How to Spot a Fad Diet

Oct 26, 2021
By: Tedi Nikova MPH, RD

Fad diets are often ‘quick fix’ diets with false promises that may do more harm than good. You may have trialled fad diets in the past. Some examples include: 

  • Very low-calorie diets 

  • Juice cleanses 

  • Dietary patterns that are overall restrictive and have many ‘not allowed foods’


How to spot a fad diet

If a diet has one or more of these 5 elements, it is most likely a fad diet.

  1. Promises a quick fix: We have all seen fad diets promote “drop 10 Ibs in 2 weeks!”. This is an indicator that this diet does not address the complex nature of weight loss, and views weight loss as the model of ‘calories in, calories out’. However, obesity is a real medical condition that is 70% genetically determined, and goes beyond calorie intake.

  2. It says you will look like an ‘after’ photo: Fad diets will often use drastic images of before and after photos. However, weight loss is a personal journey, and your best weight will be different than that of others. No plan can guarantee that two individuals will have the same results.

  3. Rigid food rules: Having extreme rules of ‘allowed foods vs. not allowed foods’, is an indicator that the program favours restriction of certain foods. This strategy is not appropriate for long term weight loss, or for overall health, unless medically indicated dietary restrictions need to be made for your health. 

  4. Promotes their own supplements and products: Some diets may require purchases of the companies weight loss supplement, or additional food replacement products. This is a big red flag! This may be an indicator that the company is promoting non-evidence-based approaches to weight loss, and may be putting profit over your health. 

  5. Promotes ‘magic foods’: Programs that promise that specific foods will ‘boost your metabolism’ or increase your rate of weight loss is an indicator that the program creates false promises that are not rooted in evidence.

Consequences of fad diets:

Fad diets can lead to many health consequences including:

  1. Nutrient deficiencies: Severe restriction of certain food groups or overall food intake will likely lead to nutrient deficiencies that may impact your energy, and overall health!

  2. Yo-yo dieting: Weight cycling may actually be doing more harm than good. Research shows that weight cycling not only can lead to more weight regain in the future, but also may impact cardiovascular health negatively. 1

Bottom line

The reality is there is no ‘magic diet’ for weight loss. Finding the right dietary regime to reach your best weight will look different for everyone!  At HMC we get to the root cause of weight gain, and educate you on the right lifestyle and medication regime to help you reach your best weight in a sustainable and healthy way.





Rhee E. J. (2017). Weight Cycling and Its Cardiometabolic Impact. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, 26(4), 237–242.

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