Nearly a century ago, one of the first fad diets, known as the Hollywood or grapefruit diet, suggested that eating the tart fruit with every meal was the secret to staying thin. It wasn’t. But that didn’t stop diets from ballooning into a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. You wouldn’t know it from reading the promotional materials of all the apps, guidebooks, and influencers promising to help you shed pounds, but there’s a lot that researchers and physicians still don’t understand about weight loss. The one thing experts are fairly certain of is that dieting rarely works in the long run. Science suggests that there are many reasons for this, ranging from genetics to the kinds of foods available to us, as well as how the body reacts when we suddenly change how we eat.
“We’re oversimplifying the effect of ‘calories in and calories out’ without considering all the complexities of the physiology of the body’s natural desire to want to regain weight,” says Holly F. Lofton, director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone.
Here’s what we know about how fad diets set us up for failure—and why emphasizing goals other than weight loss may be the key to improving your health.
Investigating diets: What exactly is a diet? At its most basic, the term refers to nutritional and lifestyle changes that a person makes to improve their health, Lofton says. Not all “diets” are bad or misguided; certain diets are essential for managing medical conditions, such as avoiding gluten if you have celiac disease.
Excerpted from Popular Science