As nutrition professionals, we consistently learn and lecture that fad diets are not beneficial, could be detrimental, and should not be followed. And research evidence supports these claims.
However, the public is not listening.
Mainly because this is not what they want to hear. Part of the reason that fad diets are always going to be so popular is because they provide an answer. Not necessarily an easy, effective, or healthy answer, but an answer nonetheless.
So, if fad diets appear to provide an answer, then authorities opposing fad diets appear to provide the opposite of an answer…which is a problem.
For example, Suzie wants a weight loss solution. She comes across the “no white foods” diet which is purported to help her lose weight and be less moody. She also finds a blog written by a dietitian that ripped the “no white foods” diet apart and recommends nutrition counseling for weight management.
Which way do you think Suzie is going to go?
Most nutrition professionals will tell you that Suzie picks the “no white foods” diet because she doesn’t care about research evidence and wants an easy fix. This is true.
We are evidence-based practitioners working in a culture where empirical evidence is not prioritized above anecdotal evidence and promises. The priority to nutrition professionals may be nutritional health while this is not the case for most people looking to fad diets for an answer.
Although there is validity to this concern, this is only part of the problem…there is another aspect that is often overlooked by nutrition professionals.
The main issue involves errors in professionalism and tone. It’s all in the way in which the nutrition professional presented herself.
Suzie would choose the fad diet over the dietitian’s sound advice because she does not perceive the dietitian to be the expert in this scenario. Instead the dietitian that tore apart this fad diet comes off very negative.
This emotional negativity overwhelmed the sound advice.
So, how do we address fad diets without compromising our ethics?
To be perceived as the primary experts, nutrition professionals need to maintain positive sentiments and remain empathetic. We do not need to compromise our ethics in order to recognize the motives, skills, and preferences of our patients.
As opposed to discouraging the use of fad diets, find commonalities and encourage healthy behavior change. Strong discouragement of fad diets should be reserved for times of nutritional risk. Let’s face it…most people can maintain nutritional health and avoid white-colored foods.
In other words, we need to use fad diets as a tool. The simplest way to make the best out of fad diets is to find common ground and work from there.
To learn about the positive aspects of fad diets, read: Why Some Nutrition Professionals Do Not Discourage Fad Diets.
The Author: Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD
Dr. Golem earned a PhD in Nutritional Science with an emphasis in Exercise Science from Rutgers University. As the founder of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals, she is dedicated to helping nutrition professionals become their best.
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