Two Questions to Ask Before Trying a Fad Diet

They say ‘slow and steady wins the race’ but I understand that when it comes to weight loss, speed has major appeal. Over the years I’ve had many clients abandon slow ‘sensible’ weight loss for approaches that offered faster results. And these days there are plenty of popular diets that promise double-digit losses lickity split. But before you jump on the fast track here are two key questions to consider:

What are the pros and the cons? 
In order to lose weight faster, what do you have to do, and is it worth it? You may think that not eating solid food, banishing carbs, eating less than 500 calories a day, or taking shots seems easier than having to make choices about what and how much to eat, but is it really? You know yourself better than anyone else. Think through how you’ll feel physically and emotionally, and how the approach will impact your social life, work and activity level. If anything in your gut tells you it doesn’t feel right, reconsider if fast really means better.

What does your track record tell you?
When high protein, low-carb diets were at peak popularity, some of my clients opted to go for it because the quick results were so alluring, but 100 percent of them gained the weight back because they just couldn't keep eating that way. Many of them felt miserable in the process and suffered from side effects such as headaches, fatigue, cravings, bad breath and constipation. Think back on any diets or approaches you’ve tried in the past that failed (really, that failed you). Why didn’t they work? For most people it’s because they weren’t sustainable. And even if something ‘works’ while you’re doing it, if you can’t keep doing it, you’ll inevitably gain the weight back (maybe even more). Not to mention, you could experience an emotional rollercoaster that goes along with the high of losing and the agony of being right back where you started.

Growing up, I witnessed the struggles of yo-yo dieting and approaches that fed the vicious cycle of "on" and "off" "good" and "bad" eating. That’s why as a health professional I strive to help people lose weight safely and optimize their health (physical and emotional), so they feel great every step of the way and have the tools to be keep the weight off for good. I know it’s more work, and it takes longer, but ultimately I really believe that doing it ‘right’ leads to freedom from weight struggles and a sane relationship with food and your body. And that’s priceless.

What’s your take on this topic? What crazy fad diets have you tried and how did they turn out? Or do you believe that all good things (including weight loss) are worth the wait? Tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!

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Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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