Decoding Celebrity Fad Diets

A gimmick or an inspirational ideal?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Think Snooki's cookie diet is for you? Experts warn fad dieters to be wary when jumping on the fad diet bandwagon.

    Thumb through any supermarket tabloid, and you'll catch a glimpse of the latest post-baby bikini-clad celebrity, promoting the next fad diet. If not that, then it's the already stick-thin supermodel, declaring why detox is the way to go because it helped her shed those nagging four and three-quarters pounds.

    But for those of us without the glitzed-out cribs or sky-high Loubs, are these diets even feasible? Realistic? Most important -- healthy?

    Katherine Jou, M.D., said these types of celebrity success stories actually can be beneficial to the public, because of the empowering messages that everyone struggles with body image woes and that weight loss is possible with determination and hard work.

    “Images and stories of celebrity weight loss methods can be positive in that they can inspire the average person to lose weight or to get healthier and more fit,” she said.

    But despite the apparent success of pound-shedding stars, Dr. Jou still warns against the ideals of wanting to lose weight rapidly. 

    Think you can whittle yourself away from 165 pounds to the size of Posh Spice in two weeks? Unfortunately, such a promise is still both unrealistic and unhealthy.

    “The results achieved by the celebrity may set up unrealistic expectations, as the rich and famous often have access to resources beyond the means of the average person,” Dr. Jou said.

    Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., national spokesperson of the American Dietetic Association and author of "Diet Simple," explains that many celebs are on fad diets to enable immediate weight loss.

    As she explained, though, many of these methods aren’t so... pleasant. 

    In other words, think along the lines of cabbage soup consuming, cayenne-laced lemonade drinking, detoxing and so on.

    “I find that just in general, people love those words, ‘the cleanse,’ ‘the detox,’ and I think that is something to run fast in the other direction away from," Tallmadge said. "They mean something very extreme, like something like enemas."

    Jou added that many of these diets seen in the media aren’t healthy. Eat too few calories, for instance, and you’re potentially setting yourself up to crash and burn.

    “The praise of rapid weight loss, that supposedly occurs as a result of various dieting methods, sends the message to the public that this is a safe and achievable goal,” Dr. Jou said. “However, research shows that a slower rate of weight loss of up to two pounds per week is safer, and dieters that lose weight slowly are more likely to keep the pounds off over the long term.”

    Tallmadge, who has analyzed celebrity diets for national news affiliates, also warns against the quick-fix lure of it all, especially since fad diets are temporary by necessity. 

    Simply put, a person cannot feasibly maintain a continual lifestyle on, say, Snooki’s daily intake of high-fiber cookies alone.

    Furthermore, dietary trends, for both celebrities and the public alike, may not always incorporate physical activity. Without routine exercise habits in place, weight loss often falls by the wayside once a person’s regular eating habits resume.

    Consider Oprah, for example -- one of the most influential figures in the nation, a woman who seemingly has it all but has publicly battled with her weight.  What’s at the root of Oprah’s failed weight-loss attempts?

    Tallmadge attributes it to the fact that Oprah constantly hops from one fad diet to another.

    “Clearly she hasn’t addressed the underlying causes of her overeating and inactivity or whatever it is.  She’s just not addressed it," Tallmadge said. "And she continues to have these problems even though she has all of the resources to solve them. I’m always amazed at really intelligent, resourceful people who can be really clueless on the subject of dieting and do all kinds of crazy, irrational things.”

    Shuffling past all of the criticisms, though, it’s important to note that dietary crazes are headline worthy for a reason: If followed, they can be successful in helping people drop weight. Still, keep in mind that a plan to transition from extreme dieting to a well-balanced way of eating is crucial should you opt for this route.

    Lastly, remember to weigh the pros and cons of it all, and consult with a specialist before going on any drastic, calorie-cutting regimen. Because, even if Snooki does rein as your role model, diets included, you just never know if it’s truly legitimate -- or yet another get-thin-quick scheme.