• Anika Chowdhury

Battle of the Diets: Fad Diets vs. Calorie Deficit

So you’re thinking of finally sucking it up and getting fit. But you stop in your tracks, because you have no idea where to begin. It can be scary if this is your first time getting serious about a dieting plan. There is a lot of misinformation within the fitness and health industry, but it’s important to understand what works for you does not work for everyone.

We're talking about what some of these trendy diets really entail and are getting to the bottom line of what makes diets really work. So you can actually maintain it for that spring break bikini body you want by March.

Naturally, you may ask yourself the question, which diet will work for me? Let's walk you through your options.

What are the Fad Diets?

First, we have to answer the question, what exactly is a fad diet? This is a common term that gets thrown around, particularly at the start of your health journey. Fad diets are plans that are sold as the best and fastest approach to losing weight. This is basically when a diet is trendy or popular but isn't really sustainable for a long term health goal. Remember that Tummy Tea that was all over Instagram a few years back? Yeah, that's exactly what we're getting to.

There are so many out there, but some of the top trending (over the past 5 years) are the ones that follow:

  1. Keto

  2. Intermittent Fasting

  3. OMAD

Let's dive into what these big three fads are:


The ketogenic diet is all high fat and low carb. This diet focuses on burning fat rather than burning carbs that are stored in your body. When you drastically cut down your carb intake, and replace it with fat, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. Then your body is really able to burn the fat.

This means very limited bread, sugar, fruit, and other foods. Typically, on this diet, you'll only consume up to 50 grams of carbs and stock up on fats like meat, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils. This diet was created mainly to treat hard-to-control epilepsy in children and now it is rated by some as one of the top diet trends in the health industry.

In addition, it is known for its trendy substitute foods like the quick Keto bell-pepper meal. However, Keto has definitely become more controversial over the years, as it is talked about in positive and negative manners. Some followers of the diet have lost up to 150 pounds on it, while others claim it is simply not the healthiest. According to Insider, it is mainly good for a fast weight loss but leads to high consumption of saturated fats and lacks realistic sustainability. Yikes.

Intermittent Fasting

This diet only allows you to eat within a certain eight-hour window for the day. Whether it's 12:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. or 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., you have to eat within that eight-hour time frame. Unlike Keto, you can actually eat anything you want, but the goal is to not overeat.

There are mixed opinions about the effectiveness and nutritional value of this diet, but doing this long term can definitely have some negative impacts. There has been research that shows "prolonged periods of hunger can lead to binge eating, emotional and personality changes, obsession with food, metabolism disorders, and weight gain."

This one may require a strong will and an aptitude for delayed gratification.


One meal a day is exactly what it sounds like. You can only eat one meal a day. You can eat in the morning, afternoon, or at night. You can eat a cheeseburger or a quinoa salad. It just has to be one time within 24 hours.

Normally, if you're eating once, you can't fit as many calories in one meal as you would in one full day. Therefore, you naturally decrease your caloric intake and lose weight. With this diet, the not-so-glamorous side usually follows. You tend to ignore your normal hunger cues, end up hungrier for meals than usual, and could possibly miss out on getting all your nutrients. Last but not least, this could slow down your metabolism, which ends up in weight gain.

So what do all these diets have in common? They all result in being a calorie deficit. Another thing they have in common is that the majority of the time, they result in being unsustainable. But if it works for you, then it works. For many people, cutting out certain food groups and starving yourself isn’t a long-term fix.

What is a Calorie Deficit?

from weightlossresources.co.uk

To be successful in losing weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. This can be in a healthy way too. What does this mean? You have to have a clear understanding of how many calories you're taking in versus how many calories you're burning. You can track calorie consumption with a nifty calorie counter.

Then, to calculate how many calories you're burning, you'll need to calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate). This tells you how many calories your body burns just by living. And once you calculate your BMR, subtract 100-300 calories from this number to get the total number of calories you should be eating per day.

A person in a calorie deficit will lose an average of .5-2 lbs every week. And remember, this is without any exercise.

Being in a calorie deficit without limiting any food groups or time slots for food intake is important to losing weight. You don’t have to restrict yourself, and you can eat the foods that you love. The only thing you have to do is be consistent with your diet. This is definitely more sustainable than any fad diet out there.

Counting calories can be annoying, but if being in a calorie deficit is the best (and possibly only) way to lose weight, why not give it a try? Only if you want to though, no pressure here.

Of course, seek a medical professional before making any permanent changes to your diet.

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