Fad diets always find a way to locate and target new victims. Dieting guidelines are plastered all over magazines, social media influencers are constantly promoting new fitness tips and somebody’s mother is always more than willing to give out unsolicited weight loss tricks. Dieting is such a large part of American pop culture — and seems to always have been. So what has changed about the “dieting scene” since 2020? Quarantine weight gain has motivated many Americans to turn to all sorts of fad diets to try to lose a lot of weight at a really fast pace, without realizing that these decisions can come with some unwanted “post-result” results.
What makes fad diets so popular? Society sets people of every age, gender and race to a very high (and oftentimes unrealistic) beauty standard. It is no surprise that many choose to take their problem to social media to find quick ways to shed unwanted weight. Fad diets became popular — and remain popular — because they are constantly in demand by people who fall for the tricks. These diets disregard standard dietary recommendations and promise unreasonably quick weight loss or unrealistic and nonsensical improvements to a person’s overall health.
People want a quick and easy “fix” to a “problem” that society made them believe they have, whether it be young adults comparing themselves to models or working moms comparing themselves to fitness-moms, or fitness lovers comparing themselves to bodybuilders. Everybody wants to make changes to themselves in order to obtain these unobtainable beauty standards, and fad diets play into the fantasy that weight loss can be fast and easy. This is especially true now that society is slowly opening back up post-quarantine, and people are scrambling to get their pre-coronavirus bodies back.
Just like with anything else in pop culture, fad diets come and go and often change. According to writer Karla Walsh in her article, “These Are the 4 Most Popular Diets of 2020,” intermittent fasting is one of the most popular diets right now. What is intermittent fasting? Writer Kris Gunnars explains it well in his article, “Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.” Gunnars explains that this diet focuses on creating an eating pattern that “cycles between periods of fasting and eating.” There are several different methods of doing this diet, and that is a huge reason behind why it so popular. This diet forces one to reduce their caloric intake, which results in weight loss, and it is flexible so a person can choose the particular method that works best for them.
Going back to Karla Walsh’s article, the ketogenic (high-fat) diet is listed as the third most popular diet of 2020. The ketogenic (or just keto, for short) is a “low carb, high fat diet,” according to writer Rudy Mawer in his article, “The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto.” The whole point of the keto diet is to “drastically” reduce carbohydrate intake and replace it with fats and high-fat foods. The drastic reduction of carbohydrates puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. As a result, the body becomes “incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy.”
Like intermittent fasting, the keto diet can be done in several different ways, like choosing to vary carbohydrate intake. However, some of the methods are more advanced and are primarily for bodybuilders or athletes. This diet has a long list of foods that need to be avoided, including all fruits except small portions of berries, beans or legumes, some condiments, and alcohol. As previously stated, the goal is to maintain a very low carbohydrate intake. The ketogenic diet is so popular that there are more than enough tips and tricks on the internet for beginners or those who need recipe inspiration. This does not seem too bad, does it?
So, what is making fad diets more popular than they normally are? The simple answer is the fact that the whole world has been in quarantine for quite some time now. Isolation mixed with high amounts of stress has caused many people to gain some weight. In pop culture, this has come to be referred to as “the Quarantine 15” and many are sharing their stories of how they were affected by weight gain during these trying times. Now that big companies and small businesses are beginning to reemerge after being closed down for a long period of time, people are starting to realize that their old clothes don’t fit anymore.
Distraught people all over the world are taking to the internet to find fast and easy ways to burn unwanted fat, fast. It’s not hard to find a perfect and magical diet that will shed fat quickly. All it takes is typing four words into the Google search bar, “post quarantine weight loss,” and thousands of titles will pop up with promising names: “Post-Quarantine Detox Program,” “Lockdown Recipes,” “Sandra Lee is Doing a Cleanse,” “Cooking Low-Carb,” and so on and so forth. There is a surplus of websites providing dietary advice on how to lose weight, and now is the perfect time for them to be doing it. They’re all targeting people who are looking to burn fat by doing nothing, and many people end up falling for the lie that it’s possible to lose a lot of weight very fast (and still be healthy while doing so).
One question still remains. Are fad diets really all that bad if they are so popular? The answer is yes! They’re popular because they promise a quick fix and magical results all while putting strict restrictions on entire food groups or nutrients. One perfect example of this is the ketogenic diet, which promises fast weight loss by severely restricting carbohydrates. So, what makes fad diets bad? An article titled “Weight loss and fad diets” from BetterHealth offers helpful insights on why fad diets are unhealthy, one of the most blatant reasons being that they can actually cause health problems instead of solving them. Because fad diets often require the restriction of key foods, there may be severe symptoms. Just to list a few: dehydration, weakness and fatigue, nausea and headaches, constipation and inadequate vitamin intake.
There is a high chance that fad diets are not even safe long term. While it is true that these diets may help shed pounds fast, it’s not a maintainable lifestyle and many people gain back all the weight they lost, if not more. This results in more panic and a vicious cycle of restrictive dieting and weight gain. A helpful article, titled “3 Reasons Why Diet Fads Don’t Work,” offers insights that bust the myth of fad diets’ magical weight loss. This article points out that fad diets are impractical because most fad diets do not provide sustainable dietary changes.
So, what should be done to lose the Quarantine 15 if fad diets don’t work? Many dieticians, doctors and authors will agree that a balanced eating plan is the way to go. This is the healthiest way to become healthy. It does not promise a fast and easy fix, but it does promise to be sustainable — something that fad diets will simply never be. It’s important to not ignore the body’s needs and to not try to forcefully restrict any food groups or nutrients. The best things take time and that includes healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Popular fad diets will always be around, and they will always shift and change, but the reason that they shift and change is because people eventually realize that all the weight they have lost has come back, or they have fallen ill due to restrictions, or some other complications arise. Because of this, the media has to come up with a new magical cure. It is important to follow healthy and balanced eating plans in order to make healthy changes even if the media is promoting toxic weight-loss dietary plans to quickly lose the quarantine weight gain.