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Trend Diets: Fad or Fiction?



In a society often preoccupied with physical appearance, Psychology Today found that 38 percent of women and 34 percent of men are not satisfied with their body image.

“The media portrays—particularly women, and even men—as very fit and much smaller than what most regular people can actually be,” said Amber Haroldson, assistant professor of human nutrition at Ball State. “It makes people want to look like that and be like that, so people try to diet in order to get that way.”

The Boston Medical Center says that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. Annually, $33 billion is spent on weight loss products in the United States.

The Atkins diet, South Beach diet, Weight Watchers and going gluten-free are just a few fad diets people try in hopes of achieving their ideal body weight.

“[A fad diet is] any diet that doesn’t adhere to good conventional wisdom for eating,” said Christy Tunnell, Ball State’s program director of nutrition and dietetics. “A lot of times a fad diet will cut out certain food groups altogether.”

Rather than sticking to a healthy lifestyle with moderation of healthy foods, exercise and enough rest, fad diets usually don’t require one to change his or her lifestyle dramatically. Those that emphasize eliminating certain food groups cause dieters to lose the nutrients that were in that group.

“I think that we are a society of instant gratification,” Tunnell said. “We look for kind of a way to cheat the system. How do I diet and not really have to watch what I eat all the time, or not have to exercise all the time and still keep the weight off?”

Some diets can be healthier than others. While some require a very strict regimen of what can be eaten. Others like Weight Watchers aren’t as strict.


The Atkins diet focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, animal protein, fats, and fresh grocery items.

“I think Weight Watchers tries to actually promote some long-term lifestyle changes, which is helpful,” Haroldson said. “They have some nutrition education along with that as well.”

Shannon Farrer, senior public relations major, tried the South Beach diet during the summer of 2014 before doing Weight Watchers. She initially chose the South Beach diet because she believed it would be easier to incorporate into her busy life and wouldn’t require her to alter her lifestyle very much.

“I never felt like I was hurting myself at all,” said Farrer. “I felt very healthy the whole time.”

A big part of the South Beach diet is seafood, but it also cuts out bread, which Farrer believes is an important aspect as to why the diet was successful with weight loss. She lost a total of 15 pounds in time for the Big Ten 5K race she was training for, but she ended up not participating in it.

She quit the South Beach diet and began Weight Watchers later that summer because she believed it would be easier to maintain after she went back to school.

“I think Weight Watchers is good for a lifestyle,” said Farrer. “But I think South Beach is just kind of quick and easy.”

Weight Watchers is a diet that markets brand name foods and beverages to make dieting easier. Many common dieting products are meant for meal replacements and are usually calorie controlled, so that fewer calories are consumed overall.

“As consumers, we get a little bit manipulated into thinking, ‘I never could have lost it without those bars or those shakes or that packaged meal,’” said Tunnell.

The same result of using meal replacement foods and beverages can be achieved by eating correct portions of a variety of healthy foods, rather than calorie controlled processed items.

“We tell people to eat a rainbow, because the different colors represent nutrients,” said Haroldson. “So if you’re eating a variety, you’re getting a lot of different nutrients as well.”

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight and lifestyle are not only beneficial to do but could potentially be the only option if being overweight poses health risks.

The Centers for Disease Control says that more than one-third, or around 79 million adults in the United States are obese.

“The worst thing you can do is be on a fad diet, lose a bunch of weight, gain it all back, lose a bunch on a different one and gain it all back,” said Tunnell. “It’s very hard on your body to do that yo-yo dieting and that yo-yo weight effect.”

Yo-yo dieting, or weight cycling, is the term used when people who are dieting continuously lose weight and regain it. This can have negative health effects because of the toll it takes on the body.

Tunnell suggested doing small, maintainable exercises as a way to start improving your health. These can be simple acts such as adding more movement and activity into the day, as well as choosing healthier snacks over processed, sugary ones.

When it comes to dieting, there are many options from which to choose. But most are short-term solutions. Proper nutrition and exercising regularly is the best choice if you’re looking for long-lasting results.


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