How to Avoid the Diet Craze and Get Real Results


How to Avoid the Diet Craze:

5 Practical Tips, Professional Advice, and an Action Plan

The health and fitness industry inundates us with options.  For anyone truly striving to make positive, healthy change, it can be overwhelming.  Who do we trust?  What program should we follow?  Is vegan best?  What about Keto?  What experts should we believe?  
Rather than drowning in information, get back to the basics.  

Ground yourself in these 5 Practical Tips.

Follow this simple Action Plan.

Protect Yourself from a Bad Diet.

1.    If it Sounds Too Good to be True, it Probably Is

Anyone who’s struggled with weight-loss has struggled with the reality that change is tough.  It’s easy to fall for the tempting promise that we just need a quick, simple fix to change everything.  However, a lifetime of bad habits has built our bodies and shaped our routines.  It’s not just the “bad part that has done damage to us.  It’s also the “habits” part that can make it so hard to change.  Giving up your French fries and ice cream in place of sweet potato fries and banana Nice cream can uncomfortable.  However, with a PLAN in place and a COMMUNITY to support you, anything is possible.

Action: Think long-term

Rather than hoping for an instant cure, spend time investing in a long-term plan.  

  • Spend energy getting involved with healthy-eating communities.
  • Make time to add cooking and meal prep to your weekly routine. 
  • Indulge in the motivational quotes and inspirational stories that will stay with you even when you are tempted to fall into old bad habits.
Helpful Tip: Make time to add cooking and meal prep to your weekly routine.
Helpful Tip: Make time to add cooking and meal prep to your weekly routine.
Action: Make Time to add cooking and meal prep to your weekly routine. A few hours a weekend can set the stage for healthy eating all week
Action: Make Time to add cooking and meal prep to your weekly routine. A few hours a weekend can set the stage for healthy eating all week.

2.    Push Aside Pills and Powders

This follows the same idea of “Too Good to be True”.  However, the pill-pushers are getting sneakier.  I recently took a phone call from a fellow “Well-Being advocate”.  We bonded for a bit over our shared passion to get people to eat a more plant-based diet.  As our conversation continued, though, I began hearing the sales pitch for a super pill promising to provide all the vital nutrition we need in a day.

It’s not just me.  With clever TV commercials, pop-up ads, and social media promotions, first the fantasy draws you in.  “Tired of Being Tired?  Sick of that extra Belly Fat? Get Healthy!  Feel Great!  It’s Easy!”

Then they knock you over the head with some fancy-pants unicorn powder and a label listing 30 ingredients that you don’t understand.  But “Don’t Worry”, they tell you.  “It’s all Organic, GMO-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan”.  

Action:  Get Real (Foods)  

If a pill brags about the energy-boost from greens, then just eat real greens.  If a powder is pumped full of the super-power of cranberries, then eat whole cranberries. See an ad for beet supplements? Eat real beets. There’s no need to waste your money on fancy labels and beautiful packaging.  Keep your money in your wallet and real food on your plate.

Andrea Wise, Chicago Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach
Andrea Wise, Chicago Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach

Pro Tip:  Check the Ingredients

Andrea Wise, elite Chicago fitness trainer and owner of Andrea Wise Lifestyle, reminds us to “Check the ingredients… the fewer ingredients the better. If you can’t pronounce it, try and avoid it.  Just because something says “organic” it doesn’t mean it is “healthy.”

3.    Be Careful of Diet Reincarnates

What’s old is new again in the diet industry.  

Remember Atkins?  Remember how we all laughed when it turned out that eating bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast might not be as healthy as we’d like it to be?  In the past 20 years since Atkins died, it has reincarnated with some new names:

  • Ketogenic:  This “new” diet is based on the same fundamentals as Atkins:  High-fat, low-carbs, plenty of protein.  A day on Keto looks much like a day on Atkins with bacon for breakfast, a bun-less burger for lunch, and roasted chicken for dinner.
  • Paleo: It pushes aside the carbs in fruit for unlimited fat in wild-caught salmon.  Your waist my shrink the first 2 weeks you give up dairy, but your cholesterol will soar.
  • Similar incarnates include the Dash Diet, Fertility Diet, and the Blood Sugar Diet.  

While some of these might allow a couple of whole grains on the plate, the focus is still on eating more animal protein and fat.  The marketers will try to sell you on the same story you bought 10 years ago.  The same basic dieting principles are the same; they’ve just been given a shiny new package.  Be careful.  

Action:  Trust Science

Science might evolve, but it doesn’t change.  A 2014 study compared all of the popular “fad” diets. It came to the basic conclusion:  “Real Food” is the winner.   “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.” (Atlantic Online)

The truth of a whole-foods, plant-based diet has sustained healthy communities for centuries.  Rip off that shiny Reincarnated Atkins packaging and look deeper into the basic tenets.

Lori Bumbaco, RDN, CSO, LDN at Cancer Wellness Center
Lori Bumbaco, RDN, CSO, LDN at Cancer Wellness Center

Pro Tip: Think Long Term

While many of these fad diets promise short-term results, they don’t promote long-term health. Lori Bumbaco (RDN, CSO, LDN)  Oncology Dietitian at the Cancer Wellness Center warns us to “Watch out for a diet like Whole 30.  Sure, many people who are initially motivated can lose weight regardless of the diet plan they follow. The trick to keep off this weight is the follow through.  What’s going to promote health in 1 month…2 months…the rest of your life?”

4.  Watch out for “No”

  • No Starches…
  • No Carbs…
  • No Sugar…

Some diets focus exclusively on what we can’t have.  For many of us, hearing the word “No” can simply create a deeper craving for a food.  Our willpower is a muscle.  Diets that are overly restrictive can fatigue our willpower muscle so much that we become preoccupied with what’s missing.  

Action: Focus on Overall Health

Pro Tip: Say “Yes” to Healthy Habits

Rather than focusing on what we can’t eat, Lori Bumbaco reminds us to work on saying “yes” to healthy habits.  Working to create an overall lifestyle of wellness can be much more realistic and enjoyable.  Set goals like:

Focus on the healthy foods and lifestyle routines that support overall wellness.

Homemade Paparadelle Pasta
Many fad diets restrict you by saying “no” to pasta, potatoes, and other plant-based carbohydrates


5.    Do a Double-Check: Certification + Experience

When looking at the name behind any diet protocol, you want to ensure the person handing out the advice has the authority to do so.  Check for two things:

  • 1.    Certification
  • 2.    Experience

Certifications can come from universities, professional conventions, on-line programs (like Cornell University’s Plant-Based Certification or NASM’s Precision Nutrition), and continuing education workshops.  These certifications require attendees to pass a standardized test to prove their knowledge.  This helps ensure that all professionals at this level are sharing the same fundamental education.  

Experience comes when those professionals apply their book smarts to clients in the real world.  As much as we can read about calorie counting and glycemic index in a textbook, implementing that knowledge on the specific needs of individual clients is a totally different story.

Kendall College Chef Coat.jpg

Experience + Certification

When figuring out who to trust, double-check for experience + certification.  Anyone can call herself “Chef” but a degree from a culinary school shows a higher level of knowledge

I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years.  

Hands-down, I can say my initial certification was essential to giving me the basic understanding of body mechanics, anatomy, and exercise.  However, my 15 years’ experience has helped shaped that knowledge to fit the thousands of different bodies that have trusted me with exercise and nutrition advice.  

A health “professional” just out of school with only a handful of clients under her belt?  She just isn’t ready.  A life-long gym rat who’s trained all of his buddies but never bothered to learn the science of catabolic energy consumption?  Also unqualified.  You can’t have one without the other.

Actions:  Click on the About Me section

When you’re on a website or thinking of buying a new diet book, find the About Me section.  Check for both experience and certifications.  In real-life, ask to see proof of both.  Any professional should openly be ready to share her accreditation.  If she seems offended or changes the topic?  Walk away.  Do not trust her with your health.

Kendall College Chef Coat
Kendall College Chef Coat: Culinary School teaches essential technique to certifiy someone as a chef

Action Plan Recap:

1.    Think long-term, lifestyle changes
2.    Eat real, whole foods
3.    Trust science to cut through the packaging of fake diet promises
4.    Focus on Overall Health
5.    Double-check experience and certification

What do you Think?

Have your own helpful tips and advice? Want to share one of your “bad diet” experiences? Use the comment section below.


Join the Discussion

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  • Sensible article. I was surprised however, to see in an article that de-bunks diet fads; a reference to an exercise fad! “10,000 Steps,” which leads people to believe they will stay fit by moseying around; as long as it’s 10,000 steps. ????. The author would have impressed me more if she said: “after clean up your diet, take up speed walking, running, cycling, skating, something to raise your heart-rate for at least an hour. Moseying around, even 20,000 steps will not get you fit! It’s another fad to sell those “Fit-Bits” or Apple Watches!” $$$!
    Sign me:
    Plant-based cyclist; turning 60, and never looked better in my life!

    • Thanks, Judi. Great point. I think it’s funny as 10,000 sometimes becomes a “diet” for people. It’s 90% diet and 10% fitness. Sounds like you’re incredibly fit! Keep it up!