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Are Fad Diets Worth It?

As summer approaches and more places begin to reopen, many people feel the pressure to lose their quarantine weight — fast. Fad diets promise incredibly fast weight loss, but often with no mention of how dangerous this type of dieting can be. Although fad diets may sound tempting, they can cause long-term consequences to your health.


Weight Loss Scams

The dieting industry pulls in billions of dollars annually. A lot of fad diets require special supplements, shakes, drinks, pills, or other ingestible supplements. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many of these purchased supplements are unregulated and can be dangerous. Per the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, companies that create dietary supplements do not need FDA approval to be sold to the public. This often creates problems for an uninformed public who does not know how dietary supplements can affect them. 

The FDA reports that tainted products or products containing dangerous ingredients are regularly found on the “miracle weight loss” market. Products containing trace amounts of prescription drugs can carry serious side effects, including mood changes, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and digestion issues.

There are several warning signs that may signal a tainted or possibly unsafe product: 

  • Quick-fix promises with very short time frames
  • The words “scientific breakthrough” or “guaranteed”
  • Catchy phrases like “quick and effective” or “totally safe” 
  • Products with labels or marketing messages in a foreign language 
  • Marketing through mass emails or snail mail
  • Marketing that compares the product to FDA-approved drugs or prescription drugs 


Fad Diets and Eating Disorders 

Another serious consequence of fad diets can be developing an eating disorder. For some, an eating disorder may also be the reason they begin a fad diet in the first place.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines eating disorders as “serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.” Most eating disorders are centered around an obsessive preoccupation with food intake, weight, and unrealistic body image. Some of the most common eating disorders include anorexia (extreme restriction of calories while the person still sees themselves as overweight), bulimia (bingeing and purging), and binge-eating disorder (the excessive and uncontrolled consumption of food). Eating disorders are very serious, and people often require medical intervention to recover.

Dieting, especially in teens, can be a catalyst to eating disorders due to its restrictive nature. According to a Canadian pediatric study, a history of weight-related criticism, weight-related teasing, peer pressure, and dissatisfaction with prior weight loss attempts can drive teens to develop eating disorders. Researchers have also found that young people whose friends engage in unhealthy eating habits are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating habits themselves. They are also more likely to engage in other risky activities, such as unprotected sex, substance use, and illegal acts. 


Other Consequences of Fad Diets

Fad diets are generally thought to increase happiness, with the hope that losing weight will make a person happy. In reality, fad diets can be very detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health.

Though mental health crises and eating disorders often happen concurrently, they can also happen independently. Recent studies show a link between constant dieting and worrying about weight as a teen and future mental health concerns like anxiety, food preoccupation, irritability, fatigue, and binge-eating. Fad diets and restrictive eating as a teen can have many physical consequences as well, including stunted growth, malnutrition, irregular menstruation, and muscular/skeletal issues. 


Methods for Healthy Weight Loss

Before you begin any kind of weight loss journey, talk to your doctor about what will be safest and most effective for you. Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all journey, and any approach should be uniquely catered to you. 

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers the following suggestions for weight-loss rules: 

  • Set the right goals. These goals should be specific, attainable, and forgiving. 
  • Nothing succeeds like success. Keep reaching small goals and setting new ones as you go. 
  • Reward success, but not with food.
  • Self-monitor your food intake. 
  • Avoid a chain reaction if you treated yourself a little too much. 
  • Get the “fullness” message. It can take the brain approximately 15 minutes to feel fullness in the stomach!

Losing weight can feel daunting or even impossible when you think about how long it will take to reach your end goal, but achieving weight loss through fad diets is not the answer. Talk with your doctor to determine a weight loss plan that is safe and healthy for you.


If you or a loved one are struggling with the negative consequences of pursuing rapid weight loss, the implications can be dire. Obsession with fad diets, addiction to weight loss supplements, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and mental health issues caused by stress and anxiety over weight loss are valid and painful experiences. At RECO Intensive, we understand that it’s easy to feel lost in the world of dieting and body image, and we are here to help you on your journey to a healthy life. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can get you started on your custom path to recovery, with options for residential care, intensive outpatient care, or our partial hospitalization program. At RECO Intensive, we are willing to meet you where you are to start you on your journey to RECOvery. To learn more, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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