Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Skinny on Fad Diets: 14 Easy Tips for Healthy Weight Management

Friday, October 4, 2013 | 9:39 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments

With assistance from Northeastern graduate student Kelli Harvilla

We have all encountered our share of fads, whether it was a specific phrase or the following of a boy band, and these things were pretty harmless to our health; however, one type of fad has blown to epic proportions, and has the potential to be harmful – the culprit being fad diets. This type of dieting has opened our eyes to a new world of weight loss, where our hopes and spirits are lifted towards achieving quick and easy results with virtually no work. These "diets" may prove to be successful at first, but how long can it last and what happens when the fad fades away?

Fad diets can be defined as weight loss plans that promise successful results in a small amount of time. They may seem to work in the beginning but no long term results are promised, and the weight is quickly gained back most of the time. Not only do these diets promise easy weight loss, but they can also be extremely harmful to your health. In recent years, fad diets have grown in popularity due to the media portrayal of how successful they can be; however, following popular diet trends is not the healthiest way to achieve your ultimate weight loss goals. The only successful and guaranteed way of losing weight is through a balanced diet with sensible portions and adequate physical activity.

Fact or Fad?
How do we know if a diet is for real or just another trend? Below are some ways to recognize a fad diet:
  • It promises rapid weight loss of more than 2 pounds per week
  • It claims that you can lose weight and keep it off successfully without giving up high calorie foods and exercising on a daily basis
  • It limits your food choices and does not encourage a balanced diet through proper nutrition
  • It requires you to spend money in order to pay for special seminars, pills, or prepackaged meals which are necessary for the diet plan to work
  • It offers testimonials from clients or experts in weight loss, science, or nutrition because, chances are, those people are just actors being paid to advertise the diet plan or product
The most important guideline is simple, common sense. If a diet appears too good to be true, then it most likely is and will lead you back to square one!

Types of Fad Diets
There are countless fad diets that exist, some of which are more prevalent in the media. These are diet plans that various "experts" have tried or created for a quick fix, and most of these diets provide no positive long term effects. Some diets focus on a certain aspect of nutrition that is either controlled, decreased, or eliminated and due to these restrictions it could result in an increased risk of developing a serious health condition or nutritional deficiencies over time. Below are a few examples of the more popular fad diets:
  • Atkins Diet: Also known as The Zone diet; focuses on restricting carbohydrate intake
  • The Ornish Diet: Also known as Eat More, Weigh Less diet; focuses on high carbohydrate intake and lowering your fat intake
  • Slim Fast Diet: a very popular liquid diet which cuts out essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are beneficial to the body
  • Eat Right for your Blood Type diet: advises you to personalize your diet according to your blood type
  • Various diet pills that are available over the counter: most are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for safe use
  • Juice or broth diets: consist of fasting on juice or broths only and restricting the body of important nutrients
Fad dieting can also be known as crash dieting or yo-yo dieting, which are just a few of the terms to describe the on-again, off-again weight loss effect that attracts millions of us on a daily basis. Crash dieting can affect you energy level making you feel lethargic and irritable, which is likely due to the lack of proper nutrition. These dieting shifts can disrupt your metabolism and/or raise cholesterol levels, which can put you in danger of developing heart problems down the road.

Fad Diets and Your Health
Below are just a few issues associated with following a fad diet:
  • Poor long term weight control, which means that the diets are a quick fix and do not teach healthy eating; instead, they tend to be boring and monotonous, restrictive, and difficult to follow at times, which eventually causes that dieter to resort back to old eating habits
  • Increased risk of chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and osteoporosis
  • Reduced athletic performance specifically targeted at low carbohydrate diets. Restricted carbohydrate intake decreases energy levels and slows performance.
  • Kidney stones and gout, which can be caused by diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates
  • Ketosis, related to low carbohydrate diets, where the body is not receiving the adequate amount of carbohydrates for energy, so fat in your body becomes the primary energy source and can cause an unnatural smell to your breath
  • It is always recommended to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian and discuss any diet or meal plans before starting them
Instead, check out these fourteen easy tips for healthier weight management:
  1. Be sure to eat breakfast daily and do not skip meals
  2. Eat a variety of foods the ensure you receive all the essential nutrients – carbohydrates provide essential B vitamins, while protein is essential for building, repairing and maintaining the body
  3. Limit your daily intake of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium
  4. Limit the amount of sugar in your diet
  5. Limit liquid calories and "empty" calories
  6. Practice portion control
  7. Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise, four to six times each week
  8. Eat mindfully, which is the practice of using your five senses to fully enjoy your meal
  9. Aim for a weight loss of no more than one pound per week
  10. Set small, achievable goals for yourself
  11. Keep a food record, which helps in promoting responsibility for what you choose to eat
  12. Get motivated by creating a support system – maybe you have friends or family with a similar goal to reach
  13. Remember that there are no miracle cures for weight loss
  14. Simply practice the basic approach to eat less and move more
Road to Success
The key to successful weight loss is a balanced diet, combined with regular physical activity. This dynamic duo will not only lead you to your desired goals, but will also help you to become a healthier person by managing your weight and keeping your body in check!


Kelli Harvilla is a graduate student of nutritionist Christine Clark in the MS in Applied Nutrition program through the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University.

Nutritionist Christine Clark works with Dining Services to provide you with tips and techniques to stay healthy during your time at Northeastern. If you have any further questions about this topic or are looking for more information about any other nutrition or diet topic, such as food allergies or sports nutrition, please contact her at or call UHCS at 617-373-2772 for an appointment.

  1. Losing Weight Without Fad Diets.
  2. Fad Diets: What You Need to Know.
  3. Fast diet, Fad diet.
  4. Staying Away from Fad Diets.
  5. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Fad Diets.
    Quick Weight Loss or Fad Diets.


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