Good Diets vs Bad Diets: The Facts Revealed and Expounded

While the promise of rapid weight loss is pretty hard to resist, have you considered that your current diet may be causing more harm than good?

Many diets do work in the short-term, and therefore appeal to the masses, however very few result in lasting weight loss.

Let’s take a look at 5 popular diets that simply don’t work!

#1 Meal replacement

What is it?

Rather than eating ‘real’ food at each meal, some meals are substituted with a shake or soup.


Slim Fast, Tony Ferguson, Celebrity Slim.

Why it doesn’t work

This type of diet is a quick fix, and like many diets, it fails to get to real problem behind initial weight gain.

They don’t teach healthy eating habits, or how to control portion sizes. The result? When the diet is stopped, old eating habits haven’t been corrected, and unfortunately weight is usually gained back.

#2 Detox diet

What is it?

The theory of detoxing is that we need to get rid of nasty toxins, which build up in our body.


Liver Cleansing Diet, Raw Food Diet, Lemonade Diet.

Why it doesn’t work

Frankly there’s absolutely no scientific evidence to support the idea that our body needs to detox. As I’ve said before, we already have our own in house ‘detoxing shop’ via our liver and kidneys!

Some detox plans are very restrictive in nature, and cutting out whole food groups can lead to an inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

Detox plans do vary in severity, and some are very extreme, involving fasting and flushing the body with copious amounts of substances – this can potentially be a very dangerous practice.

Check out my previous article, Detox Diets – A Complete Scam?

#3 Low-carb diet

What is it?

These diets focus on restricting carbohydrate intake, and increasing protein consumption.


Atkins, South Beach, The Zone

Why it doesn’t work

Lack of adequate carbohydrate in the diet eventually leads to fat and protein being used as a source of energy. Some of the side-effects of this include, headaches, bad breath, and mood swings.

The lack of fibre can also be a problem, leading to constipation, and they are generally high in fat, most of which is saturated, and therefore unhealthy.

It’s also important to note that the initial rapid weight loss is rarely maintained.

Check out my previous article, Low-carb Eating Examined: Warning Explicit Content!

#4 Food combining

What is it?

The theory is that eating proteins and carbohydrates together is difficult for the digestive system to deal with, and therefore should be avoided.


Fit for Life, The Hay Diet.

Why it doesn’t work

These diets are based old and incorrect scientific principles – our digestive system is perfectly capable of digesting any combination of food.

Food combining is also a difficult plan to maintain, due to the complicated nature of meal structuring, and it could result in important nutrients being missed from the diet.

#5 Low-calorie diet

What is it?

These diets are very restrictive in nature, and are often based on a single food, for example cabbage soup, or grapefruit.


The Cabbage Soup Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Chicken Soup Diet.

Why it doesn’t work

Such plans encourage the exclusion of whole food groups, and are therefore extremely unhealthy. Potentially this could result in essential nutrients being missed, and even malnutrition.

Very low-cal diets lead to conservation of energy (fat), and the break down of protein (muscle). When the diet is stopped the body begins to replenish its energy stores, and weight tends to be regained rapidly.

How to spot a fad diet:

  • Contradicts what most trusted health professionals are saying.
  • Relies on testimonials and anecdotes, rather than scientific evidence.
  • Encourages eliminating whole food groups, such as carbohydrates.
  • Promises rapid weight loss of more than two pounds a week.
  • Suggests that particular foods have the power to burn fat.
  • Includes lists of “good” and “bad” foods.
  • Encourages bizarre quantities of particular foods or types of food, such as eating unlimited bowls of cabbage soup, cereal, or only consuming certain foods on certain days of the week.
  • Recommends specific food combinations.
  • Relies on meal substitutes, such as shakes.
  • Does not encourage an increase in physical activity.

So, what does work?

#1 Weight-loss clinics

Why this can work

Meeting with a trained professional, preferably a dietitian or nutritionist, will provide you with a specific program, tailored to your individual needs. This is much better than a one-size-fits-all program.

You will also receive ongoing support and advice as necessary, which should include targeting underlaying problems, associated with the initial weight gain.

#2 Low GI diet

What is it?

The GI plan was originally created to help diabetics manage their blood sugars better, however it can also be useful for weight loss in those without diabetes.

Why it can work

Low GI plans focus on foods that are high fibre (low GI), which help to maintain blood sugar levels, and make you feel fuller for longer.

One difficulty with the GI system is that it is based on individual foods, and therefore it’s difficult to work out the GI content of a meal.

Check out my previous article, Glycemic Index Food List.

#3 The DASH Diet

What is it?

The DASH diet is a low-salt, high-carb, high-fibre plan, originally designed to help lower blood pressure, but can also be used to aid weight loss.

Why it can work

The DASH diet focuses on basic healthy eating guidelines, emphasising regular exercise, and is therefore a well balanced approach to losing weight.

#4 Weight Watchers

What is it?

The weight watchers program is based on healthy eating and calorie control, however it does use a points system, so may not be suitable for some.

Why it can work

The program provides support, education, and advice. Exercise is also promoted.

Personally I feel that it’s impossible to count calories for the rest of your life, and therefore it’s important that you also learn good eating habits, aside from the points system.

Are you following a weight loss plan? How are you finding it?

Connect with me!

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I’d love to hear from you!

Some information adapted from the April (2008) edition of Australian Healthy Food Guide.

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca April 16, 2008 at 1:05 am

You’ve hit the diet nail on the head, although I would certainly add Bob Greene’s BestLife program to your healthy diet category. HIs plan for sensible eating and a program of gradually increasing exercise intensity has worked famously for this former couch potato!


Tanya April 16, 2008 at 2:16 am

I know many people that would argue that South Beach and Atkins work for them – I actually know people who live by those principles going on years now (check out living la vida lo carb – couldn’t remember the actual link). He swear by it, although he’s a bit too … evangelical for me.


Melanie April 16, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Hi Rebecca,

Yes, I did forget about the Best Life plan. I have heard good reports about it, but haven’t really looked into it ~ mental note to self to do that!! :-)

I’m glad to hear you’ve had good success, how long have you been following the plan?

Hi Tanya,

Yes, I’ve come across the livin la vida lo carb guy, he seems to have quite a big following.

I know that some have been very successful on the plans I’ve mentioned above as “don’t work,” however I’ve tried to present the most successful plans/longest running/best scientific evidence to support methods etc, and that’s why I haven’t put other plans in the “do work” section.


kirsty October 30, 2008 at 9:35 am

erm why dont the starving yourself work?
i mean im 12 year’s old and i know that its stupid to diet. but i want to because i feel to fat. is there any diet i should go on?


Melanie October 30, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Hi Kirsty,

It makes me really sad that you want to diet at such a young age. What is your weight and height? (You can contact me privately if you don’t want to say here)

Starving yourself doesn’t work because your body has a built in ‘protection mode,’ that kicks into action and begins storing up energy, rather than burning it off, when you don’t eat enough food.

You should try to lose weight slowly (0.5-1kg week) by eating a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, high fibre breads and pasta, small amounts of lean meats. Cut back on high fat and sugar snacks and soft drinks.

Regular exercise is also essential when losing weight. Try to find something you love, for example trampolining, cycling, team sports, Pilates etc. There are heaps of fun activities you can get involved in.

Give me a shout if you need to know anything else.


harrygibralter January 28, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Here is Dr. Atkins’ view of diet, health, and fat, as it now exists in the latest edition of his book: Early man ate a healthy meat diet, supplemented with low-calorie vegetables, berries, and fruit. Up until the last century, people ate meals that contained lots of butter and lard, pork, beef, and eggs without any health problems. However, the arrival of soft drinks and white flour in the 1890′s created the problem of heart disease and overweight, which had not previously existed. According to Atkins, these highly refined carbohydrates raised insulin levels and created blood sugar imbalance leading to loss of energy, excessive fat accumulations, overweight, heart problems, and eventually full-blown diabetes (elsewhere he condemns white rice, honey, milk, and potato products as well). As the amount of fat in the diet dropped and as the amount of carbohydrate increased, people became fatter and developed more health problems. To make matters worse, overweight people married overweight people, thus producing children even more sensitive to carbohydrates. Nor did nutritional advice — such as the USDA Food Pyramid — help, as people were taught to reduce the amount of fat in their diets and eat even more carbohydrates, the opposite of what they should have done.



Melanie January 29, 2009 at 8:20 am

Hi Harry,
Thanks for updating us on the latest Atkins notions! What are your thoughts on the Atkins Diet?


shabana February 26, 2009 at 8:41 pm

i have polycist ovary syndrom,does grape fruit diet has any benifit for the polycist


Melanie February 27, 2009 at 8:54 am

Hi Shabana,
I wouldn’t recommend the grapefruit diet. Polycystic ovary syndrome is best treated with a low GI diet.


sherri March 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Hey Melanie, my problem is I have forgotten how to eat healthy. I have hbp, diabetes and degenerative disc disease and bigger then I have ever been. What healthy eating habits should I try


Melanie March 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Hi Sherri,
In the past I’ve written a series on balanced health which you can find here, this would be a good starting point on what a healthy diet should look like.


Katelyn June 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

Hi Melanie,
I am 15 years old and weigh 160 lbs. I am 5′ 4.5″ and am not fat, but am just not in the best shape. I need to lose 20 lbs. Can you help me?


Melanie June 13, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Hi Katelyn,
Thank you for contacting me. I cannot offer you a personal consultation, however you may find signing up to receive my free ebook on how to break bad habits useful:

When you sign up for this you will also receive regular emails from me to help you on your journey, and many people have found this to be really helpful.

I’m just wondering what kind of food you eat at present and if you exercise?


Katelyn July 8, 2009 at 1:11 am

Well, I’m trying to eat healthier, so I’ve started this no flour no sugar thing and am starting to run and excersize. I just feel awful about myself though.


Melanie July 16, 2009 at 12:09 am

Hi Katelyn,
How are you getting on with your diet?


Katelyn July 18, 2009 at 12:14 am

Well, I’ve lost weight…and I run with my dad. Today I ran six miles. yay! but yeah, its going well. :)


Melanie July 21, 2009 at 4:25 am

Hey Katelyn,
That’s great…well done you! :-)

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