Medically reviewed by Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietitian (RD) & Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
Despite the absurdity of novelty diets and lack of evidence supporting them, the reality is, these fad diets continue to dominate how many people eat. In this blog, I present some of the worst offenders in 2020.
7 Worst Fad Diets
Fad dieting trends and cultural obsessions with weight are nothing new. The highly popularized Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet dates back to the 1800s. It was invented by an undertaker, William Banting, who popularized the diet through his weight loss journey. It became so notorious that "to bant" was understood to mean "to diet."
Since then, the fashion for thinness continues, as the world is served trendy diets, from eating about 14 jars of baby food to consuming foods according to your blood type.
Although they might promise rapid weight loss, many fad diets are unsustainable, have extreme practices, and a few could put your health in jeopardy (looking at you, keto!).
The Daniel Fast or Shepherd Diet
Religiously rooted, the goal is to fast and pray to achieve better health. According to its creators, the Shepherd diet helps people to "focus on their health using Christ-centered teachings." Basically, it's a vegan eating plan - but with added restrictions. What's more, there is insufficient research evidence to support that this diet works.
The Whole30 Diet
Engulfed in sensationalized marketing tactics, it's punchy and promises extraordinary results - all in a month. The diet is highly restrictive, with the elimination of grains and virtually all legumes. Yet, such fibre-rich plant-based foods have shown to quell inflammation and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases. Although the Whole30 is not likely to be harmful to your body physiologically, it could be detrimental - if you're at risk of or have a history of disordered eating. Plus, it relies on weak science to back up its claims.
The Baby Food Diet
This diet is as dreadful as you might've imagined: Substitute two meals a day with about a dozen jars of baby food, along with an adult-sized dinner. Considering each jar of baby food is around 30 - 100 calories, you'll likely end up with severe caloric restriction and miss out on protein and healthy fats.
The Blood Type Diet
The idea is to follow a diet that fits with your blood type to trim down and reduce the risk of disease. D'Adamo, creator of the diet, insists that the foods you eat react chemically with your blood type. But what does the bloody science say? An extensive review reported that no evidence exists to validate the benefits of blood type diets. If you're losing weight on this diet, it's probably because it's very restrictive.
The Werewolf Diet
The diet may be "outer" this world, with reported fans like Madonna and Demi Moore, but there's no science to back it up. The premise is to eat based on the cycles of the moon. Yes, it's a real thing! Dieters fast for 24 hours during the full moon when it's permissible only to drink water and fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
The Ketogenic Diet
This diet is undoubtedly the talk of the town with celebrities touting the high fat, low carb keto horn. Besides being highly restrictive and unsustainable, the ketogenic diet requires considerable discipline. Most of your daily calories are derived from fat, less from protein and very few from carbohydrates. Although personal testimonials of keto success continue to flood the internet, this does not equate to reliable and trust-worthy scientific evidence. Long term evidence is lacking, and the diet's long-term safety is yet to be determined.
The Master Cleanse or Lemonade Diet
A liquid-only diet, master cleansers drink only saltwater, laxative tea, and heaps of lemon water. The diet claims to help dieters lose 10 lbs in 10 days (of course, you will - you're starving yourself!). After the drinking period, followers are encouraged to reintroduce solid foods into their diet, with soups and juices. Not surprisingly, it's unhealthy, could even negatively affect your metabolism, and your ability to lose weight long term.
Here's where I stand:
- We need to be wary of fad diets and move away from focusing on carbohydrates or fat or even protein
- Include a variety of whole foods (because foods are what we eat) and limit ultra-processed foods
- In an era of busyness, meal planning is vital to establish a healthy eating pattern and limit calorie-laden takeout meals
- Enjoy home-cooked desi-licious meals more often with plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy whole grains and fish
- Strive for balance and avoid extremism - of any sort
- A healthy diet is one you enjoy and can stick to - for the long haul
- When it comes to healthy eating, adopt a mindful eating approach, one that's healthy for you and the planet too!
I'd love to hear from you! Which of these fad diets have you heard of before? Have you tried any? Leave me a comment below!
Shahzadi is an award-winning registered dietitian (RD) regulated by the College of Dietitians of Ontario and certified diabetes educator (CDE), approved by the Canadian Diabetes Educator Certification Board. A YouTuber and notorious foodie, she's dedicated to helping you end your cooking wars, transform your health, and be the best version of yourself! Shahzadi is an on-air nutrition expert for CTV Your Morning and a regular contributor for Global News and other national media outlets.