Challenging Dieting Myths: How Fad Diets Contribute to Eating Disorders

Written by: Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.

Date Posted: June 14, 2023 6:43 am

Challenging Dieting Myths: How Fad Diets Contribute to Eating Disorders

Challenging Dieting Myths: How Fad Diets Contribute to Eating Disorders

In today’s society, pursuing the “perfect” body has become an obsession for many. Fad diets promise quick and easy weight loss, enticing individuals with the prospect of achieving their desired physique. However, these diets often come with hidden costs. In this article, we will explore how fad diets are a risk factor for eating disorders. Finally, we will explore the dangerous myths surrounding dieting, provide evidence-backed information, and offer resources for those seeking a healthier approach to wellness.

Myth 1: “Lose 10 Pounds in a Week!”

Truth: Unrealistic Expectations Lead to Disappointment

Fad diets often make grandiose claims of rapid weight loss, promising individuals that they can shed 10 pounds in just one week. However, such drastic weight loss is neither sustainable nor healthy. Failing to achieve these unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment, self-blame, and a negative body image. As a result, it becomes a vicious cycle, as individuals may resort to even more extreme measures that contribute to developing eating disorders.

Myth 2: “Cut Out Entire Food Groups!”

Truth: Restricting Food Groups Can Lead to Nutritional Imbalances and Deficiencies

Many fad diets advocate eliminating entire food groups, such as carbohydrates or fats, under the premise that they are the root cause of weight gain. However, our bodies require a balanced intake of various nutrients to function optimally. Restricting specific food groups can result in nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, negatively impacting physical and mental health. Such dietary restrictions can lead to obsessive behaviors and a distorted relationship with food, increasing the risk of developing an eating disorder.

Myth 3: “Juice Cleanses for Detoxification!”

Truth: Detoxes can Lead to Inadequate Caloric Intake and Impaired Metabolism

Juice cleanses and detox diets have gained popularity for their alleged ability to eliminate toxins from the body. However, these diets often involve severe calorie restriction and lack essential macronutrients. While short-term weight loss may occur, the body’s metabolic rate can slow down in response to inadequate caloric intake. This can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight over time.

Myth 4: “Magic Pills and Supplements!”

Truth:  Pills and Supplements Can Unsafe and Offer False Promises

The supplement industry is rife with products claiming to be the key to effortless weight loss. However, governing bodies do not regulate many of these pills and supplements, which may contain harmful ingredients. Relying on quick fixes rather than adopting sustainable lifestyle changes can lead to excessive reliance on these products without any real behavioral change towards wellness.

Myth 5: “Extreme Exercise for Faster Results!”

Truth: Excessive Exercise Can Lead to Physical Strain and Psychological Distress

Some fad diets promote excessive exercise as a means to expedite weight loss. However, pushing the body beyond its limits can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental well-being. Overexertion can lead to injuries, hormonal imbalances, and burnout, and the pressure to engage in excessive exercise can contribute to body dissatisfaction and preoccupation. 

Myth 6: “One-Size-Fits-All Approach!”

Truth: Individuality and Unique Needs are Essential in Considering an Approach to Wellness

Fad diets often propagate a one-size-fits-all approach, claiming their methods work for everyone. However, everyone has unique nutritional requirements, body composition, and lifestyle. What may work for one person may not work for another. Adopting a cookie-cutter approach to food and exercise disregards these individual differences and can lead to frustration and disappointment. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize personalized nutrition and seek guidance from qualified professionals who can create tailored plans based on specific needs.

Myth 7: “Eliminate All ‘Bad’ Foods!”

Truth: Food Morality and Guilt are not Motivators; There are No “Bad” Foods

Many fad diets categorize foods as either “good” or “bad,” creating a sense of morality around eating choices. This black-and-white thinking can lead to guilt and shame when indulging in foods deemed “unhealthy” or “forbidden.” Such guilt can fuel disordered eating patterns and contribute to the development of eating disorders. Therefore, fostering a balanced approach to food is essential, emphasizing moderation, variety, and enjoyment rather than restrictions.

Myth 8: "Rapid Weight Loss Equals Success!"

Myth 8: “Rapid Weight Loss Equals Success!”

Truth: There is a Difference Between Sustainable vs. Temporary Results

Fad diets often promote rapid weight loss as a measure of success. However, sustainable weight management is not achieved through quick fixes but rather through long-term lifestyle changes. While fad diets may yield initial weight loss, most individuals regain the weight once they resume their regular eating habits. This cycle of weight loss and regain, known as “yo-yo dieting,” can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health, contributing to the development of disordered eating patterns.

Myth 9: “You Must Follow a Strict Schedule!”

Truth: Flexibility and Adaptability are Part of a Healthy and Enjoyable Lifestyle

Many fad diets impose rigid eating schedules and strict meal plans, leaving little room for flexibility and spontaneity. This rigid structure can lead to feelings of deprivation, social isolation, and a preoccupation with food. Adopting an approach that allows for adaptability is crucial, where individuals can listen to their bodies hunger and fullness cues and make mindful choices that align with their lifestyle and preferences.

Myth 10: “Weight Loss Defines Health!”

Truth: Health is Made Up of More Than Weight

Fad diets often equate weight loss with improved health, disregarding the Health at Every Size (HAES) concept. HAES promotes the idea that individuals of all body sizes can pursue health and well-being without focusing solely on weight. It emphasizes body acceptance, intuitive eating, and engaging in joyful movement. Shifting the focus from weight to overall well-being can foster a healthier relationship with food, exercise, and body image.

Additional Sources and Resources

To delve deeper into the topic of fad diets and eating disorders, here are some additional sources and resources worth exploring:

Source/Resource Description

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

NEDA provides information, support, and resources for individuals with eating disorders. Visit their website at

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers evidence-based guidance on nutrition and provides access to registered dietitians. Visit their website at

“Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch This book offers a refreshing approach to food and body image, focusing on intuitive eating principles.

“Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon

In this book, Linda Bacon challenges the societal obsession with weight loss and provides a compassionate perspective on body acceptance and well-being.

A Little-Known Fact:

Did you know that fad diets can often lead to a phenomenon known as “weight cycling”? Weight cycling refers to the repeated loss and regain of weight commonly experienced by individuals who engage in fad diets. This cycle of weight fluctuations has been associated with increased health risks, including a higher likelihood of developing eating disorders and metabolic disturbances. In addition, it highlights the importance of adopting sustainable and balanced approaches to nutrition and well-being.



Fad diets may promise quick fixes and rapid weight loss, but they often contribute to the development of eating disorders and have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Understanding the myths surrounding fad diets is crucial to breaking free from their harmful influence.

By embracing sustainable approaches to nutrition, individualized wellness plans, and body acceptance, we can cultivate a healthier relationship with food, body image, and overall well-being.

It is important to prioritize nourishing our bodies with balanced meals, listening to our hunger and fullness cues, and engaging in joyful physical activities that promote overall health.

Remember, the key to a healthy lifestyle is not in extreme measures or quick fixes but in sustainable habits that support our physical and mental well-being. Let’s strive for balance, self-compassion, and a holistic approach to health that embraces individuality and rejects the harmful myths perpetuated by fad diets.

Why Choose Springsource Psychological Center

 At Springsource Psychological Center, we strive to be your ally in the fight against mental health issues. So, don’t hesitate – pick up the phone and give us a call at 224-202–6260. Let’s walk this path to healing together.