Fad diets

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Why quick fixes don’t work

Fad diets generally make the same promises: fast, permanent weight loss without feeling hungry.

They may work for a little while because they limit the types of food you can eat. But most people who lose weight on a fad diet regain the weight — and many people gain back even more.

This happens because many diets require changes in eating habits that no one can stick with over time. Once you stop eating the "diet" way, the weight comes back.

Types of popular diets

There are many different diets and some of them are a healthier way to lose weight than others. Some well-known diets include:

  • Low-carb diets
  • Very low-fat diets
  • Plant-based diet

Dangers of fad diets

Fad diets can be dangerous for your mind and body. Most fad diets don’t include enough of the right nutrients, which can cause serious health problems. You may also feel depressed or defeated if the diet doesn’t work or you gain the weight back.

Gaining and losing weight too quickly (“yo-yo dieting”) puts stress on your organs and bones. It may also be linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes.

Injections are one of many new diet fads. There is no evidence that injections of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) or Vitamin B-12 work for weight loss and are not recommended.

Prescription medicine for weight loss, if carefully monitored, can be a helpful tool for some individuals to maintain weight loss. Prescription medicines often have to be taken long term to keep weight off and must always be monitored by a doctor or nurse.

Talk to your primary care physician if you are interested in finding out more about the possibility of using medications to boost your efforts at weight loss. Some primary care doctors may prefer that a weight management specialist prescribe medications.

Some “diets” do work

Keep in mind that the word “diet” can also mean "the way you eat." And that way of eating can be very healthy. Unlike fad diets, these options are healthy eating plans with smart health goals. A healthy diet includes eating mostly fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and is low in saturated fats.

  • DASH diet: heart-healthy, low in salt, helps control high blood pressure
  • Mediterranean diet: heart-healthy; emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy, plant-based fats

Reviewed by: Adam Tsai, MD, Robert Riewerts, MD and Trina Histon, PhD, March 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

©2016 Kaiser Permanente