The War on Fad Diets

I am predictably reluctant to use the word war when talking about the struggle to get rid of fad diets but I make no apologies for using it here. This blog cannot be accused of looking favourably upon people who take up these fads and, to an even greater extent, the companies that seek to force them down our throats.

Let’s just start with the obvious and you can pick whichever fad you like. Why does everybody not do it? If a company really has found the secret of a shortcut to success, or The Holy Grail of fitness, then surely this argument would be over and we would all just adopt its practices. The answer is of course as obvious as the question, because it doesn’t exist.

But that in itself hasn’t done enough to get rid of them. If it had then more wouldn’t be invented every single day. So even if we assume that one of these fad diets, meal replacement shake plans or time-bound workout routines actually had escaped the knowledge of us all, that still doesn’t justify them.

What I find even more strikingly obvious is that no health authority backs a single one of these things. By the time I finish asking you to think of a fad diet you will have already got one in your mind, right? So we can all accept they are common knowledge. And yet the NHS has come out in support of exactly zero of them. Interestingly enough, what the NHS does support is making sensible lifestyle changes that allow you to maintain a healthy nutritional plan, as well as ideal levels of exercise.

And it is that last point that fad diets have to compete with. It is not enough to express contempt for them without knowing that there is a genuine alternative: regular exercise and sensible food consumption. And if a fad ever appears that offers a genuine sustainable alternative to that then it can be discussed seriously.

It is not inconceivable to imagine that somebody might have taken one of these on and found what they consider to be positive results. In fact I imagine there are quite a few. But consider the percentage of them that still follow that regime as strictly months after they have finished.

You just don’t hear about it. You can watch their infomercials and go to the website and I will guarantee there will be a whole host of success stories. And all of them will testify to the fact that it HAS worked for them. I’m yet to find one that claims they were so pleased that they will stick with it for the rest of their lives.

The problem is not that they exist. The problem is the way that they are promoted. Let’s not pretend that these are a genuinely sustainable alternative to eating well and exercising regularly. And that doesn’t even consider all the other aspects to health, such as sleep, goal-setting and constant variation. If people want to choose a fad because it is easier for them then let that be the reason given for choosing a fad.

You will probably notice I haven’t picked any particular fad out there to focus on, which this blog has done in the past. That is partly because there are far too many to mention, but more importantly it is because there isn’t one credible enough to compete.

If people want to try and avoid exercise and quality nutrition with the expectation of being healthy then all the health and fitness community can do is provide the information that proves that to be false. Hopefully enough people get the idea and ditch the fad diets once and for all.

Ollie Lawrence