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The latest hot diet – and how to spot a fad

The other day we heard about a new diet book that has knocked the Dukan Diet off the top of the iTunes diet book chart and earned its creator a seven-figure book deal.

I’m not even going to mention the name of the diet, because that would be to give it far more attention than it deserves. Suffice it to say that we’re talking about the faddiest of fad diets, full of questionable advice, bordering on irresponsible.

It did get us talking, though. No matter how many times we read that ‘diets don’t work’, the faddish diet plans just keep on coming. How often do you read in women’s magazines about the new diet regimens followed by celebrities? The Dukan Diet, for example, is apparently a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, and accounts for the figures of Jennifer Anniston and Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo must be permanently on a diet; so many different regimens have been linked to her).

For a few years now, Healthy Food Guide senior nutritionist, Rose Carr, and I have joked that we ought to publish our own fad diet book (anonymously of course). We reckon we could make a mint. We plan to call it the ‘South Pole Diet’. We’ll base it on the elements almost every popular fad diet book has in common. Next time you’re tempted to try the latest diet, look for these elements, which we think all spell F.A.D.

A scientific-sounding theory

The fad diet often sounds like it could be based on science. The Blood Type diet, for example, theorises that certain foods are incompatible with certain blood types, and therefore should be avoided by people of that type. Often the theory comes from a doctor (it doesn’t really matter what sort of doctor). In the South Pole Diet, we will propose that when foods are eaten chilled, the body needs more energy to digest them, therefore kick-starting weight loss.

A drastic first phase

Almost all fad diets have a very restrictive first week or two. This is designed so dieters lose an encouraging amount of weight, and feel like they’re getting some payoff for the pain of the diet. There is some sense to this – people are more likely to continue with a weight-loss plan when they lose a noticeable amount of weight in the initial stages. Most of the weight lost is likely to be water, however.

Banned foods

Fad diets always have foods which are strictly banned, ranging from fruit to dairy to grains to all non-protein foods. On the South Pole Diet, we would ban any food over a certain temperature.

Magic foods

Cabbage soup is popular; so is coconut oil. The Dukan Diet has oat bran. In the South Pole Diet, our magic food would be cold potatoes, which contain resistant starch, which increases satiety and may help the body burn fat (there’s that scientific theory again).

There’s no doubt people lose weight on faddish diets. Not for any magical reason, but simply because they’re restricting their kilojoule intake. However, it’s rare for the weight to stay off. In our hearts, most of us know that to do that, it takes small but permanent, sustainable changes to what and how we eat – changes we can stick to for life.

What fad diets have you tried – and what happened when you stopped? Don’t be shy – share your comments here.

First published: Jul 2012



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