From the water diet to the boiled egg diet, dietitians have had to bat back numerous ideas and suggestions from their patients and clients in 2022, as they search out the secret to quick and effective weight loss.
As we head into the post festive New Year, New You territory, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and our member dietitians are urging the public to say No Thank You to fad diets.
We are asking the public to be incredibly critical of the advice they are reading or watching and to avoid investing in anything that claims to offer a quick-fix weight loss solution, because in reality they could be doing more harm than good.
Registered Dietitian and BDA Spokesperson Marcela Fiuza says, “For many people the new year is a good opportunity to set goals and intentions, including to improve health. However, new year’s resolutions that focus on weight loss as a primary outcome can often lead to yoyo dieting or weight cycling, which can be detrimental to health.
“New year’s resolution diets can also be triggering for those with eating disorders and can lead to disordered eating.”
Talking about the New Year, New You trend, another BDA member Registered Dietitian, Nichola Ludlam-Raine says, “Psychologically, it can be really damaging to people’s self-esteem, making people believe that they are not good enough as they are, and that they have to conform to perceived society ‘ideals’ and have to make changes at this time.
“The truth is quite the opposite - and we must work on people’s self-esteems in order to make positive changes to dietary intake, focussing on what we should be eating and doing more of, like increasing fluid and fibre, rather than focussing on restriction.”
As well as advising the public on fad diets, members of the BDA, the professional body that represents over 10,500 members of the dietetic workforce across the UK, are working with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to report adverts that share incorrect and misleading information on diets.
Miles Lockwood, Director of Complaints and Investigations at the ASA says, “Our rules make it clear that advertisers need to not be misleading or irresponsible when advertising diet products or systems. Any claims should be backed up by robust evidence, not just ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, and ads shouldn’t make claims that people can lose an irresponsible amount of weight or fat. Advertisers also need to make sure they’re not targeting under-18s or including anything in their ads that might be offensive.
“BDA members play a key role in identifying and reporting to us ads that might not follow our rules. We encourage anyone with concerns about ads they’ve seen to get in touch.”
It’s easy to see why people get lured in by quick fix solutions advertised on social media and sometimes by celebrities and influencers. However, dietitians, who are the trusted, qualified experts in food and nutrition, often then have to work with members of the public to unpick their beliefs around food.
Many of the fad diets shared can’t be sustained long-term and can actually cause more harm than good, leading to yoyo dieting, muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies and ultimately metabolic adaptation, which can cause more weight to be regained in the long-term.
Kaitlin Colucci, another BDA member Registered Dietitian says, “Fad diets promise quick fixes, they require little time, little thought and some investment, which promise big results. They can be problematic as they do not lead to sustainable long-term change and can develop into unhealthy and disordered relationships with food.”
Usually when a dietitian works with someone to help them with a lifestyle change or weight loss, patients or clients have usually tried a variety of different diets, so it is important to work with that person to help unpick some of the beliefs they have around these diets.
Nichola says, “The healthiest and most sustainable approach is small and slow, the opposite of what fad diets promise. A dietitian can help someone look at their long-term goals and emphasise on the positive impacts on their overall health, not just their weight.”
Marcela adds, “We are all different and as such there isn’t a generalised plan that suits everyone. Consistency is more important than perfection too. So, do something you enjoy, focus on balance and moderation.
“Most people can do with reducing their intake of highly processed foods and eating more whole foods - vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains contain a range of nutrients that your body needs to function at an optimal level.
“Perhaps try cooking more meals at home. Research shows that people who cook more at home have better diet quality. Consider recipe books, cooking videos or healthy recipe boxes to get you started.”
Kaitlin concludes, “Just as you would invest in your mental health, improving your health through diet requires continual effort and work.”
To support the public, we’ve released a checklist of ways to identify a fad diet or misinformation online, and are urging the public to not buy into it this, this January.
Visit our New Year, New You, No Thank you! page for more information.