The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Americans turn to fad diets for fast results

With the pressure from the media to look slim and attractive, Americans quickly turn to fad diets to solve their weight issues.  But are these fad diets really effective?

 In 1972, Dr. Robert Atkins introduced the low-carbohydrate diet.  In 1979, the Pritkin diet introduced the concept of the low-fat diet. 

The Beverly Hills diet of 1981 promised weight loss by only eating fruits. 

Barry Sears introduced the Zone diet, with emphasis on cutting out sugars and carbohydrates, which made the Atkins diet popular again. 

Now, people create even more extreme diets, such as only eating cabbage soup or chocolate and bananas in order to lose weight.

Some believe Americans are quick to fear a certain type of food and will refuse to eat it until someone tells them otherwise.

In today’s society, two-thirds of American adults are overweight, including about one in three who are obese.

Even worse, childhood obesity is at an all-time high, and health experts believe that nearly half of the children in North and South America will be overweight by 2010.  Accordingly, five major cities in Texas are in the top 10 fattest cities in the United States. 

Yet, with this huge trend of people getting fatter and fatter, very few people think about establishing long-term weight loss plans. Rather, they look to fad diets, which promise rapid weight loss by overemphasizing eating one particular type of food. 

The real problem, however, is that both the National Institute of Health and the American Heart Association argue that fad diets give false hope of permanent weight loss and can be fairly dangerous to a person’s overall health.      

According to Dr. Eckel, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association “diets that overemphasize one particular food or food group are usually grossly unbalanced nutritionally and leave out a major component of any weight loss or maintenance plan, which is exercise.”

In today’s society, the definition of a fad diet is one that offers the public a “quick fix” for its weight problems.  This “quick fix” tricks Americans into believing they can follow a certain diet, with very little exercise, and lose the desired weight.  The Academy of Family Physicians defines fad diets as “weight loss plans or aids that promise dramatic results. These diets don’t offer long-term success, and they are usually not very healthy. Some of them can actually be dangerous to your health.”

Although obesity rates in the United States are at an all time high, fad diets have always come under scrutiny for their effectiveness. 

Until recently, scientists promoted the health benefits of eating low-fat foods and much of the public believed it, so the low-fat food industry grew significantly. 

People used to believe that fat was bad, and low-fat diets could protect against disease; however, this information was quickly ostracized when the Women’s Health Initiative recently released a report stating that low-fat diets might not prevent breast cancer, colon cancer or heart disease, after all.

Another classic example of a fad diet’s failure is the Atkins diet.  In 1972, Dr. Robert Atkins introduced his concept of eliminating carbohydrates and sugar from people’s diets because he believed eating carbohydrates was the cause of America’s obesity problem. 

Unfortunately, Americans abused this diet by thinking that eating high-fat substances, such as sausage or McDonald’s Big Mac without the bun, would result in weight loss.  In fact, the Atkins diet relies too heavily on protein, which is high in saturated fats and offers very little fruits, whole grains or fiber.  Ironically, Dr. Atkins died of a heart attack himself. 

Basically, most of these fad diets do result in quick weight loss, but not permanently because the eating habits are so drastic that no sane person can follow the diet for a long period of time. 

Carol Hendrix, a senior at SMU, thinks “fad diets are dumb because they take off weight fast, which is not healthy weight, and if you stop the diet, the weight comes right back.”

People concern themselves with looking slim and attractive that they do not even acknowledge the health risks or the fact that fast weight lost can easily be put back on.  Additionally, most of these diets require that a person eat the same type of food everyday, which eventually leads to boredom, failure and weight gain. 

So, why then do Americans choose these quick fixes to weight loss if the results are only temporary, and the side effects are negative?

Money. The food industry makes millions from these fad diets because they are effective for a short period of time.  For example, the Atkins diet does in fact result in immediate weight loss within the first two weeks, only because the person loses eats fewer calories and stops eating certain types of food.  The important health issue, however, is that the person usually loses muscle fat rather than body fat. 

Jordan Shelton, a sophomore at SMU, said, “Someone is trying to make a profit form these fad diets, and although some might work, I think there are other ways to lose weight.”

Living in a technological world, Americans immediately look to quick fixes that solve their problems.  As a result, people, especially those who are younger, willingly try fad diets to help them lose weight because they want to look and feel better right away.  With the pressure from celebrities and the American culture to become thin and beautiful, young people are quickly influenced by the quick fix.  As a result, they tend to steer away from portion control and exercise because these methods take more time and energy to receive desired results. 

In essence, fad diets are basically diets in which a person significantly reduces his or her calorie consumption, which does lead to rapid weight loss; however, food companies use gimmicks to make these fad diets appear to be healthy.  The weight loss industry uses skewed, scientific data to sell its product, and usually pays people to advertise its products. Although this industry creates revenue of almost $40 billion,obesity rates in the United States are soaring.

The weight-loss industry even claims that agencies such as the American Heart Association support these fad diets, tricking Americans into thinking the diet is healthy and scientifically supported.  In fact, the American Heart Association established a current campaign against fad diets because it only supports eating the recommended daily servings from various food groups.  It even published a list entitled, “You know it’s a fad diet if it recommends,” which includes tactics that food companies use to trick their customers into thinking that fad diets are healthy. 

The Federal Trade Commission found that the use of exaggerated weight loss ads is on the rise. “Deceptive ads do nothing to address an individual’s weight problem,” it said. “If anything, they compound an already serious national health crisis by steering consumers away from weight-loss methods that have demonstrated benefits,” said the FTC. 

In reality, the only effective way to lose weight and keep it off is with a steady exercise regime and the establishment of healthy, long-term eating habits.  Americans need to understand that battling the bulge is not an easy fight, and they do not need to trust every weight loss plan and commercial out there.  They need to think long-term rather than trying to lose weight quickly, because experts have proven that immediate weight loss is not permanent.  In the end, fad diets are just fads, but the key to losing weight and keeping it off is to adopt a healthy, long-term lifestyle. 

Cara Barrett, a sophomore at SMU, said, “I don’t think fad diets work. I believe in counting calories, watching what you eat and exercising, not cutting out entire food groups because it only leads to failure.”

In essence, the Food and Drug Administration tells Americans to remember if a fad diet “sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.”

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