Last night I was at a gathering with a bunch of my wife's teacher coworkers.  During the multitude of different conversations that we had the subject of food inevitably came up and along with it different ways of eating and even dieting.  One of my wife's coworkers mentioned that she no longer ate beef, chicken or pork, make herself a "mostly vegetarian" since she still ate fish and seafood. This was all find and good since she was contentiously making that choice and not really "dieting".  Another then mentioned that she and her husband have been trying out the "paleo" diet.  When I inquired what it was, I found out it was a diet based on what a "caveman" would eat.  In other words you avoid anything that is processed or based on agriculture.  She also said that she would frequently "fast" for two days.  That is where she would only eat a small dinner at night, then not eat anything until the next evening.The more I talked to this woman the more I was awed by how little about basic nutrition she knew.  It became apparent that the reason so many fad diets take hold is because so many people don't really know about what they are putting into their bodies and what constitutes a healthy diet.

If truth be told, I hate dieting.  I hate the word and I hate the idea of dieting.  It implies that there is a short term solution for a long term problem.  What people should be thinking is that they need to change their diet or eating practices, not that they need to go on a "diet".  I will freely admit that I am on what is considered a "diet" program.  But the thing about it is I see it as a way to change my habits for the long term and well as it giving my an accounting system so that I can watch what I eat and be healthier.  At the very least it gives me a way to know just how much "bad" food I can eat before I will gain weight again.  

Now let me state that I am by no means a nutritional expert.  I do not have a degree in nutrition.  All I am stating are things that I have learned from my own personal experience and the very rudimentary class I took in culinary school about nutrition.  That being said, I do know somethings.  Like for instance, I know that every gram of carbohydrates and protein contains about 4 calories while fat has about 9 calories per gram and alcohol has 7.  This is why most sensible diets are keen on having a low fat content.  I also know that at its most basic level, dieting and loosing weight is a simple numbers game.  At the end of the day, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will loose weight.  It does not matter if you follow the All Bacon Diet as long as the calories consumed from that bacon are less then what use up during the day.  I am by no means suggesting that this is healthy or the right way to loose weight.  I am just pointing out that this is what it can all be boiled down to.  In a way this is why fad diets seem to work.  They somehow manage to cut your calorie intake so that you are burning more than you are eating.  Whether this is done in a healthy manner is inconsequential.

To me, the biggest factor of having a healthy diet is to have a good balance.  Eat what you are supposed to (fruits, vegetables, whole wheat grains, lean protein) and limit the unhealthy stuff (fats, refined sugars) and you should be doing alright.  If you want to loose weight, then try to consume less food  or try to burn more calories than you normal do.  Its even better if you do both.   The way I see it most fad diets' biggest sin is taking away that balance.  Most fad diets say don't eat this or only eat that and that is just not a good long term strategy.  Our bodies need the balance of eating everything in our diet.  You can't just take something out and hope that it will be ok.  Even if you achieve the results you want, then what?  You can't possibly sustain that diet continuously.  I am sure even proponents of said diet would agree with that.  So after you stop chances are you are going to bounce back.  And nothing is frustrating as slipping back and loosing the progress you have made. 

In the end I am sure most fad diets will be proven to be unhealthy and not a good idea.  For true weight loss and healthy eating you have to have two things: a willingness to change your lifestyle (even if just slightly) and patience.  True weight loss will not happen overnight.  Heck, it won't happen in two weeks or a month.  Depending on what your own goals are it will take time.  Talk to a doctor or a nutritionist and come up with a plan and some goals.  I know this is a cliche, but weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint.