Can Fad Diets Actually Harm Our Health?

by | Sep 6, 2021

When people look to make lifestyle changes, they often go through extreme or drastic measures to see the changes they’re hoping for. In terms of their eating habits, they’ll seek out various fad diets.

What are the potential harms that fad diets can cause, though? In today’s post we take a deeper look into the harm caused by these short-term solutions to long-term problems. Before we dive in, allow me to introduce myself for those of you who are new around here!

My name is Tony Stephan, and I’m a dietitian business coach. I help RDs make more IMPACT and more INCOME through nutrition coaching. However, before I became a dietitian business coach, I was an RD nutrition coach (just like you!). I served thousands of nutrition coaching clients over a time span of 12 years. My successful nutrition coaching business is what led me to where I am today. Now let’s discuss how trying out fad diets can negatively impact one’s health!

How Fad Diets Affect Physical Health

Fad diets are commonly known to cause nutritional deficiencies due to their restrictive nature. For example, juice cleanses are very low in calories, fats, and proteins as well as many essential vitamins and minerals. This is due to the fact that you’re mainly consuming juice and water, and nothing else. One other example of this is the carnivore diet. This eating pattern is deficient in carbohydrates and the many vitamins and minerals that carbohydrate- and fiber-rich foods provide.

If you’re consuming a low calorie diet coupled with physical activity, it can lead to a number of problems like muscle wasting, weakened immune system, unwanted metabolic and hormonal changes, and more. 

Nearly every kind of diet that is very restrictive is going to drastically reduce or even eliminate certain food groups. As a result of this, you’ll likely not be consuming enough of the essential nutrients you need to thrive. Following restrictive fad diets are risky enough, but not knowing what to supplement with in order to fill those nutrient gaps makes it even riskier.

How Fad Diets Affect Mental Health

Let’s face it: fad diets are usually unsustainable. This poor rate of sustainability often leads to feelings of failure, guilt and shame. Ultimately, this can lead to a cycle sometimes called yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting means bouncing up and down or back and forth between periods of restrictive dieting and more “normal” eating habits. This cycle of weight gain and weight loss is not necessarily intentional and may be quite drastic in terms of pounds gained or lost. Weight cycling has been linked to higher risk of depression, binge eating disorders, and lower self-confidence. 

Restrictive eating behaviors can also be extremely stressful for some, leading to feelings of exhaustion, irritability, and overall poor wellbeing. They can also lead to the development of unhealthy relationships with food. This increases the chances for developing disordered eating habits, disordered food thoughts, or even clinically diagnosed eating disorders.

The Takeaway On Fad Diets And Our Health

Fad diets are generally unsustainable or not useful for long-term change. They can put individuals at greater risk for nutrient deficiencies and unwanted metabolic changes, while also increasing risk for disordered eating and a damaged relationship with food. The alternative is to choose a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and good sources of protein. Supplementation can be useful but should be specific, individualized, and of high-quality. 

Do you have follow up questions about fad diets, or how to combat them as an online nutrition coach? Send me an email at and let me know. Seriously, I want to hear from you!

If you are a dietitian looking to start your own nutrition coaching business, you are in the right place. I’m proud to be a part of the movement of dietitian entrepreneurs who are making more IMPACT and more INCOME! Check out some of our FREE resources below. 

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