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Healthy Life: The pitfalls of fad diets

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Fad diets are eating plans that promote quick weight loss with little to no effort required. They typically remove entire meals teams, promote extreme amounts of a food group, require little to no exercise, or require the purchase of tablets, bars, shakes or “weight loss plan” meals. These eating plans not often comply with sound dietary rules for weight loss and usually are usually not backed by scientific proof. Trending fad diets embrace the army food plan, ketogenic eating regimen, detox/cleanse diets, gluten-free (non-celiac illness), bulletproof eating regimen, fasting and lots of others.

So why are fad diets so popular? We live in a world of convenience. Fad diets offer quick weight loss with minimal effort and, unfortunately, they work. But while many of these diets may show weight loss results, it is often water weight and is not sustainable. You could also be putting your body at high risk for fatigue, electrolyte imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, GI issues and other harmful side effects.

Ask yourself — could you follow this diet long-term or for the rest of your life? If the answer is no, you will likely gain back any weight that is lost.

What does healthy weight loss look like?

Slow and steady. Healthy weight loss should include lifestyle changes that result in steady and sustainable weight loss. A healthy goal would be to lose about to 1 pound per week. Think about it: 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories! But do not forget, your body needs a certain amount of calories to function. Diets that severely restrict calories can be dangerous to your health. It is never recommended to consume any less than 1,200 calories per day.

Start small. Start by identifying areas in which you struggle, whether that be excessive snacking, too many sugary beverages, highly processed snacks and meals or your sweet tooth. Once you have identified areas you could improve, make small changes, one at a time. For example, limit yourself to sweets one time per day or once per week or pack healthy snacks like veggie sticks or yogurt when you may be tempted by convenience foods in a vending machine.

Mindful meals. Meal time can also be a great starting point. is a great resource for building a healthy meal. Make half of your plate veggies and fruit, about protein (meat, beans, etc.) and whole grains (pasta, brown rice, etc.). Measure out portions at meal time and stick to them — you may be surprised how much you are overeating without even knowing it.

Get active. Physical activity not only burns calories but is great for our bodies and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity for adults per week.

While these tips may not offer results overnight, they will have you on your way to healthier weight and lifestyle. Try out this recipe at your next summer barbecue for a healthy appetizer or side dish.

Rachel Werner is a registered-dietitian-to-be at SSM Health – St. Mary’s in Jefferson City. She received her Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Missouri State University in 2016 and completed 1,200 hours of supervised practice in Jefferson City through Lenoir-Rhyne University’s distance dietetic internship. She completed her clinical experience at SSM St. Mary’s and is currently studying for the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian.


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