I am a sucker for fads.
At least I used to be. I believed that my insulin spikes from eating a carb without protein were making me fat, that as long as I kept my carbs under control calories didn’t matter. I believed that grains and gluten were keeping me from losing weight. Then, when that didn’t work, I found another fad to believe in: cutting out all meat, intermittent fasting, “detoxing”… and the list goes on.
Then when I learned what really causes weight loss and actually started seeing results, I really regretted all the time I spent spinning my wheels with crazy unsustainable fads.
I wouldn’t consider myself an overly gullible person, and I’m guessing you aren’t either. So why is it that we fall prey to these crazy fads that are backed by absolutely no science?
And why doesn’t “create healthy habits and avoid overeating” catch on the same way that these crazy complicated plans do?
There is a pattern I’ve seen for why these fads spread like wildfire. They all have very similar characteristics; even if the nutrition plans are very different. Knowing what these are can help you recognize a fad, and also understand why it’s so easy to be sucked in.
A (seemingly) logical argument: Ask any diet guru who promotes a theory, and they will have a very detailed explanation for why their plan is right and everyone else is wrong: our ancestors ate this way, our bodies aren’t meant to digest meat, wheat is different than it used to be, because hormones…and on and on. And when you first hear this explanation, you think: “yeah, that makes a lot of sense.” But once you look deeper at the science (if you know how to) you see that their argument is full of holes. The problem is most people won’t question it if it sounds legit enough.
High gossip potential: So you’re sitting around with a bunch of friends and they are all talking about the new diet craze whatever it is. Everyone’s heard about it, and the few that don’t sit in rapt amazement. So you add your two cents: “I’m eating sensible portions and cooking with more vegetables.” BO-RING! All of the sudden, you’re the one feeling awkward because your topic of conversation so much less exciting to talk about than theirs. The fact is, these things are intriguing to talk about. We all want to hear about the latest and greatest and feel like we’re in on it. Because it’s so much more exciting to talk about, more people hear about it, and because of the seemingly logical argument, more people believe it and in turn, talk about it more.
Air of superiority: Have you noticed that these diet pushers always claim that they know something everyone else doesn’t, or won’t admit? Like that all the doctors and dieticians are wrong, or that they have a scientific secret that no one else outside of their fad diet world has figured out yet. It makes their followers feel powerful… and powerfully mislead. Every time I say calories are what really matter in weight, someone out there is thinking: “oh she just doesn’t know any better.” And that’s just not true… I have studied it all, and I know what science is and what it isn’t. But the fact is, when you’re following one of these fads you get mistakenly sucked into the idea that you know better and are smarter than all those people who are still eating grains, dairy, toxins, meat… whatever.
So here’s the trick: the next time you hear a theory or idea, ask yourself if it has these three qualities. If it does, there’s a good chance that it is a fad. Instead of believing it right off the bat, question the logic, look at the science behind it, and decide for yourself. Then you won’t get stuck believing in a fad that keeps you spinning your wheels and without actually seeing results.