Fad Diets: Why Do We Believe Them?

Woman eating bowl of sprouts

Today as always, there are plenty of fad diets to be found. Forget to be found, they are out to find you. Everywhere you look, Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, YouTube, etc., you will hardly be spared these fad diet claims for even a single day. There are new nutrition ideas pumped out regularly, but there are just as many, if not more, old nutrition fads that have been polished up to look spanking new. I mean how could something like the cotton ball diet slip past our defenses again?

The question that I want to ask you today is why are we all so prone to believe fad diet claims instead of the tried-and-true information backed by evidence?

I believe there are several reasons we opt for the new fads and will discuss them in this article.

We Want Fad Diets to Be True

First, and most obviously, fad diet claims are usually easier and quicker than lifetime health practices of daily discipline and moderation. It is tempting to think that we could have a lasting payoff for little effort and a short time period. I mean, who on earth wouldn’t want that?? I want that.

It might be so tempting that we let our minds do the same thing they do when we watch a great movie: a willing suspension of disbelief. A willing suspension of disbelief means we just don’t allow our minds to do critical thinking exercises. It’s almost like we don’t want to look at it too closely. I guess that should be our first warning flag.

cotton ball Fad Diets

They Wouldn’t Say it if it Wasn’t True!

Many people are sharing their ideas in earnest on social media. I think a lot of people are sincere in their attempts to get the word out about a new diet they believe will work. Many have a zealousness for their newfound information, and it shows.

Whether or not the zealousness is based on evidence is almost beside the point. They really, really mean it and that carries weight.

I Tried it and it Worked for Me

In tandem with the previous point, whenever we hear this statement, it seems wrong and even judgmental not to believe what they claim at face value. I want to warn, however, that this is a dangerous precedent to follow. Many people claim to know truth through personal experience. But you know what? Fact isn’t subjective. Fact is objective. Now, as to whether or not nutrition science can be called fact is a different thing, but I see far too much of this claim in regard to both nutrition, and more concerningly, with doctrine.

man in labcoat; authority figure for fad diets

Authority with Fad Diets

It is not hard at all to understand that one reason we can fall prey to fad diets is that the people promoting them sometimes have an appearance of authority. If you don’t believe the appearance of authority is powerful in selling ideas and products, just think about how many commercials you have seen where the actor is wearing a white lab coat and stethoscope around the neck. Why? Did they just get interrupted between patients to, oh…make a commercial on the fly? Of course not. Advertisers know that having someone with the appearance of authority to sell you an idea is a powerful marketing strategy. It works in advertising and it works in giving an heir of authority to nutrition claims.


Conversely, perhaps we want to be the ones with the appearance of authority among our social circles. I know, I know – this one might smart a little bit. But I’m all for looking at our heart motives first. It’s part of the sanctification process, after all. Maybe we want to seem enlightened. Maybe we want to know more than others. And confession time – this very sin led me to spew a whole bunch of nonsense nutrition advice to others many years ago before I had any education on the topic. You know the old saying…if I’m pointing at you, there are 4 fingers pointing back at me (although there are really only 3 doing that – there’s my pride again!).

purple white crystals and health fads

Fuddy Duddy

Do you know what we are all deathly afraid of? Well, yes, death. But do you know what else? Labels. We are petrified of being labeled. And when the enlightened, shiny, new nutrition “research” (we’ll get to that in a minute) is flashing across your screen, we may be tempted to go along with it because the alternative would be to earn those Old Fashioned, Fundamentalist, or Close-Minded labels. Heavens no! The struggle is real.

Gold Nuggets in Fad Diets

Perhaps the nutrition claim is believable because, well, there is some truth there. Plenty, I dare say many, nutrition claims and fad diets are built on an element of truth. There is some scientific nugget that was extracted from the rest of its physiological context and made to be the star of the show! These are the hardest fad diets to rebut for most of us. Even if we have the gall to challenge it, that nugget of truth could be thrown in our faces. And, really, how many people just coming across a new diet plan have the biological science details top of mind?

large pants on woman fad diets

You Know the Old Adage

We live in a new type of world. Anyone can promote anything at any time. There is no need to go through a publisher or an editor or a professor to state your perspective on any matter to the entire world. But there still seems to be that assumed truth of yesteryear in the back of our heads…the assumption that something must be true if “it’s in black and white.”

Folks, you don’t need me to tell you, but this idiom has gone the way of Sour Cream and Onion Doritos. Gone. Even though no one else on the planet appears to remember that these existed. Or believes me that they were amazing and delicious. Don’t argue with me about Doritos.

Just Cuz

The final reason on this list for people to believe in fad diet claims is not very deep. They were simply…deceived. Hoodwinked and snookered. Hey, we have all been there in areas far worse than false diet claims. It’s ok. We pick up and move on from the grapefruit diet, wiser for the wear.

grapefruit on pink; fad diets; grapefruit diet

Body of Evidence and Fad Diets

Unlike the infallible, unalterable, everlasting truths of Scripture, health science is just the culmination of observations and testing. But that doesn’t mean it is untrustworthy. The good news is that responsible health claims are based on many, research studies -over time and by many different people- to develop a body of evidence that can lead to a working theory. Many of these health theories are not disputed, as we can see them working the way we are told they do.

However, in relatively newer health science fields like neurology and nutrition, the body of evidence is still being built. Although there are many theories depended upon for the basics of nutrition and neurology, we still understand that there is more to understand.

It is very important to understand that the body of evidence moves slowly. Very slowly. The slow-moving body of evidence is tempered by findings of the longstanding biological knowledge. Yes, the field of nutrition is fascinating and growing, but it will not grow quickly.

One research study may be interesting, but it is not evidence. It can produce new hypotheses to test, but it is not evidence. Much still must be done in the areas of method scrutinization and repetition of the study before outcomes can be responsibly assimilated and relied upon. And this replication comes with its own challenges.

sad face plate on pink background; fad diets

Yellow Light

That means when you hear the next fad nutrition claim that sounds far removed from everything you’ve heard before and from everything your healthcare provider tells you, perhaps don’t be all that quick to believe it.

Be careful of headlines that grab your attention. After all, sometimes somebody’s success depends on getting your viewership, not on getting your body healthy. Always look for references to research studies reported in journals. Not from other .coms.

Instead get some sound advice and help, such as this free ebook, “Escape the Binge! The Christian Guide to Stop Overeating” HERE. You will find this based on the truths of God’s Word and evidence-based practices.

Final Thoughts on Fad Diets

I’d like to leave you with this advice: If it sounds outrageous, against all accepted science, and seems like relatively little effort for a lasting payoff…it likely is outrageous and against scientific probability.

It’s pretty tough out there, huh? If you’d like to have someone walk alongside you, helping you apply evidence-based nutrition science in an effective way, follow the link below to get your free consultation with me. I am passionate about helping you break free from the bondage of fad diets, weight cycling, and the underlying issues that drive you toward these.

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Cheryl Szarko


I love helping women overcome years of bondage to food, dieting, and weight loss obsession through solid nutrition science and careful biblical counseling

Cheryl Szarko

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