On Fad Diets

Apparently being a woman in these modern times means I am required to obsess about my weight. I have to be honest, I am not sure I am really on board with this ideal. I do believe in living healthy. I get up at ungodly hours so I can roll to the gym as often as possible. I forego French fries as often as I can resist. I look at myself in the mirror and pinch the skin that hangs over a pair of pants that are too tight.

I do not take part in fad diets. Fad diets seem to be the pinnacle of weight obsession. As a woman, I am apparently not concerned enough about my weight until I am participating in some masochistic fad diet. Whenever I am in a gathering of women with food, it seems that the topic of the latest diet comes up. Women swap fad diets like recipes. Try “The Master Cleanse” (drinking a combination of maple syrup, lemon and cayenne pepper for a week and nothing else). Try the Grapefruit Diet. Try the only eating foods that start with ‘A’ diet (I made this one up).

I find myself remaining quiet during these conversations because I am on no such diet. In fact, I do not consider myself to be on any diet with a capital ‘D’ inside my diet consists of attempting to make healthy choices and also watching my caloric intake.  If I go out to dinner, I know I should get the side salad instead of the fries. We all know that right? French fries have no value to your body other than triggering all those pleasure centers in your brain.

Now, I am not saying my method is the best. I am not as thin as I would necessarily like. Nor am I currently at a medically healthy weight. I am working on it.

To me, if there were fad ways to strength my will power, I might seek those out. Willpower is my downfall because if my will power were stronger (which machine at the gym should I do to strengthen my willpower) I would resist the French fries, the ice cream, and all the other delicious things that are 900 calories without any actual health benefit.

I think this is why other women try fad diets so often. Not because they can’t see how silly these diets are but the diets seem like a fix. We don’t know how to fix our willpower, so we try to circumvent it. “If I only allow myself fruit for every meal for a week, I’ll lose weight and I only have to work my will power for a week.”

As the American Heart Association page for their “No-Fad Diet” states, “No magic formula will trim away extra pounds and keep them off. Gimmicks and get-thin-quick schemes don’t work. That’s why, over the long haul, fad diets are not the answer.” (AHA No-Fad Diet Site)

In the end we are only fooling ourselves with these diets and potentially making ourselves unhealthy at the same time. And yet… it seems to continue on.

Honestly, I don’t believe the problem is that women are dumb and don’t know what they are trying are fad diets and probably won’t work. I think it is they ignore their common sense in favor of hope. Hope that there is magic and we don’t have to slog through each day, resisting the French fries of the world and choosing broccoli instead. Hope that we can just take one week out of our lives and get to the weight we want to be, fit into those skinny jeans.

However, if you aren’t sure if the diet you are on is a fad diet, here are some clues:

1)   The promise of a quick fix.

2)   Dire warnings of dangers from a single product or regimen.

3)   Claims that sound too good to be true.

4)   Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex medical study.

5)   Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.

6)   Lists of “good” and “bad” foods

7)   Recommendations made to help sell a product.

8)   Recommendations based on studies published without review of other researchers.

9)   Recommendations from studies that ignore the differences between individuals or groups.

10)                   Eliminates 1 or more food group.

(WebMD – Fad Diets: Claims, Characteristics, and Pit-Falls)

Ladies, I plead with you to give up this obsession with fad diets. You deprive yourself and then make yourself feel guilty for eating something that tastes good. By doing this you give food more power over you than it should. By building food up in your mind by deprivation you make it more likely you will over indulge when your will power gives out (and it will give out, none of us are immune). We know what is healthy; we know what we should eat. That is all we need to know.

If you really need guidelines, check out the book Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It’s simple, easy and commonsense

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