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A person standing on a bathroom scale.

We see or hear about fad diets everywhere we turn—in the grocery store checkout line, in magazines, and in social media, touting the latest and greatest way to lose weight, always with amazing claims of easy and fast weight loss. Based on research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is likely that almost 50 percent of adults have tried to lose weight within the past year.

Do Fad Diets Work?

But do fad diets work? The answer depends on your definition of successful weight loss. Could you potentially drop a few pounds on one of these diets? Sure. However, unless you plan on sticking to these diets for the rest of your life, it is highly likely you will regain the weight you lost and sometimes more. Some fad diets may also limit essential nutrients that could lead to deficiencies and other health problems.

What To Do Instead

So, what do you do instead? First, address your personal goals. Weight loss may not be the best focus for everyone. Weight loss at all costs can do more harm than good to both physical and mental health. There are many other reasons to focus on healthy habits. Heart health, disease prevention, increased energy, and overall wellness are all reasons to work toward creating healthy habits for ourselves.

What Are Healthy Habits?

Healthy habits are those you can stick to long term (for years) that work to improve or maintain overall health. What does that mean? If you do not see yourself sticking to a habit for 6 months to a year, you probably shouldn’t do it. Instead, select a few habits to start with and build on those once they become second nature. For example, water intake is important to our overall health. One potential habit to focus on could be as simple as aiming to drink 64 ounces of water every day.

It is often easier to focus on habits that involve adding things to our diet instead of taking things away. If you are focused on drinking more water, you will likely automatically drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages. However, when we focus on cutting certain things out of our diet, sometimes we cannot stop thinking about those things, making it harder to limit them. If you are told you can never have sweet tea again, what are you going to want at your next meal? Most likely, sweet tea.

Habits are about what we can do consistently, meaning most of the time. Will you drink at least 64 ounces of water every day? Maybe not, but if you do it most days, you will still get the benefits.

If you are looking for a place to start forming healthy habits, visit myplate.gov to learn more about creating a balanced diet and improving your overall health.


Martin, C.B., Herrick, K.A., Sarafrazi, N., Ogden, C.L. Attempts to lose weight among adults in the United States, 2013–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 313. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.

Peer ReviewChristina Levert, Regional Extension Agent, Human Nutrition, Diet, and Health. Auburn University

New June 2021, The Truth About Fad Diets, FCS-2549