Paleo. Juice cleanses. The grapefruit diet. Alkaline. Microbiotic. Keto. The list of fad diets that are supposed fix-all options for Americans looking to quickly reach their fitness goals is never ending. But these diets can encourage severe dietary restrictions that pose significant risks to college students and should be avoided without question.
In 2001, a study conducted at Ball State University found that one out of every three students tried a fad diet at some point. Fad diets can come in all shapes in sizes and can be hard to recognize. In a 2017 article, the Cleveland Clinic said a sign that a diet is just a fad is if it calls for the elimination of foods or food groups that contain necessary nutrients in the interest of losing weight.
College students are especially vulnerable to fad diets. With our busy schedules, erratic eating habits and countless other responsibilities, adopting a diet that calls for you to eat half a grapefruit before every meal sounds easier than going to the gym. However, with this grapefruit fad diet, you end up eating less of the nutrients you actually require, which causes unnecessary strain on students’ lifestyles.
According to a research article published in the Journal of Nutrition and Human health, “inadequate nutrition affects students’ health and academic success … If students do not attain adequate nutrition daily, a decrease in academic or physical performance can result.”
Biology freshman Emily Brunet said she tried the elimination diet, a regimen that calls for the elimination of major food groups step by step. The diet becomes very restrictive in terms of what you can eat, how much you can eat and when you can eat it.
“I started off with eliminating almost every food group, no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no soy, nothing,” Brunet said. “I did elimination diet for a month. That was really, really hard. I couldn’t keep that up.”
When used to lose weight quickly, the elimination diet is no more than a fad and is not good for student health. Though Brunet originally started the diet to help identify a food allergy, her health further deteriorated after starting the fad diet. She quickly became a victim of an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Brunet said she was unaware of the severity of the consequences she would endure as a result of her diet, including vomiting, sores and diarrhea.
“I didn’t like that it was misleading, and it made me question everything I was eating, which isn’t really normal or healthy,” Brunet said. Brunet even got sores in her mouth because she wasn’t getting enough B12, a vitamin that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. “There are big issues with not having the right dietary needs,” Brunet said. “Especially if you’re busy in your life, you stop eating and you’re not focusing on what you’re eating or taking care of your body.”
According to the American Stroke Association, there is no magical formula for losing weight other than taking in fewer calories than you burn. The only tried-and-true way to reach your fitness goals is simple: Modify your diet to include healthier options and adopt a more active lifestyle.
Fad diets are not only a lazy way to lose weight — they’re dangerous, especially for busy students. If you’re serious about reaching your goals, it’s gonna take a whole lot more than eating half a grapefruit to get there.
Caldwell is a journalism and Latin American studies sophomore from College Station.