5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan

by | Nov 17, 2010

Photo by Arun Katiyar

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most diet plans out there are full of it. If they worked, a third of us wouldn’t be classified as obese.

But if you’re trying to get healthy and lose weight, how can you tell the healthy diets from the lousy ones?

Bad diets that are designed to slim your wallet rather than your waistline actually have a lot in common. If you see any of these hallmarks of a BS diet plan, hold on to your credit card and run the other direction.

5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan

1. Single case studies and lots of testimonials

People who don’t have evidence to back up their claims often rely on personal testimonials instead. Testimonials are accounts by people who have supposedly used the product and had incredible success. But in many cases, these stories are better described as uncredible than incredible.

The reality is that it’s fairly easy to get people to say/do/look exactly the way you want. Sometimes the testimonials are made by paid actors who are lying for profit, other times the quotes are simply taken out of context and exaggerated. It is even possible that some of the testimonials are true, but that the person giving them doesn’t understand the true ramifications of the results they are seeing (or will only see those results for a short time).

The point is that individual case studies rarely reflect the true effectiveness of a product, and are hand-selected to make the product look good. Because you can be sure that if the seller had real statistical data on his product’s effectiveness, he would be using that instead.

2. Black and white rules

One of the easiest things to do to lose weight is follow a set of very strict rules for a set amount of time. Limiting calories in and increasing calories out will make just about anyone lose weight for a little while, so even ridiculous plans like the Twinkie diet can seem effective for a short period.

But very few individuals can maintain a strict diet permanently, and I would argue that this should not even be your goal. A healthy eating plan must have flexibility, since everyone has different personal and dietary needs. If a diet has too many rules, it isn’t going to be your salvation.

3. Angry proponents

Rational people don’t get upset when someone disagrees with them. When you see health advocates defending their diet as if it were a religion you can bet there’s a bigger, more personal reason for all the commotion.

While it is great to be passionate about the way you eat, if supporters resort to name calling and hate blogging there’s likely more dogma than truth in whatever they’re selling.

4. Truthiness

Is that data you just told me, or just a bunch of sciencey words that explain your opinion? Don’t be fooled by a scientific theory about why a diet works. If you can’t find numbers to back up that information, then the diet is still a hypothesis and not a proven therapy. People love to tout our need for dietary “enzymes” or what we’ve “evolved” to eat, but I’ve never seen any evidence suggesting these things are true.

5. Fantastical results

Does that diet sound too good to be true? It probably is. There are many ways to induce rapid, dramatic weight loss, but unless the plan is sustainable the weight will come back. Don’t be lured by the promise of quick, amazing results. Look for plans that encourage improving habits and are designed to keep weight off permanently.

How do you identify a BS diet plan?

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9 Responses to “5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan”

  1. Any plan that requires counting or measuring forever ain’t gonna happen.

    Anything that depends on “tricking” your body into not being hungry.

    Anything that requires you to eat foods in a certain order.

    Anything that requires willpower.

  2. I suggest avoiding anything that calls itself a “diet.” Period! When you follow a diet plan, you are either ON the diet or OFF the diet. Eat something not allowed by your diet, and you are off the diet. From there, it’s a short step to eating everything you’ve been denying yourself for the past few weeks or months, because hey, you’ve already blown it. Going on a diet, any diet, is the surest way I know to get compulsive about food!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Absolutely! Still I’ve found many people have trouble starting without at least an outline of specific goals and habits, and not all the diets are “bad.” But I agree 100% that the dieting mentality is a dangerous, slippery slope.

      • Satu says:

        I agree that we need some goals and rules to get started but it’s better to treat them as rules of thumb than strict laws to be followed.

        Nowadays I don’t just pay any attention to “diets”..

  3. Danielle says:

    Anything you need to “ease” yourself out of. If it’s that great for you and works, wouldn’t it be something that you could do forever?

  4. Kirsten says:

    I’ve got a pretty good handle on what makes up sound nutritional advice, and anything that doesn’t make sense to me is probably a BS diet. Also, anything I read about in magazines you find in the checkout line or is “advice you won’t read anywhere else” is BS. Healthy eating isn’t a secret!

  5. RJ says:

    In regards to the “science sounding”, I have noticed that many online articles and even those in relatively well thought of pop magazines will include “citations”, to make them look more scientific, however when you actually review those citations they are previous articles by the same author, in an equally non-peer reviewed venue, or worse yet, it is the website for the marketing group for a product. Just because it looks like it has citations, making it seem like it has additional scientific backup, beware- this is just the latest trick!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Great point. Even peer reviewed science papers often don’t reflect the point the author of an article is using them to make. This means they are either intentionally deceptive, banking on the fact that most people don’t understand science and/or don’t have the ability to get to the original article (typically behind a steep paywall), or they read the article and don’t understand enough science to see that their point was not made. Either way, bad medicine.

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