Do Instead (2023)

Fad Diets Don’t Work – Introduction

If you want to know why fad diets don’t work, you’re in the right place.

Most people don’t gain weight overnight.

Instead, it takes many months or even years to accumulate unwanted body fat and get out of shape.

And yet, when it comes to losing that weight, most people want to do it in a hurry.

Because of this, there is a HUGE market for rapid weight loss systems, such as super-restrictive 7, 14, or 30-day diets.

While you can lose weight in such a short timeframe, invariably, the diet in question is unsustainable and won’t get you much closer to your target weight.

In fact, many extreme diets are followed by rapid weight regain.

We call these short-term, quick-fix diets fad diets, and they do not work!

In this article, we explain why fad diets always fail and what you can do instead to achieve long-term weight loss.

What is A Fad Diet?

Fad diets are eating plans with little or no scientific or medical backing.

They are generally very restrictive, ban certain foods or food groups, and aggressively reduce your calorie intake while promising incredible results in a short time.

In short, they’re too good to be true!

Fad diets are nothing new and have been around for hundreds of years.

Examples include:

  • The cabbage soup diet – consume nothing but watery cabbage soup
  • The egg and grapefruit diet – you can only eat eggs and grapefruit
  • The tapeworm diet – ingest a tapeworm so it consumes your food for you
  • The cigarette diet – smoke, don’t eat
  • The clay diet – clay and dirt are filling but free from calories
  • The Fletcherizing diet – chew but don’t swallow your food
  • The sleeping beauty diet – be anesthetized so you cannot eat
  • The cotton ball diet – cotton balls are filling but calorie-free

While these are extreme examples of fad diets, many of the rapid, short-term weight loss plans you’ll see on the internet and in beauty magazines are no better.

They attempt to starve you into weight loss and work against the principles of good nutrition rather than with them.

Not sure if a diet is a fad or not?

(Video) Why fad diets don't work

If it a) bans a food or food group or b) promotes a single food as a way to lose weight, it’s probably a fad diet and is best avoided.

Another fad diet warning sign is it’s only designed to last a few weeks or a month, such as detox diets.

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

While fad diets can lead to short-term fat loss, they don’t work for long-term weight maintenance, which is why they fail.

After all, why put lots of effort into weight loss only to regain it soon afterward?

The reasons that fad diets are so bad for you and your weight loss efforts are:


Losing weight and keeping it off requires a full-time commitment.

In that regard, it’s like exercise.

Running a marathon a day for one week out of every year won’t get you fit, and yet that’s what many people are doing when they use fad diets.

However, like running a marathon a day, no one can stick to a fad diet for long – they’re unsustainable for more than a few days or a couple of weeks.

After all, how many days of only eating cabbage soup do YOU think you’ll be able to tolerate?

Quitting is inevitable.


Fad diets are invariably unpleasant.

This makes them very hard to maintain for more than a short time.

Humans are very good at avoiding the things we don’t enjoy.

So while you may be able to overcome your dislike of certain foods for a few meals, invariably, your willpower will dry up, and you’ll quit your diet.

As it took you years to gain your extra weight, it’ll take more than a couple of nasty-tasting green smoothies to lose it.


Many fad diets are more trouble than they’re worth, even if they work.

(Video) Why Diets Don’t Work — And What You Can Do Instead | Eric Edmeades

They involve expensive or hard-to-source ingredients, impractical eating schedules, complicated meals, or lengthy meal prep, or just make healthy eating more difficult than it needs to be.

As soon as a diet seems like more trouble than it’s worth, it’s only a matter of time before you quit and return to your previous eating fattening habits.


Any diet that bans certain foods or food groups has a good chance of being nutritionally unbalanced.

For example, eliminating grains from your diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies, even if it does lead to short-term weight loss.

An unbalanced diet is unhealthy, and even if you lose weight initially, your health may suffer.


While a fad diet could help you lose weight initially, it won’t help you keep it off.

Very prescriptive, restrictive diets don’t teach you about long-term healthy eating, portion control, food preparation, or any of the skills you need to maintain a healthy weight.

They’re a Band-Aid for a wound that never heals.

As such, once your fad diet finishes, you’ll soon regain any weight you lost when you go back to eating the way that caused you to gain weight in the first place.

This is why almost every fad dieter cannot sustain their new weight much beyond the end of their diet.

Weight regain is virtually unavoidable.

No supporting science

Weight loss and fat burning depend on your energy intake vs. your energy expenditure.

Fat is stored energy, and the only way to burn it is to consume fewer calories than your body typically needs.

This is called creating a calorie deficit.

Faced with this deficit, your body will have no option but to burn stored body fat for fuel.

Many fad diets ignore this fact and are built on science fiction instead.

For example, there are no foods that burn more calories than they contain, and there are no magic herbs or spices that will allow you to eat what you want while losing weight.

(Video) Dead End Diets: Why Fad Diets Don't Work

Similarly, there are no miracle food combinations, special meal timings, or other secrets to losing weight and burning fat.

Eat less, move more, and keep doing it for as long as it takes to reach your target weight.

Then, to maintain your new weight, continue doing the same, albeit less strictly.

This advice might not be alluring, but it will work if you follow it.

The same cannot be said for fad diets.

In summary, fad diets don’t deliver reliable results because they work against your body rather than with it.

Fad diets are a short-term fix to a long-term problem and can do more harm than good.

Most people who do the newest sensational diet end up doing several, hoping to find the ultimate weight loss solution.

However, such a solution does not exist in the world of fad diets.

The Alternative to Fad Diets

The opposite of fad diets is eating real food, the concept of which is pretty straightforward.

Just build your meals around natural, nutritious foods, and try to prepare as many of your own meals as you can.

You can read more about eating real food for sustainable weight loss here.

Also known as eating clean eating, real food nutrition means rolling back the clock and consuming the foods your great-grandparents would have grown up with.

This will naturally lower your caloric intake and increase the satiety of your meals.

Also, real food means consuming more of the fiber and nutrients your body needs and having more stable energy levels.

You won’t need to eat high-calorie, fast-acting foods because your hunger and energy levels will be rock-solid.

This creates the perfect environment for healthy weight loss and easier weight management.

(Video) The Shocking Truth About Fad Diets: Why They Don't Work & What to Do Instead #Shorts

And don’t worry about missing your favorite treats – no food is off-limits.

However, you need to earn those treats by eating real food the majority of the time.

For example, you could allow yourself 1-2 non-clean meals and snacks per week, which gives you plenty of latitude for indulgence.

You shouldn’t even need to count calories.

Most clean foods, such as vegetables and lean proteins, are naturally low in energy, so you can enjoy sensible-sized portions without ingesting so many calories that you gain rather than lose weight.

So, instead of a bowl of sugary cereal or a donut, have a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast.

Ditch the deli sandwich dripping in mayo for lunch and have a homemade grilled chicken salad instead.

Then, when dinner comes around, have a steak or oven-baked salmon with a small baked potato and a big serving of sauteed spinach, broccoli rabe, or asparagus instead of high-calorie pizza.

Snack on fruit instead of candy, and drink unsweetened iced tea instead of soda.

Healthy eating and weight loss can really be that simple!

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work – Closing Thoughts

Clever advertising, false marketing, and paid celebrity endorsements mean fad diets are here to stay.

Also, most people want to lose weight fast, despite taking years to become overweight in the first place.

However, almost every fad dieter will either fail to reach their target weight or be unable to maintain their weight loss.

That’s why so many people are serial dieters who never reach their weight loss goals.

Fad diets don’t work, so there really is no point trying another one.

Ultimately, they all fail for the same reasons.

The “flavor” may change, but the same flawed concepts remain.

(Video) How to spot a fad diet - Mia Nacamulli

Make your next diet your last diet, and eat clean!

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  • Keto vs Paleo Diet: What’s the Difference and Which is Better?


Why Fad Diets Don't Work, and What To Do Instead? ›

Fad diets provide quick but unhealthy results that make it impossible to keep weight off long term. Instead, focus on eating a healthful balance of foods that satisfy you. Instead of cutting out food groups, focus on healthy substitutions that satisfy the craving yet provide healthy nutrients for your body.

What should you do instead of fad diets? ›

Then, Follow These Simple Strategies
  • Eat a variety of foods. ...
  • Say no to bad fats. ...
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. ...
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes each week. ...
  • Clean out the kitchen! ...
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently. ...
  • Fill up on the good stuff. ...
  • Snack on berries.
Aug 5, 2022

When diets don't work and what to do instead? ›

What to do instead of dieting
  1. Focus on health, behaviors and wellness. ...
  2. Eat food that tastes good AND makes you feel good.
  3. Start cultivating body respect. ...
  4. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want, keeping the focus on how each food makes your body feel. ...
  5. Pay attention to how food makes you feel.
Jan 3, 2020

Why do fad diets not work? ›

Many of these fad diets may lack major nutrients, such as dietary fiber and carbohydrates, as well as selected vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals. By not receiving proper amounts of these nutrients, you can develop serious health problems.

What is the biggest problem with fad diets? ›

Fad diets can cause health problems

Because they often cut out key foods, fad diets may cause the following symptoms: Dehydration. Weakness and fatigue. Nausea and headaches.

Why diets don't actually work? ›

Understand how and why diets often fail

Calorie restriction can lead to slower metabolism, increased hunger hormone (gherlin) and decreased satiety — or 'feeling full' — hormone (leptin). You not only feel hungrier, but you're less likely to feel full or satisfied by what you eat.

Why diets don't work and what does? ›

Diets are not associated with long-term weight loss.

Moreover, diets create a restrictive, controlling relationship with food. Those who attempt to manage their weight through restriction and deprivation often discover that these tactics may worsen a weight problem. Ditch dieting for an intuitive eating approach.

Do fad diets actually work? ›

Fad diets provide quick but unhealthy results that make it impossible to keep weight off long term. Instead, focus on eating a healthful balance of foods that satisfy you. Instead of cutting out food groups, focus on healthy substitutions that satisfy the craving yet provide healthy nutrients for your body.

What is the biggest problem with diets? ›

Chronic dieters consistently report guilt and self-blame, irritability, anxiety and depression, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Their self-esteem is decreased by continuous feelings of failure related to “messing my diet up again”, leading to feelings of lack of control over one's food choices and further …

What is the number one reason diets fail? ›

Underestimating Calories Consumed

"Most people (even experts!) underestimate the number of calories they eat per day. Writing down everything that you eat- including drinks and "bites" or "tastes" of food -- can help increase self-awareness.

What are three reasons why people should not go on a diet? ›

Five reasons not to diet in the new year, and what to do instead
  • Diets don't work. ...
  • Weight does not equal health. ...
  • Dieting gets in the way of lasting change. ...
  • Dieting takes up mental bandwidth. ...
  • Restriction can lead to bingeing.
Jan 9, 2018

Are all fad diets unsuccessful? ›

But no matter how differently fad diets market themselves, there's one thing that they all have in common: They might lead to quick weight loss, but they largely fail in the end.

How many people fail fad diets? ›

It's staggering to find out, then, that the overwhelming majority of diets end in failure. Depending on the numbers and source, either one-third of dieters return to their old weight, or as many as 65% do.

How many fad diets fail? ›

In fact, research indicates a 95% failure rate. No wonder when we stop them, we feel like complete failures (and famished for carbs). Not to mention, we're no leaner than when we started. And the proof is in the pudding—study after study suggests dieting is the strongest predictor for future weight gain!

Why is diet so hard to change? ›

Changing eating habits can be more complex than just cutting back on certain foods and increasing healthier options. There are many factors that influence us to eat the way we do. Because of different life factors such as age, family, socioeconomic class and religion, it can be hard to change how we eat.

Is there any diet that actually works? ›

Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, and Flexitarian Diets Remain the Best Diets of 2023. All three diets are highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits. “The Mediterranean eating plan doesn't have a set calorie range or portion guidelines, which is why it can fit almost anyone's needs.

Are diets made to fail? ›

The majority of dieters gradually regain any lost weight. Multiple studies have found this to be the case for all diets, whether changing macronutrient proportions of carbohydrate, fat, or protein. Research has shown that the more diet attempts you make, the more likely you are to gain weight in the future.

Why is diet and exercise not working? ›

There are some medical conditions that can drive weight gain and make it much harder to lose weight. These include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and sleep apnea. Certain medications can also make weight loss harder — or even cause weight gain.

Why weight loss challenges don t work? ›

Encouraging weight loss can lead to participants damaging the relationship with their bodies, food, exercise and their overall mental health. They foster an hostile environment that supports weight bias and stigma and, in the end, do more harm than good.

Is a fad diet good or bad? ›

A fad diet is a trendy weight-loss plan that promises dramatic results. Typically, these diets are not healthy and don't result in long-term weight loss. In fact, some fad diets can be dangerous to your health.

What is the truth about fad diets? ›

From: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Fad diets will not result in long-term weight loss because these diets do not promote healthy and sustainable diet and lifestyle habits. Food-specific fad diets rely on the myth that some foods have special properties that can cause weight loss or gain - but no food can.

What are 3 challenges of eating healthy? ›

What are our biggest obstacles to eating healthy?
  • Lack of planning. First, we need to face the reality of our fast-paced lives. ...
  • Lack of nutrition knowledge. ...
  • Meal Planning Made Simple. ...
  • Vegetables and Meat. ...
  • Raising a Healthy Generation.
Mar 1, 2016

What is the unhealthiest diet in the world? ›

Carnivore Diet

“This is not a healthy or sustainable diet, and there are healthier ways to lose weight. Not only is the carnivore diet extremely high in saturated fat, which can put you at risk for increased cholesterol levels, it also leaves out a lot of foods that are really good for you,” Gorin adds.

What is the #1 easiest diet to follow? ›

The Mediterranean diet is a low-carb, moderately high-fat diet that emphasizes vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, olive oil and fish, according to Dr. Landry. Why is it easy? The wide array of acceptable foods on this diet make it easy to adapt to personal needs and incorporate a variety of different foods.

What is the number one diet in the world? ›

U.S. News & World Report consecutively ranked the Mediterranean diet No. 1 for six years. With an overall score of 4.6/ 5, it received a score of 4.2/ 5 for weight loss and 4.6 for healthiness.

What are three worst dietary habits? ›

Common eating habits that can lead to weight gain are:
  • Eating too fast.
  • Always cleaning your plate.
  • Eating when not hungry.
  • Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)
  • Always eating dessert.
  • Skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast)

What are 3 negative effects of having an unhealthy diet? ›

The Harmful Effects of Poor Nutrition
  • Overweight and Obesity. Eating a healthy diet, along with getting enough physical activity and sleep, can help children grow up healthy and prevent overweight and obesity. ...
  • Heart Disease and Stroke. ...
  • Type 2 Diabetes. ...
  • Cancer.

Why do people give up on healthy eating? ›

Unrealistic Expectations

Having unrealistic expectations is a major reason why people give up on their diets. They spend a week eating better an exercising and expect to be able to fit into smaller jeans. A safe and reasonable weight loss goal is about two pounds per week.

What's the latest diet craze? ›

9) The final new dietary trend for 2023 is a diet high in protein, with the idea that it keeps you feeling full longer. Meat and dairy are still popular sources of protein but come at a cost to your health. There are also vegan protein powders for those who can't or don't want to eat meat.

Which diet is the most effective in weight loss? ›

Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian Diet

And U.S. News & World Report ranks this sustainable approach No. 1 on its list of weight loss diets. If you're looking to burn calories in a balanced way, this flexible approach may be a good match for you.

What are the pros of fad diets? ›

One and only benefit of Fad Diet is that it helps in losing weight, if followed religiously. Since these diets typically restrict certain foods or food groups, it leads to an extreme calorie restriction which finally results in fast weight loss.

What is the difference between a fad diet and a healthy lifestyle? ›

While fad dieting emphasizes calorie restriction and the elimination of whole food groups, a functional approach to nutrition focuses on making lifestyle modifications to eating behaviors, including small but regular adjustments to improve the overall quality of food consumed.

What is the most effective diet ever? ›

The DASH diet took top honors as best diet for heart health and for people with diabetes, followed by the Mediterranean, flexitarian and Ornish diets. The Ornish diet was created in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California.

Which diet is the most effective? ›

The 9 Best Diet Plans for Your Overall Health
  1. The Mediterranean diet. ...
  2. The DASH diet. ...
  3. Plant-based and flexitarian diets. ...
  4. The MIND diet. ...
  5. WW (formerly Weight Watchers) ...
  6. Intermittent fasting. ...
  7. The Volumetrics diet. ...
  8. The Mayo Clinic Diet.
Mar 27, 2022

How can I drop 20 pounds fast? ›

Here are the 10 best ways to quickly and safely drop 20 pounds.
  1. Count calories. ...
  2. Drink more water. ...
  3. Increase your protein intake. ...
  4. Reduce your refined carb consumption. ...
  5. Start lifting weights. ...
  6. Eat more fiber. ...
  7. Follow a sleep schedule. ...
  8. Set reasonable goals and stay accountable.

What is the easiest diet to lose belly fat? ›

Limit your salt and sugar intake. Keep healthy snacks in your bag. Consume low-carb meals (veggies, fruits, and whole grains), with fiber, healthy fats, and lean protein. Consume healthy fats like fish oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds every day.

What is the #1 way to lose weight fast? ›

One of the most popular is the 5:2 system. This involves 2 days a week of fasting or VLCD and 5 days a week of eating your normal diet. Diets that incorporate fasting can cause rapid weight loss.

Are all fad diets successful or failures? ›

But no matter how differently fad diets market themselves, there's one thing that they all have in common: They might lead to quick weight loss, but they largely fail in the end. Below is a little more about why fad diets aren't really the miracle cures they promise to be—and why you should steer clear.

What are 3 common fad diets? ›

Examples include The South Beach Diet, The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, also called the Magic Mayo Diet or Mayo Clinic Diet, The 3-Day Diet, The Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, Dr. Sears' Enter the Zone Diet etc. The Atkins Diet advocates high protein, high fat diet with low carbohydrates.

What do fad diets do more bad than good? ›

Fad diets become popular because they sometimes work for a short time - weight does come off, but it's usually from loss of water or lean muscle. While you may lose a decent amount of weight initially, the restrictions imposed by fad diets are unhealthy and unrealistic to maintain - ultimately leading to failure.

Are fad diets bad? ›

Use Caution. Fad diets can be harmful to your health. There is no research proving fad diets are safe in the long term. However, a strong desire to improve health or lose weight often leads people to fad diets.


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4. Episode 301 - Why Fad Diets Don't Work
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