The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines fad dieting as short-term quick fixes that actually set many dieters up for weight-loss failure.

Companies promising the easiest and fastest method to weight-loss are nothing new or out of the ordinary. However, with the way fad diets are communicated to consumers it can be difficult to distinguish between a fad diet and a healthy lifestyle change.

The Promise of Health

Fad diets promise consumers quick weight-loss with little effort. However, with this speedy weight-loss comes the false promise of health.

Communications for fad diets have attempted to create the correlation between losing weight quickly to being healthier. They market skinny as being healthy.

Some of the most famous fad diets include the South Beach Diet, the Paleo Diet, and Slim-Fast.

The South Beach Diet, for example, offers a three-phase solution to weight-loss. The diet begins by cut out almost all carbohydrates entirely in order to reduce cravings for foods high in sugar and refined starches. Over time, carbohydrates are gradually reintroduced into the diet and protein is gradually reduced. Many of the other fad diets listed above are low-carb or carb-free diets, in fact, the Paleo diet eliminates grains and simple carbohydrates entirely.

Slim-Fast, on the other hand, is a meal replacement system which encourages consumers to replace two meals a day with their pre-packaged products, such as a shake or bar, and eat one regular 500 calories meal a day.

While these fad diets aren’t necessarily considered extreme, more intense fad diets exist and are being marketed and sold to consumers. Diets such as the Raw Food Diet, the Blood-Type Diet, the Cookie Diet, and the Master Cleanse are all used by consumers with the hope of fast weight-loss.

The Blood-Type diet bases dietary needs and restrictions on individual blood type. For example, blood type A is encouraged to eat a vegetarian diet and completely eliminate meat. The Master Cleanse actually eliminates food entirely. For 10 days straight, followers of the Master Cleanse consume nothing but a lemonade recipe and laxatives.

What is a Fad Diet?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines a fad diet as having any of these five claims: rapid weight-loss, quantities and limitations, specific food combinations, rigid menus, or no need to exercise.

Fad dieting rides off of a consumer’s need and desire to be healthy and fit. They communicate rapid weight-loss as being healthy, rather than a short-term solution to a long-term problem of health. For example, Slim-Fast even markets in their name that they are a speedy weight-loss solution. Consumers of this diet are told that if they change two meals a day to a Slim-Fast brand product, rapid weight-loss is inevitable.

The Master Cleanse for example, is attempting to communicate health through lack of eating solid foods. On their website, the diet is described as “a liquid diet that provides a healthy amount of calories and nutrients specifically suited for weight-loss and cleansing.” The Master Cleanse meets all of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ qualifications of a fad diet.

These five claims, on-their-own and combined, present an image of perfect and certain plan to weight-loss. They promise ease and effectiveness, which is what consumers want when it comes to their health. Consumers are looking to get healthy and fit, and fad diets make that promise.

Weight-Loss = Happiness

Fad diets make the promise of speedy and easy weight-loss. According to these diets’ communications strategy, this weight-loss will make you happier and healthier.

A common theme amongst these diets is the image they project of their consumers enjoying their diet and weight-loss. All of these diets’ website include images of people, mostly women, looking happy and enjoying life. Some even picture them smiling on a scale or in the kitchen, something that people who want to lose weight desire. Some contain messages such “You deserve to look and feel great!” But all are communicating the same message: that they are the path to weight-loss success and therefore, a happier life.

These companies and weight-loss plans are communicating to their consumers that joining their program, or following their plan, will lead to faster weight-loss and increased happiness and of course, in some cases it is likely true. By joining their weight-loss plan, you can be the woman dancing with her Slim-Fast shake or the man skipping around the beach with his Paleo wife.

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