What You Can and Can’t Learn from Fad Diets

Atkins, Zone, Weight Watchers, Paleo, South Beach, Slim Fast-all examples of fad diets.

Almost anyone looking for weight loss or a change in body composition has tried one or more of these at some point in their life.  Is it a bad thing?  No, not necessarily.  Can you move toward your goals with these fad diets?  Possibly.  Can you maintain eating by their rules for the rest of your life (and stay mentally sane while doing so)?  They’re called “fad diets” for a reason and here’s where it gets tricky….

Fad diets are not ALL bad, but they’re also not very sustainable.  Sure, bell-bottoms and trucker hats were fun for a while, but truthfully, only a few people are disappointed they aren’t fashion staples.  So, let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of these restrictive, highly-marketed diets.

What You CAN Learn from Fad Diets:

1 They’re a starting point—What comes along with fad diets?  A set of rules; what to eat and what not to eat.  Yes, at first it sounds great!  I can only eat what I can hunt and gather?  Sounds simple enough.  Some people need this strict set of rules to get the ball rolling on their new journey.  Packaged shakes to replace two meals?  An easy start that doesn’t even require meal prep.

2 Portion control—Many of these diets outline portion control, either limiting number of calories per day or establishing appropriate sizes of foods for each meal.  I’ll speak from experience: the Zone Diet taught me A TON about portion sizes and understanding what nutrient and nutrient amounts make up food.  Understanding measurements and learning how to “eye-ball” or “hand measure” portions is a great skill and I won’t discredit many of these diets for helping teach that.

3 Experience new foods/recipes—Sometimes starting a new diet can introduce you to new foods and recipes.  Searching for new foods that fit in with outlined rules can lead to more education about what macronutrients make up foods as well.  How will you find high-protein foods without doing a bit of research?  What healthy high-fat food can replace my afternoon Doritos?  At times, these diets lead us to finding healthy foods that may became our new go-to snack.

What You CAN’T Learn from Fad Diets:

1 Guilt-free eating and balance—“Oh no, I just ate 5g of fat over my recommended daily intake.  What do I do????”  Well, let’s start with a few deep breaths and some woosahs.  It’s really not the end of the world and the stress and anxiety over it is probably doing more harm than good (think: high cortisol, insulin resistance, loss of sleep, low energy, and the list goes on).  When fad diets restrict certain types or groups of foods, you’re still exerting energy and causing stress with the efforts to avoid these foods.  I’m not saying that certain foods shouldn’t be limited, but let’s think  like this: if I say, “Don’t think about pizza”—what is the first thought that comes to mind?

2 How to individualize your nutrition needs and change the way you’re eating as your body changes—Fad diets are marketed to the masses.  They’re supposed to help anyone and everyone lose weight.  Unfortunately, these fad diets know nothing about you as an individual and often, the recommendations (other than sometimes calorie intake) do not change as your body changes.  Yes, some of these diets teach you how to add back in the initially restricted foods, for example, adding back in carbs with the South Beach Diet.  However, none of them are taking into account the individual changes you’re making with multiple measures (body fat %, measurements, weight, energy levels, etc).  None of them are basing their nutrition recommendations off of performance, activity level, or any other form of feedback from you, the person looking for progress.

3 Social aspect of food—Dining can be a very social activity.  People plan events around meals, use food and drink as a conversation topic, and typically dine with others on a daily basis and for multiple meals.  Of course, any goal you set will involve some social changes, but if you find yourself completely disengaging from friends or standing on the outskirts of the party chewing sugar-free gum…well, that’s not where I’d want to be!  The restrictions that come with fad diets can lead to decreased socialization and sometimes increased stress.  Many people aren’t sure how to juggle a social life and their diet plan, so they feel forced to choose one over the other.  Fad diets can neglect to teach how to balance this part of life, leading to people feeling like they’ve sabotaged their entire diet plan with a night out or choosing to be recluse to avoid “falling off the wagon”.

Fad diets can be an organized jump-start for someone looking to explore new foods or change the way they eat.  However, for long-term change and progress, nutrition management focused on individualized education and recommendations that are based on frequent performance and body composition assessments is the better route.

Meal plans usually suck. Here are 6 better ways to transform your diet. — Blog – Precision Nutrition

Almost every client starts out asking for a meal plan. The only problem? Meal plans usually suck. Instead of considering yet another doomed eating regimen, check out these 6 ways to transform your diet in a sustainable way. ++++ “Do I get a meal plan?” This is the most common question we get from folks…

via Meal plans usually suck. Here are 6 better ways to transform your diet. — Blog – Precision Nutrition

Pumpkin Banana Oat Balls

These pumpkin banana oat balls are super easy and don’t even need to be baked!  Chill for a cold, soft treat or bake for a little crunch!  They’re perfect for a pre- or post- workout snack and can be packed for 0n-the-go.  One batch makes about 12 servings.


*Almond flour can be subbed for coconut flour.




Help! I can’t throw away food!

Today, as I browsed through Precision Nutrition’s Facebook page and blog, two things stood out to me.

This article by Krista Scott-Dixon: The Perfect Time

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Specifically, this part:


And this post:


So, both of these are true statements, and overcoming these limiting factors is not always easy either.  “Red light” or “trigger foods” are those foods that we cannot stop ourselves from eating in large, indulgent portions.  This could mean candy, doughnuts, cookies, beer….but it can refer to “healthy” foods too, maybe, handfuls of almonds.

Making sure these items are out of the house is key to success.  It doesn’t mean that you can NEVER have them again, but they’re not sitting next to you, tempting you, torturing you, and putting you through a stress that is not necessary.  But what about when they’re already in the house?  Yes, a kitchen overhaul is sometimes necessary.  This means going through everything in your kitchen and deciding what stays and what needs to go.  This can be a difficult process, but not everyone falls into this category either.

What about the people who have a couple of things in the house that are calling their name and they’re fighting against it because they just can’t bare to waste food or make themselves throw it out?  Maybe you’ve been in that position before.  “Well, it’s the last box of cookies I’ll buy and then I’ll focus on being healthy.”  But then somehow another box ends up in the pantry and the cycle starts over.  (And maybe you weren’t even the one to bring that second box in the house).

I cannot stand to waste food or throw it out.  Most of the time my kitchen stays fairly in order with the occasional “red light” foods slipping in every now and then.  But it doesn’t really call for a kitchen overhaul and it’s not enough food for me to bag up and take to a food pantry to donate.

So, those of us in the latter category: what do we do instead?  I’ve thought of some ideas:

Start by dividing the large quantity items into individually packaged, smaller quantities.

  1. Store these snack bags in a few locations (work, gym bag, car) so they’re not all accessible at once. This can deter you from giving in to that urge to “eat them all quickly so they’re gone fast!”
  2. Hand out the prepared snack bags to the homeless.  Nutrients are important for everyone and when you’re in need, food is food.  Keep the bagged snacks in the trunk of your car (where you can’t reach them when you’re driving).  
  3. Share the guilt with your co-workers or friends.  I really do mean this in the kindest way.  With the treats in small portions, your co-workers will feel less inclined to take as much as they want (potentially sabotaging their own health goals).

It’s important to remember that progress is progress and even making small, manageable changes will result in progress.  Comment below and share what you do to get rid of those “red light” foods and stay on track.

Easy Coconut Flour Pizza Crust


This coconut flour crust is super easy and only has three ingredients.  One serving has almost 15g of protein, 17g of fat, and 10g of carbs with 5g of fiber.

Plus, it’s gluten-free, if that’s your thing!

Toppings are up to you, but here’s the recipe for the crust.

2TBSP Coconut Flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

2TBSP Canned Coconut Milk (I use Kroger brand or Thai Kitchen—not the lite kind)

2 Large Eggs

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth, but not runny (no lumps/clumps).
  2. Sprinkle in basil, oregano, and grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
  3. Heat skillet with small amount of coconut oil or spray. Spoon mixture into pan and fry like pancake. Once crust is cooked through and can be flipped with ease, transfer to a baking sheet or pizza stone.
  4. Add sauce and pizza toppings (pre-cooked if using meat) of your choice, bake in the oven at 350 until cheese melts and pizza warms, approximately 15 minutes.