Pounds just rebound with fad diets

With the garland and mistletoe stored away for another year, many Canadians are now left to face this year`s challenge: the New Year’s resolution.


Increasing physical activity, eating healthier and balancing budgets are among the common New Year’s resolutions individuals set to achieve or improve over the course of the year.


Also common is the increase in commercial or “fad” diets. The term commercial (fad) diet refers to the latest diet idea or craze (usually weight loss) which commonly feature claims such as “more energy”, “better memory” and “quick and easy weight loss” if you follow the rules of the diet. However, these claims generally lack scientific evidence and are based on an extremely restrictive diet. 


A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association performed a comparative study among four popular commercial diets: Akins (carbohydrate restriction), Zone (micronutrient restriction), Weight Watchers (calorie restriction) and  Ornish (fat restriction).


The study revealed that although a moderate weight loss was seen among each group regardless of the diet, approximately 25 per cent of individuals in each group adhered to the diet for one year. Commercial diets focus on the food rather than the underlying behaviours; which can explain why they fail to provide individuals with long-term weight loss and maintenance.


Additionally, these diets restrict key macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, protein) which may cause more harm than good. Carbohydrates are the brain’s main source for energy and, therefore, extreme restrictions are dangerous.


Fat is used to cushion the neurons of the nervous system which aids in the transmission of information from the brain to the rest of your body and visa versa. Additionally, fat is required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the body which also have key roles in the body.


Lastly, protein helps to support growth and maintenance of tissue and helps build antibodies which are the defence mechanism of the immune system. 


As mentioned, fad diets do not consider behavioural modification needed for long-term weight loss and maintenance.


Behavioral  techniques such as keeping food diaries and activity records may help to identify environmental stimuli that activate eating. Additionally, setting goals, meal planning and nutrition education may help individuals better understand the role of food and further encourage living a healthier lifestyle.

The University of Western Ontario offers students free services that can establish healthy habits and lifestyle:


Free access to a registered dietitian (www.usc.uwo.ca/nutritionist)


·        Free gym membership through campus recreation (www.campusrec.uwo.ca)


·        Free peer counselling through Student Health Services ( call 519-661-3030 to book your appointment to attend a Sleep, Fitness and Nutrition session which run every Tuesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at Student Health Services – Room 11, lower level UCC)


It`s important to set realistic, achievable goals. Using behavioural techniques may help to identify the non-nutritive factors that influence weight gain. Restrictive fad diets for the most part, are short-term weight loss techniques where, long-term maintenance is unlikely and weight gain is probable.


Using Canada’s food guide to healthy eating along with regular physical activity can help you achieve a healthier lifestyle and maintain it.  


Building an energetic, efficient, healthy body requires a variety of wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, milk (and alternatives) as well as meat (and alternatives).


For a free copy of Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Living, visit www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/ or visit Student Health Service in Room 11, lower level UCC.

The writer is a Food and Nutrition student at Brescia University College.