Jan 02 2015
Fad diets pop up on a regular basis. I believe that is because they are so easy to manufacture and there is a ready made market for them. Add to that the fact that it is difficult to lose weight. There is also a great deal of misinformation out there about diet and health, so the environment is very friendly to pop pseudoscience.
If you want to create your own fad diet, here is a handy formula. These things pretty much write themselves.
#1 – You need a catchy title, usually taking the form of “The blank Diet.” You can fill in the blank with almost anything. For example, a recent fad diet is called “the bulletproof diet.” This doesn’t say anything about the diet itself, it’s just a catchy phrase, a brand. You can fill in the blank with a title that does reflect the diet itself, but this is optional. Creating a catchy title is actually the most creative work you have to do in making a fad diet.
#2 – Make outrageous claims of success. The bigger the lie, the more people are inclined to think that it’s not a lie because no one would be that audacious. So just come up with a very impressive figure – a pound a day, 10 pounds a week, or whatever. In reality, on a healthy weight-loss diet people will lose about 1.5-2.5 pounds per week maximum, depending on their current weight, fat percentage, and other variables. Also, weight loss itself is not the ultimate goal, just a marker. People really want to reduce fat and build muscle. Following waist size is also a good measure, and perhaps better. Using the scale is helpful to make sure you are staying on track, however. Liberally use the world “miracle,” although admittedly Dr. Oz has tainted this word a bit by overusing it.
#3 – Testimonials. Personal stories, starting with your own, are the bedrock of fad diets. Don’t worry if there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support your claims – fad diets are not about evidence. They are about selling a narrative, one in which people struggled endlessly to lose weight, but then started the X diet and the weight just fell off. Testimonials can be very compelling, even though they are almost worthless as evidence. Actually, that is their advantage for you as a fad diet marketer, because you can find testimonials to support whatever claims you wish to make.
#4 – The Secret. Your fad diet has to have the secret or key to weight loss. Make this as compelling as possible, using language like, “unlocking the secret,” “hacking the body,” unleashing the genetic code,” or whatever. People know that sustained healthy weight loss takes hard work and that you have to change your habits and lifestyle. You won’t sell any books telling the truth. What people are looking for is the magical solution, a hidden secret that will allow them to lose weight without changing their habits, without diet and exercise. That is what you are selling.
#5 – Cherry pick the research. If you want to add a little optional bling to your website, you can link to research supporting your diet. Now, there won’t be any research that actually indicates your diet works, but don’t worry about that. You can cherry pick studies that appear to support your diet. For example, if your diet is low in carbohydrates, then link to studies showing some change in a petri dish with low carbs, or short term effects from a low carb diet, or any apparent advantage to lowering carbohydrates. You don’t even have to read the studies, just look for titles that seem impressive and seem to support your diet. Most people won’t click the links to read and understand the research anyway.
#6 – Sciencey Explanations. This part can be real fun – make up BS explanations for why your diet works. There are some good old standbys if you can’t think of anything original, so don’t worry. You can’t go wrong with toxins. Just mention toxins a lot, and say that your diet eliminates toxins. You don’t have to name specific toxins, or indicate how the toxins are eliminated, or any other details. Just mention that your diet eliminates toxins. Anti-inflammatory is another great buzz term. Your diet has anti-inflammatory effects, which enables the body to superburn fat. (You can just make up words like “superburn,” in fact it is encouraged.)
#7 – Demonize a food group. Every narrative needs a villain, and every fad diet needs a demonized food or food group. These are evil foods that make your body store fad and sap you of energy. Avoiding them is a key to the diet, and one of the secrets you discovered. You can just pick them at random, or if you are ambitious you can tie them into your overall diet narrative. The flip side of this is that there are also magic foods that should be encouraged. Again, they can be anything, even unhealthy or fattening foods. You can even recommend that people eat a huge helping of butter every day. Really!
#8 – Attack your critics. You may get some blowback from scientists and doctors about how pseudoscientific and unhealthy your diet is, and be criticized because the research does not support your claims. Don’t worry about this – miracle claims and testimonials will shield you from any legitimate criticism. If you are feeling the pressure, however, then just attack your critics. Here again there are some good standbys, such as doctors don’t know anything about nutrition. All the diets that scientists have recommended before failed so they obviously don’t know what they are talking about. Scientists and doctors are all part of a giant conspiracy so they can’t be trusted. (Feel free to throw in mention of the AMA.) Your critics are just behind the times, or closed minded, or jealous of your success.
Making up your own fad diet can be fun and lucrative. All you have to do is relinquish any self-respect or integrity. You may even convince yourself that your diet is legitimate, because anyone can lose weight on almost any diet if they reduce calories. Testimonials will also be convincing to you (if you ignore the scientific evidence, which is recommended) and this will make you a more compelling promoter of your own diet.
The real trick is not becoming discouraged by the fact that fad diets are all bogus, they don’t produce sustainable results, they may be unhealthy, and they distort or ignore the actual science.
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