Fad Diets: How They Work For Weight Loss, Pros, & Cons

Popular diets have pros and cons that can help determine if they are a good fit for you.

Reviewed by Dr. Pallavi Srivastava, Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Pallavi Srivastava Dr. Pallavi SrivastavaClinical Nutritionist facebook_icontwitter_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Health & Wellness Writer Tanya Choudhary Health & Wellness Writer twitter_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , Senior Editor Arshiya Syeda Senior Editor Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , Health & Wellness Writer Himanshi Mahajan Health & Wellness Writer Experience: 2 years

Celebrities and people who aim to lose weight quickly get into the trend of fad dieting. While the pressure to stay fit and look good is constant, the fad diet is an easy way to lose a few extra pounds. Since the diet involves cutting down on essential food groups for some time, it may also result in some negative effects, pose health risks to your body, and may be ineffective and unsustainable in the long term. Also called yo-yo dieting, this trend includes a pattern of losing weight quickly with restrictive dieting, only to gain it back after the diet, repeatedly. In this article, we check out the pros and cons of fad dieting and how it can impact our health in the long run. Scroll down to read them before you opt for the diet of your choice and jump on the bandwagon of fad dieting.

What Is A Fad Diet?

A fad diet is a trendy weight loss plan that quickly gains popularity, often promising rapid and dramatic results through specific food restrictions or extreme eating patterns. It typically lacks scientific backing and may eliminate entire food groups, emphasizing certain foods or supplements as magical solutions for weight loss.

A fad diet often overlooks balanced nutrition and sustainable lifestyle changes, focusing on short-term outcomes instead. Some examples include juice cleanses, extreme calorie restrictions, or diets based on a single food item. While some fad diets may lead to temporary weight loss, they are generally unsustainable and can be harmful, potentially depriving the body of essential nutrients and leading to health issues in the long run.

Do Fad Diets Work? What Theresa Saltsgaver, RDN, Says

Theresa Saltsgaver, MS, RDN, LDN, says, “In my private practice, the majority of patients I see have tried fad diets. They lost weight, regained, and sometimes gained additional weight. When I counsel patients who want to lose weight, I recommend a slow weight loss of one to two pounds weekly. Additionally, increasing physical activity and implementing a healthy diet is an essential piece of the puzzle. The key to success is lifestyle modifications that are feasible long-term.”

Keep reading to know more about the different types of fad diets.

Fad Diets – A List:

Bowl of acai berry puree for fad diet
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Following is a list of some of the popular fad diets:

  • Cabbage Soup Diet
  • Master Cleanse
  • Grapefruit Diet (1)
  • 3 Day Diet
  • 5 Bite Diet
  • 17 Day Diet
  • Acai Berry Diet
  • Air Diet
  • Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
  • Atkins Dieti  X A diet that aims for weight loss by eating as much protein and fat as one wants while avoiding high carbs.
  • Baby Food Diet
  • Beverly Hills Dieti  XA 35-day diet that requires a person to start the day with enzyme-rich fruits followed by only the same category of foods every meal.
  • Blood Type Diet
  • Cotton Ball Diet
  • Detox Diet
  • HCG Diet
  • Hollywood Dieti  XA diet plan that involves eating normally for five days of the week and fasting for the remaining two days.
  • Liquid Diet
  • Low-Carb Diet
  • Low-Fat Diet
  • Negative Calorie Diet
  • Paleo Diet
  • Sacred Heart Diet
  • Sleeping Beauty Diet
  • South Beach Diet
  • Tapeworm Dieti  XA diet that requires people to swallow tapeworm egg pills. The tapeworm then grows inside the body and eats whatever a person eats.
  • Zone Diet

Most of these diets help you shed pounds quickly. However, they may have adverse effects. They cannot be considered as solutions for weight loss as the long-term success rate is extremely low. They just provide quick-fix and temporary solutions, and the consequences can be unhealthy.

Tehseen Shaikh, a writer and blogger, recounts her weight loss journey and the different diets she tried before making an overall change in her lifestyle. She writes, “I did not take these as my solutions, as the intention I had was for something that could last forever (i).” She continues, “So I always believe it is a good idea to think for a lifestyle change instead of keeping the intentions limited to just weight loss.”

Let’s look at three top fad diet plans in detail. All of them have disadvantages and advantages. They can help you lose weight, but they aren’t long term healthy solutions. The best way to keep fit is a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle, and exercise.

1. The Cabbage Soup Diet

A bowl of cabbage soup for dieting.
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Cabbage soup diets usually include eating nothing but cabbage soup through the week, in addition to fruits and other vegetables. On the first day, you may eat cabbage soup and a tomato; the next day, you’ll eat cabbage soup and a turnip; on the third day you’ll be eating cabbage soup, tomato and turnip and so on.


  • You can have unlimited amounts of cabbage soup and the specified foods (fruits and vegetables).
  • The no-limits policy on cabbage soup ensures that you don’t feel too hungry and lose weight quickly. In some cases, the weight loss is quite immediate and people have shed as much as 5 kgs in a week.
  • It’s cheap to furnish and quite easy to prepare.


  • The cabbage soup diet can leave you fatigued and make you feel weaker than usual.
  • In most cases, the weight loss has been found to be temporary.
  • Cabbage soup can cause stomach cramps.
  • Cabbage soup isn’t quite palatable and it may begin to taste dull after a couple of days.

2. The Master Cleanse

Cayenne pepper and lemon drink for master cleanse diet
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Beyoncé Knowles made the master cleanse an instant hit. The diet substitutes regular food with cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon-flavored water. It is an especially laborious task, and sometimes the cleanse may continue for 40 days.


  • It makes you feel better as you get rid of junk food, tobacco and alcohol from your diet.
  • The mix is quite palatable and economical to make.
  • Although it can be incessantly long, The Master Cleanse is one of the shorter diets compared to other regimens with the average time being 10 days.


  • It can be hard to follow, as no food is allowed.
  • It needs physical and mental fortitude.
  • It can induce rapid muscle mass depletion, thereby affecting your body composition, and impact your energy balance, reducing energy levels.
  • Your body will take time to adjust to the normal food upon the completion of The Master Cleanse.
protip_icon Quick Tip
You can ease into the master cleanse by cutting out processed food and shifting to a liquid diet for 3 days before starting with the main cleanse that allows only lemonade.

3. The Grapefruit Diet

Glass of grapefruit juice for fad diet.
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Often hailed as the Hollywood Diet, the grapefruit diet can last up to 12-18 days on average. Usually, you will eat ½ a grapefruit; alternatively, you can drink around 250 ml of grapefruit juice, along with specific meals. Meals will usually feature up to 5-7 glasses of water and protein.


  • The grapefruit diet plan is quite easy to follow.
  • It is a healthy food to consume, is low on calories, has close to zero fat and is crammed with Vitamin C.
  • It helps lessen the risk of diabetes and by improving insulin resistance (2)
  • It may also improve  hypertensioni  XA medical condition that affects the body’s arteries and leads to a person’s blood pressure reaching higher than normal. (3) .


  • The calorie intake is reduced to 800. This limit is well below the daily nutrition needs and may cause fatigue.
  • The rigid regime may cause stomach ache, dizziness or headaches due to food deficiency.
  • The extra protein can lead to complications like Kidney stones (4).

protip_icon Trivia
Instead of going on a grapefruit-only diet, you can simply start taking a cup of grapefruit or a glass of grapefruit juice with all your meals for its health benefits.


Woman following healthy diet
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Following are some cautions you have to exercise while using fad diets. You should ignore any weight loss product or diet plan that:

  • Claims to help shed more than 2 pounds a week. Remember that weight loss and weight gain are gradual processes and gaining or losing 2 pounds in a week seems highly improbable.
  • Makes unreal promises. You don’t have to remove fat and calories from your diet to lose weight. Healthier plans advise you to cut down on certain foodstuffs. Removing a nutrient from your diet can lead to other complications.
  • Includes ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. Stay away from tricksters who use this technique. These products usually pay people money to right rave reviews and use unheard names of nutrition experts.
  • Restricts your diet to fruits and veggies and encourages you to refrain from a balanced diet.
  • Make sure to keep your water intake balanced to avoid dehydration, especially during the summer.

Our Verdict

The cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, and The Master Cleanse help reduce weight. However, all of them only provide temporary results. To really get fit, you need to balance your eating, exercise, and pay close attention to what you put inside your mouth.

According to the findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2015-18, 17.1% of US adults over the age of 20 were on a special diet on any given day; and 19% of women were on a special diet compared to 15.1% of men. In the survey, the percentage of adults aged 20-39 was lower (13.3%) than adults aged 40-59 (19.2%) and adults over 60 (19.3%).

There is a wide range of fad diets out there, starting with the cabbage soup diet to the Hollywood diet. Unfortunately, people do not weigh the pros and cons of fad dieting in their eagerness to shed some pounds quickly. The fact is that they do help in faster weight loss, but the results do not last long once you are off those diets. So, they are not effective for sustainable weight loss. Moreover, evidence-based practices suggest that these diets drastically bring down the intake of calories, causing malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies. Following them for extended periods may lead to muscle loss, fatigue, binge eating disorders, and headaches. Many fad diets are rooted in pseudoscience, as they promote restricted diet intake or the elimination of certain groups as the solution. Hence, it is essential to note that these diets have many minor and severe side effects. Hence, the best way to lose weight is to be on a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all fad diets successful?

Fad diets are mostly unsuccessful. Sure, you lose weight while sticking to the diet, but when you start eating regularly, you put that weight back on. And going on fad diets can lead to mood swings, digestive problems, eating disorders, and muscle loss. You should look for healthier diet options instead. Talk to your nutritionist who will identify your body type and create a suitable and sustainable diet plan for you to help you lose weight.

Is Keto a fad diet?

Yes, the keto diet comes under the fad diet category because it promises quick weight loss. But, again, once you start eating regular food, you may notice an increase in your weight. Also, owing to its higher fat content, it is not recommended by cardiologists. Hence, check with your nutritionist before starting any diet.

Are fad diets sustainable?

No, fad diets are not sustainable.

How do fad diets affect metabolism?

Fad diets minimize what and how much you eat. They slow down your metabolism causing metabolic damage, which is why you gain more weight easily once you stop the diet.

What is the difference between a healthy diet and a fad diet?

A fad diet minimizes what and how much you eat so you can lose weight quickly. This means you eat very little food, not giving your body enough nutrition to function properly. A healthy diet contains balanced nourishment from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, healthy fats, and carbs. They also cut out processed foods and trans fat. Follow a healthy balanced diet and indulge in regular physical activity to sustain your weight loss journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Fad diets are quick weight-loss plans that cut down on essential nutrients to help achieve the desired weight.
  • A few popular fad diets are the cabbage soup diet, paleo diet, and liquid diet.
  • Fad diets detoxify your body and reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Fad diets may cause headaches and stomach cramps.
Fad Diets

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Navigate through the world of fad diets and embrace the power of healthy lifestyle choices. Discover the pitfalls of trendy diets and uncover the secrets to sustainable and nourishing habits in this eye-opening video.

Personal Experience: Source

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