Special to Iredell Free News

It’s hard to open a magazine, scroll through social media, watch TV, or even walk through grocery store aisles without seeing or hearing about the next miracle weight loss program. The weight loss landscape is ever-changing, and popular fad diets seem to always grab our attention, promising quick results with minimal effort.

In fact, fad diets grab consumers’ attention so well that the United States weight loss industry has grown to a historic peak profit of $90 billion in 2023, according to marketresearch.com.

From popular weight loss plans, to ketogenic diets, to intermittent fasting and to everything in between, these trendy diets often garner popularity before fading into obscurity or the next program comes along.

But, why are fad diets so enticing, and what makes them unsustainable in the long run?

When it comes to fad diets, ample research and nutrition experts, like Alyssa Sharp, registered dietitian at Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center, agree that fad diets are not sustainable.

March is National Nutrition Month, a good time to discuss the importance of a balanced, healthy eating plan and lifestyle changes to your overall health.

Why are fad diets unsustainable?

“Fad diets are typically restrictive, expensive, offer quick weight loss, and often leave us feeling hungry and unsatisfied. And once we stop the diet, we go back to our regular eating habits. There is research that demonstrates both pros and cons to fad diets, but ultimately, we know they don’t work — otherwise we would have stuck to the first one we tried,” said Sharp.

Alyssa Sharp

According to Sharp, losing weight from a fad diet can initially make you feel great, but once you stop the diet, all the weight comes back, plus more.

“This means your metabolism has slowed down and your body required even less calories to sustain your current weight. So, if you continue to consume the same amount of calories as you previously did, you will pack on the weight even faster,” she said.

How can I spot a fad diet?

Luckily, spotting a fad diet is relatively easy and straightforward.

One of the most common ways to spot a fad diet is if the diet promises quick and easy weight loss. Habit and lifestyle changes are very possible, but they are not typically fast and can be challenging.

Sharp says that if the program is selling you something, it’s a fad diet. Whether it’s meals, supplements, or snacks — don’t fall for it.

“Another way you can spot a fad diet is if the diet is very restrictive, meaning it is cutting out multiple food groups or food. There should be no good or bad foods, you should just eat healthy options more often and other foods in small amounts, 1-2 times a week. You should look for a program that will teach you how to incorporate all foods into your diet in a healthy way,” she said.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you should also be suspicious of a diet if it has anecdotal endorsements, either first-person endorsements or from celebrities or influencers. The AHA encourages making sure the person endorsing the diet has appropriate credentials and expertise, such as being affiliated with a reputable university, research organization, or publication.

What are some sustainable changes I can make instead of fad diets?

“Sustainable habits will look different for everyone because we all have different starting points,” said Sharp.

Some key components to life-long sustainable habits are portion control, consistent eating patterns, honoring hunger cues, moderation, variety, and including foods you enjoy. Sharp also encourages you to be open-minded when trying new foods.

“And, if you have a hiccup in the road, get back on track. This is typically where I see people struggle. They say, ‘I was doing well for about six months, then ‘insert life event’ happened, and I got off track.’ Creating new habits takes a long time, and our schedules are constantly changing, so it’s important to constantly evaluate your health and nutrition needs and ensure you have strategies and routines in place that can be adapted when your life is changing,” said Sharp.


Sharp is a registered dietitian at Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center located at 235 N. Main Street in Troutman. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Sharp, speak with your primary care provider about a referral. To learn more, call the Wellness Center at 704- 878-4556.

“Everybody is different. Continue to focus on your progress, and don’t shame yourself for not being perfect. No one is,” said Sharp.

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; two urgent care centers; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,800 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s second campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.