The truth is that most diets cannot produce sustainable weight loss over time. A recent study comparing 14 popular diets shows that weight reduction and health improvements disappeared after 12 months.1
Yet the diet industry rakes in over $20 billion annually by selling a weight loss pipe dream through diet plans and eating programs. So which diets are the worst in leaving individuals high and dry in long-term weight loss, improved health, and overall sustainability?
Let’s look at the most popular diets that do not work.
The Atkins Diet
When it comes to diets that lack credibility, there’s no better place to start than the Atkins Diet. Atkins is a high-protein, low-carb diet that restricts daily carb intake to under 20 grams. A large part of the diet focuses on protein-rich food sources like meat and cheese. Otherwise, Atkins followers have very few restrictions regarding calorie count. Atkins started over two decades ago, in 1990. While it may deliver short-term weight loss, the Atkins Diet is anything but healthy. A diet high in fat and protein can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. Out of 40 people that followed Atkin’s diet over one year lost an average of 2 lbs. Bottom line: If you’re looking for a long-term solution, the Atkins Diet is not it.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet goes by many names (Caveman Diet, Stone Age Diet, or Hunter-Gatherer diet) based on foods consumed 10,000 years ago during the Paleolithic era. Similar to Atkins, the Paleo diet focuses on high-protein and low-carbohydrate foods. It recommends eating unprocessed foods such as meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits while avoiding grains, legumes, dairy, and heavily-processed foods. A maximum of 10% of daily calories are from carbs, making up the difference between protein and fat. The diet also encourages intermittent fasting and recommends drinking lots of water. Paleo dieters are allowed to eat as many low-carb vegetables and free to consume large amounts of meat and eggs. The lack of restriction causes overeating, which can sabotage someone’s weight loss goals.
The Dukan Diet
The Dukan Diet is an extreme eating plan that cycles between severe restrictions followed by short periods of binge eating. Dukan dieters are expected to consume just 800 calories per day for 20 consecutive days, followed by 10 days of protein-rich food daily. Similar to the Atkins diet, Dr. Pierre Dukan believed that if a person eats primarily lean protein and eliminates carbs and other foods such as vegetables and fruits, they can lose weight. The diet recommends eating one protein-rich food per day. You can also eat unlimited amounts of vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy. If you think that sounds miserable, you’re right. The National Library of Medicine compares this diet to a regular diet and found that the Dukan diet does not yield sustainable weight loss. It may pose health threats like kidney and liver disease, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
The Hollywood Diet is an extreme low-calorie weight loss program that helps you lose“10 pounds in 10 days.” And while it’s extreme, it is ineffective. The diet recommends consuming just 500 calories daily, which is simply unsustainable and can cause severe malnutrition or even death. Although it’s not an extremely low-carb diet like the previous diets, it’s heavily reliant on low-calorie shakes and bars. These are poor sources of nutrition, offering a fraction of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Your body will then go into starvation mode, causing you to have a feast response and gain weight. According to the Great Good Science Center, serious dieting increases a teen’s risk of developing an eating disorder to 1 out of 5—a risk that is only 1 out of 500 for kids who don’t diet.
The Grapefruit Diet
The Grapefruit Diet is a remarkably low-carb, low-calorie eating plan that requires followers to consume just one grapefruit daily. That’s it. It is inefficient, and here’s why. The diet does not recommend consuming any other fruits or veggies. Nor does it recommend consuming any grains, legumes, or dairy. And since grapefruits are relatively low in calories, the diet recommends adding calorie-rich ingredients to the diet, such as peanut butter. While the diet may deliver short-term weight loss, it’s unhealthy. According to Gary Foster at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weight and Eating Disorders Program, Only FIVE PERCENT of people who lose weight on a very restrictive diet (like a liquid or no-carb diet) keep the weight off. Those are terrible odds.
HCG Drops Diet
The HCG diet is based on consuming a synthetic form of the pregnancy hormone—Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). The diet recommends consuming only 500 calories per day while taking HCG. And while that may deliver short-term weight loss, it will not work in the long run. And it’s certainly not healthy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers to avoid HCG weight-loss products. There’s evidence to suggest that consuming a synthetic form of HCG can be harmful to your health.
The ketogenic diet (or keto) is a high-fat, low-carb diet that’s become extremely popular in recent years. It’s designed to put your body into a state of ketosis, which is when your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. When your body is burning fat, you’ll produce more ketones. Keto dieters aim to get 90% of their daily calories from fats, 5% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates. The keto diet is heavily reliant on fat — and lots of it. This diet recommends eating 90% of your daily calories as fat. Most of us should consume no more than 30% of our daily calories as fat, which is a pretty drastic difference. Excessive fat consumption can cause various health issues.
Harvard Health warns dieters of potential risks, including nutrient deficiency, liver problems, kidney problems, constipation, fuzzy thinking, and mood swings.” The brain needs sugar from healthy carbohydrates to function. Low-carb diets may cause confusion and irritability”.Those risks add up — so make sure you talk to a doctor and a registered dietitian before attempting a ketogenic diet.
Cutting Through the Hype of Fad Diets
There is no shortage of diets that try to catch your attention – and your wallet. Once you try one that doesn’t work, hundreds of more are created overnight in hopes of being the next trending diet program. The only problem is – you are the test subject.
It’s important to remember that these diets simply vary on two themes: low-carb and low-calorie. Although one may succeed from time to time with these diet plans, thousands will try and fail. The Lancet, evaluated deaths caused by diets. 11 million people died from the effects of a poor diet in 2017, mostly by contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease.
You can do a few things to stay on the right track and find a diet that works for you. It’s important to fact-check everything you read and hear. Finally, remember that 65% of dieters return to their pre-diet weight within three years. A poor diet — either lacking in healthy foods or containing too many unhealthy foods — can increase the risk of dying at an earlier age (especially from heart disease). If a diet sounds too good to be true… It probably is.