As long as there’s food, and food manufacturers and marketers to hype it to us, there will be trends and fashions surrounding food. New culinary trends and ingredients will catch on and get “hot.” Old favorites will cool, only to be revived again in a few years. For a long time now weight loss advice has fluctuated, too, with weight loss diets being perhaps the most changeable element in the whole food fashion froth. Who would even care to speculate as to how many diet books, dieting products, diet plans and programs and self-appointed diet gurus have surfaced in just the past two decades?
Here at Great American Food Fight we think that the diet explosion may be fizzling out. We’re sensing that the “fad” diet isn’t so faddish anymore; maybe “fashion” diets are becoming slightly less fashionable.
What are the reasons for this? Well, there are a lot of them, but we can start with the most obvious.
1. Because they just don’t work.
It’s not enough to say that most fad diets don’t quite live up to their hype. It’s far worse than that. They just don’t work. Period. As Robin Fox has put it, “if any one did, then there would not be so many and we would not be faced almost weekly with the announcement of a new and infallible one.”
2. Because they’re just too darn hard!
The demands of most shiny new fad diets are just too rigorous. The foods are too expensive, too hard to procure or prepare, or too unfair or unfriendly to kids or other family members who don’t need to diet or have different nutritional needs. For a variety of reasons fad diets fail because they just become too much to handle on a daily basis.
3. Because they’re damaging to our health and to our self-esteem.
While being overweight is certainly not “good” for us, the simple truth is that many of the fashionable diets that promise to help you lose that weight are dangerous in themselves. I’ve read about diets that are so silly, or so centered on one particular food type (mono-food diets), that they should carry serious warning labels. The cabbage diet, the banana diet, the grapefruit diet, the oatmeal diet, the eggs only diet, the steak and eggs diet, the mushroom soup diet –I could go on and on—may be celebrity-endorsed and accompanied by slick YouTube videos, but they’re not healthy eating plans. Depriving your body of one, or several, of the major food groups sends it into starvation mode, so assuming you don’t die of boredom in the meantime, once you come off the diet your body will quickly begin to store fat and the pounds will pile back on.
Even when our health is not in immediate jeopardy, our self-esteem usually is. Falling off the wagon is a short, painful guilt trip, yet it’s one that 95% of the people who take up a fad diet are destined to take. You’re disheartened, depressed, defeated. You eat to assuage your guilt, and Voila! The lost weight comes right back.
By now, most of us are much too familiar with these pitfalls of fad dieting. We’re abandoning our quest for “the” perfect weight loss diet. The reasons we’re starving out the whole idea of the fad diet are pretty simple, and pretty great.
1. Because We’re Getting Smarter
The very best reason, why fad diets are losing their grip on the public imagination is simply that American consumers are taking responsibility for their own food educations. Rather than swallowing whole the package slogans and commercial hype that’s been fed to us in the supermarkets and mass media, they’re doing their own reading and research, becoming much more serious and scientific about what we eat ourselves and what we feed our loved ones. We’re hearing it in the thoughtful questions posed by patients and friends. We’re seeing the evidence of it in the gratifying eagerness to pre-order The Great American Food Fight.
2. Because we’re discovering the biggest diet culprit: Sugar.
Finally, it seems, lots of us are learning that we’ve been looking for success in all the wrong places. Fat isn’t the real enemy of weight loss. Sugar is. Unlike the overwhelming wave of fat-free diets that didn’t have much validity, following a low-sugar diet or just decreasing your sugar intake overall can result in multiple health benefits including weight loss, reduced food cravings, regulation of glucose level, significant decrease in systemic inflammation and the risk for chronic diseases.
3. Because we’re shifting our emphasis to comprehensive health and wellness
Sure, we still care about the numbers on the scale, but increasingly consumers are putting a lot more emphasis on strength, fitness and overall health. Even the diet food companies are acknowledging this shift. Last year Lean Cuisine launched a new campaign that asked women to weigh their accomplishments instead of their bodies. The iconic Weight Watchers program, one of the most enduring and successful of diet programs, is revamping its program toward less emphasis on goal weight and more on fitness and inner strength.
Call me a Pollyanna. Say that I’m overly optimistic. But I believe that this movement away from the scale will grow. I think smarter consumers will be much less likely in the future to be taken in by extreme diets and more likely to look for ways to achieve permanent lifestyle changes. They’ll need to continue to get smart about food choices and to find realistic ways to incorporate exercise into daily routines. At Great American Food Fight, we hope to continue helping consumers with this new shift. We’d love to see the fad diet starved right out of existence.