Why Do We Keep Falling for Fad Diets?

Here's how to break the fad-diet habit and lose weight for good

By Martin Downs
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

It seems that just about every week brings a new diet craze. From low-fat to low-carb to food combining, the diets come and go in the magazines and on the best-seller lists. Some prove lastingly popular, but many go the way of the latest dance fad. (Anyone remember the macarena? How about the cabbage soup diet?)

Meanwhile, dietitians keep giving the sensible advice they've been advocating for years: To lose weight, we need to eat less and exercise more.

Let's face it: We all know better than to keep falling for every fad that comes along. So why do we keep doing it?

"I think most people are put off by the fact that what we usually promote is life-long change," says Robyn A. Osborn, RD, PhD, a dietician and educational psychologist in Indianapolis, Ind.

Fad diets are often programs you're supposed to follow for just a few weeks. But nutrition experts insist that the right approach to weight loss is to change your lifestyle -- permanently.

People need to feel that the benefits of changing their behavior will outweigh the costs, Osborn says. For many dieters, she says, the psychological cost of giving up their fattening lifestyle seems too great. So they opt for the "quick fix."

"Or they just identify with the individuals who wrote the book," says Lisa Dorfman, RD, a dietician, mental health counselor, and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.