About 50% of people want to lose weight at any given moment. Another 30% of Americans want to bulk up and build noticeable muscle mass via resistance training.
But each of these things takes work.
And in a country where you can get food delivered in 15 minutes and stream any of your favorite TV shows on-demand at the snap of your fingers, you get used to immediate results.
Thus, fad diets were born.
Fad diets are eating plans that seemingly come out of nowhere and come with wild claims that would leave the average person thinking, “That can’t be possible!”
Some insist you can lose 30 pounds in 15 days.
Others promise to lower your blood pressure by 30 points.
A few swear you’ll add 10 pounds of muscle mass in a month.
Americans hop on fad diets without any sense of skepticism…all out of hope for a magic cure to achieve their ideal body.
But what are the common fad diets? And are they really that bad for you?
Well, take a look at the following 27 fad diet statistics, and you’ll find out!
Table of Contents
The Popularity of Fad Diets
- About 40% of people looking to lose weight will try a fad diet.
- Doctors find that an average of 3 or more patients will ask about fad diets daily.
- In the average lifetime, a person will attempt more than 126 fad diets.
- About 50% of the 45 million Americans who diet each year will attempt a fad diet.
- Nutritionists find that 1 or 2 patients daily will opt for a fad diet for quick weight loss rather than adopt permanent diet and exercise changes.
- Nearly 70% of fad diets will fail with a lack of exercise alongside the diet.
- About 65% of fad diet success stories will end up gaining back the weight they lost.
None of these statistics are surprising, to say the least.
Despite having access to data, statistics, journals, and articles by reputable sources asserting that most fad diets are scams or over-hyped, Americans still give them a try.
There seems to be a “Well, you never know!” approach and a little underlying confirmation bias. Maybe you won’t be able to cut your body fat down to 10% in three months.
But maybe you will!
On the other hand, you have to consider the sources putting these diets on public display.
When you have popular public figures like Dr. Oz hyping up his “secret” System 20 weight loss plan or Beyoncé advocating for the Lemonade Diet (which is essentially just laxatives), is it really surprising that Americans will take diet advice that seems crazy?
The keto diet doesn’t have any restrictions on calories, and the goal of this diet is to have you enter into a state of ketosis. So you’ll burn fat and ketones for fuel instead of carbs.
As a result, you should lose weight.
The keto diet usually has a 70/20/10 macro breakdown, meaning:
- 70% of your calories from fat
- 20% of your calories from protein
- 10% of your calories from carbs
Here are some interesting stats:
- Studies show that obese adults on the ketogenic diet can lose an average of 27.5 pounds and 4.6 inches around the waist.
- The ketogenic diet market was worth $9.7 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $15.64 billion by the year 2027.
- The keto diet is most popular in Europe, with North America following closely behind.
- An 850% increase in Keto-related searches on Google occurred between 2016 and 2020, with New Years Resolutionists causing the annual January search spike.
- Between 2017 and 2018, claims for “grass-fed” in retail boosted 23%, with grass-fed butter increasing an extra 45%—grass-fed animal products are crucial to keto dieters.
The Keto diet is rapidly growing in popularity, and for a good reason—it actually seems to work.
But the keto diet is a little bizarre.
Have you ever heard of a successful diet that allows you to get 70% of your calories from fat and eat as many calories as you want every day?
Or a diet where eating more than 30g of carbs per day is frowned upon?
The keto diet premise is absolutely sound: Deprive your body of carbs so that your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs, thus triggering fat loss!
But it’s really easy to lose control during keto.
You won’t lose weight or fat if you’re eating 4,000 calories a day and doing no exercise.
So while there are no guidelines for how much fat or how many calories you should eat while keto, you’ll still have to keep an eye on your intake to prevent weight gain.
So there’s not as much “freedom” as you thought.
The whole purpose of the Paleo diet is to adopt the “caveman” eating plan. So instead of eating processed or manufactured foods, you’re eating anything that you can hunt or gather in the wild.
That means no added salt, sugar, or manufactured foods!
- The Paleo diet has been scientifically-backed by 30 studies thus far.
- In 2013, the Paleo diet was the most commonly searched on Google.
- Nearly 1% of the American population—1 to 3 million citizens—eat a Paleo diet.
- In just five weeks, the Paleo diet can help obese individuals lose 10 pounds, cut liver fat nearly in half, and lower cholesterol, insulin, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
- Studies show that 10 days eating Paleo can lower cholesterol by 16%, drop triglycerides by 35%, reduce insulin AUC by 39%, and lower diastolic blood pressure by 3.4 mmHg.
The Paleo diet is probably the most natural diet you can start. And as such, it might just be the best in regards to health and digestion.
That’s because going “Paleo” means simplifying your diet.
Instead of eating processed foods, popping foods into the microwave, or eating foods with an expiration date a year out, you’re eating what our ancestors did.
Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Nuts, seeds, and beans (though most Paleo eaters seem strangely against eating beans).
Meats and natural oils.
While healthy in regards to improving your overall health (like your blood pressure, insulin, and cholesterol), you’re also dropping most of your favorite foods.
So leave foods with dairy, salt, sugar, and grains in the past.
This is definitely sustainable if you like organic foods, anyway.
South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet is a low-carb diet split into phases.
The goal is to eat large amounts of lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and limited fats and sweets. And then you’ll add more carbs with each phase.
- The South Beach Diet is considered the 18th best diet.
- The South Beach Diet was created by Dr. Agatston in 1995 to help those with diabetes and cardiac disorders lose weight—22 million copies of his book have since been sold.
- Studies show that the South Beach Diet can assist those with pre-diabetes in losing 11 pounds and 2 inches around the waist.
Okay, choosing a diet with a trademark and its own website can be concerning.
But as much as we hate to admit that a fad diet like the South Beach Diet does work, it does. And that’s probably why 22 million people (or more) have already given her a go.
So why is this diet so popular?
It has to be because the South Beach Diet is everything you dream of when you think of a diet. You don’t have to cut your calories, you can exercise, and you’re able to eat five times a day.
You might lose nutrients as you cut 13 pounds from your physique in two weeks, but seeing the success that quickly is motivating enough to keep you dredging forward.
This diet also has stages.
As you work through the stages, you’ll be increasing your protein and fat intake while slowly chopping your carb intake. So you’re also not jumping in too quickly!
The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet has a fairly typical macro split, with about 40% of your calories coming from carbs and an equal split of protein and fats.
There’s also a “Zone” Food Pyramid.
This emphasizes foods you should prioritize in your diet, specifically fruits and vegetables, while limiting things like oils and grains.
- The Zone Diet has been confirmed to be successful for those with chronic diabetes and inflammation in 27 studies.
- A study from 1998 demonstrated that the Zone Diet could lower insulin resistance four days before weight loss.
- In 2008, it was discovered that the Zone Diet could improve HbA1c levels in those with diabetes, which can help diabetes patients lower their medication doses.
- 100% of those with prediabetes on the Zone Diet was able to reverse the condition, more successful than other low-calorie, carb-restricted diets (33% success).
Yep, another trademarked diet. This one ought to be good, right?
The Zone Diet is another low-carb diet, just like the South Beach Diet and the ketogenic diet. While a biochemist created this diet, it’s not based on scientific fact.
A deal-breaker? Well, not considering many have seen great results on the Zone Diet.
On the Zone Diet, you’re getting 40% of your calories from carbs—which doesn’t emphasize the “low” in low carbs—and 30% from protein and fat.
So while the macro breakdown is much more reasonable and legit than the other diets we’ve reviewed thus far, there’s a significant downside:
It’s the typical diet, in the sense that you’re restricting your caloric intake to 1,200 to 1,500 per day. That’s great for weight loss (obviously), but not so good if you’re looking to bulk up.
It’s fantastic that you’re not supposed to feel hungry on the Zone Diet. But given the severe calorie restriction, that might not be realistic, and you might lack energy at the gym.
However, thousands of avid athletes put on their CrossFit shoes and have no problem improving their performance while following this diet.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t actually a diet as much as it’s a lifestyle in some countries. Instead of being given a specific macro intake each day, you’re eating recommended foods.
So you’ll consume a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
And the goal is to eat healthy foods as often as possible while limiting unhealthy ingredients.
- The Mediterranean diet consistently earns the title of “best diet.”
- Those who opt for a Mediterranean diet reduce the mortality rate by 24% and the risk of dying from heart disease by 33% while on this diet.
- In women, the Mediterranean diet can lower cardiovascular disease risk by 25% over 13 years.
The Mediterranean diet is, not surprisingly, the most reputable diet year after year. This is the diet popular in countries like Greece and Italy, so it wasn’t a diet crafted by a random doctor.
That’s relieving, right?
This diet suggests that you do the unthinkable—you eat healthily! We’re talking about daily intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and other healthy foods.
You’ll cut your poultry and fish intake to just once or twice a week. You’ll also have to slow down on the dairy and red meat (don’t kill the messenger).
Healthy and great for your overall health? Absolutely.
The only issue is that your dietary changes might be huge.
Eating up to ten servings of fruits/vegetables a day, cutting out most meat other than fish, and not eating white bread or pasta can be tricky.
But at least you’re not stuck eating food that tastes like cardboard, huh?
95%. The fact of the matter is: Most fad diets just aren’t sustainable. It’s absolutely miserable to half your typical caloric intake, opt for bland foods that never leave you feeling full, and send your stress hormones into overdrive. You go in with great intentions and solid motivation and leave disappointed, as usual.
Five examples of popular fad diets include The South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers Programs, The Mediterranean Diet, The Zone Diet, and The Atkins Diet. Keep in mind that “popular” doesn’t necessarily mean “legitimate,” so don’t assume that they will work for you.
37 days and 43 minutes for women. When diets don’t pan out as expected or get boring, people tend to find an easier solution. Because, as humans, we like the easy option! Many don’t realize that it can take more than five weeks to see results while on a diet. So while you may feel a diet isn’t working, you’re overlooking the changes you can’t see, like a faster metabolism, greater ratio of muscle to fat, lower heart rate, and narrower waist circumference.
So we have to admit: Some fad diets are legit.
The five “fad” diets we reviewed above are scientifically proven to produce results—whether that be weight loss, lower insulin resistance, or improved blood pressure.
But before you start a fad diet, consider what your health and fitness goals are.
For example, it wouldn’t make sense to choose a low-protein, high-carb diet if you’re bulking, just like it’d be counterproductive to choose a high-calorie diet if you want to burn body fat.
So figure out what your macro breakdown should be based on your goals in the gym, and then choose a diet that links smoothly to that recommendation.
Most of all, understand that fad diets are no magic cure. So consider the following:
- Choosing another diet if you feel dizzy, weak, or in pain on your new diet
- Following the diet to a T for optimal results (i.e., Not loading up on carbs during keto)
- Exercising as you stick to the diet
- Easing into the diet instead of starting it overnight (otherwise, expect failure)
- Giving yourself three months to see if the diet is working
Good luck on your new diet!