Jan 02 2015

How To Create a Fad Diet

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.

15 responses so far

15 thoughts on “How To Create a Fad Diet”

  1. PM says:

    #9 – Link it to a exotic or ancient (or, ideally, both) group of people who eat or ate in accordance with the diet. The more geographically and chronologically distant the group is from your chosen market (tropical rain forest tribes, aboriginal peoples, Paleolithic hunter-gatherers etc.), the better. Obviously these peoples are likely to live shorter lives and suffer from more diseases than those to whom you intend to sell your diet, but it’s highly unlikely anyone will think to check this and, if they should do so, then liberal use of the magic word ‘natural’ is recommended to deal with the problem.

  2. ksinger says:

    Seven, let me say right here, I adore your blog! I have been reading it, initially because of my recent MS diagnosis, but since then because it’s ALL wonderful, and a bracing tonic for the crap-ton of stupid proliferating on the web these days.

    Anyway, since diagnosis, I’ve had to listen certain of my family members (who know jack about MS) first trot out gluten as the likely culprit, and diet in general as the cure, or the thing that is going to stop it. Sound familiar? Naturally, I was more than skeptical, but out of thoroughness (and maybe a bit of a desire to point out that nothing pertaining to diet and MS constitutes real research) I Googled “can diet cure MS”. Predictably, I found little but ads full of wild claims for this or that supplement or diet (which I did not click), but luckily, also immediately found your entry on Terry Walh’s claims (which I DID click). As if by MAGIC (har har), the family member soon after was all excited and tried to get me on board with “The Wahls Diet”. Needless to say I was ahead of him at that point. It’s been a philosophical battle of epic proportions, with him saying “But this gal is a DOCTOR!” and me riposting with “So what! Dr Oz is a doctor too, and he’s still a crackpot” and “I don’t care if she’s a doctore, her personal anecdote is NOT data!”, and, “Do you honestly think that if diet cured or even substantially slowed MS, that the MS community and their doctors would not know it by now? They try everything, trust me!!” and “You can’t take 27 supplements AND change your diet AND take a med and then claim you know what effected any changes: it doesn’t work that way!!” I shouldn’t have wasted my breath, although I think he may finally understand now that suggestions of that nature to me, are going to be a waste of time.

    Anway, I was giggling through this whole piece, and with this last year, giggling has not been something I’ve done a lot of. Thank you for that! 🙂

  3. tmac57 says:

    The average weight gain for adults over time is only one to two lbs per year. That is an astoundingly small 10 to 20 calories per day excess! If people were to fully understand this at age 20, they could easily avoid the almost invisible creep of weight gain, by simply monitoring their weight on a weekly basis, and adjusting their calorie/activity level to maintain the weight that they desired. It’s much harder when you wait until you are 40, and 20 to 40 lbs overweight, and have established lifelong bad eating habits, and or a sedentary lifestyle.
    That’s when the ‘quick fix’ and ‘miracle’ diets start to look really good to people who have never previously gotten serious about managing their weight and physical health.

  4. MaryM says:

    Heh. Just turned to my email to see a food site that I signed up (to monitor, for skeptical purposes). The subject line: 3 secrets for miracles in 2015.

    This linked to a webinar offer, and the page is full of testimonials. It’s like they used this blog post as a script!


  5. Ugh. This seems like a lot of work. Isn’t there some simple trick I can use to come up with a fad diet?

  6. Ugh. This seems like a lot of work. Isn’t there some simple trick I can use to come up with a fad diet?

  7. SunOfEris says:

    I just thought I’d give this a try.

    The Quantum Diet

    Use quantum mechanics and genetic consciousness to unlock your body’s ability to hyper-burn calories. In a very real* sense it’s as if THE CALORIES WERE NEVER EVEN EATEN. Of course you still gain all the nutritional value, just not those burdensome macro-nutrients that cause fat. This top study, suppressed by the government and the medical community, (http://www.11points.com/Food-Drink/11_Foods_That_Start_With_the_Letter_Q) identifies the foods that will help the most to uber-ignite your metabolism for weightloss. The key is the little known Heisenburg Caloric Principle that, in simple terms, prevents caloric absorption when your consciousness associates the foods you are eating with Quantum Mechanics (this is a complex process known to physicists as quantum food entanglement).

    One user of this diet lost more then he actually weighed in the first week! Don’t wait until the government and “scientists” step in and stop us from educating the public on this little known diet!

    *Not so much real as completely false and unsubstantiated

  8. Eddie says:

    I just popped into the latest diet news today Jan 2 2015 and the prediciton is people are going to be eating less meat.

    The Sheeple who have transferred day to day life anxiety along with fear of weight gain onto a protien called gluten will now have a new scapegoat.

    I came across this on meat alternatives

  9. Wolfbeckett says:

    Is this what they play instead of Mad Libs when psuedo-scientific cranks have sleepover parties?

  10. Crank92 says:

    This is most interesting to me. I am a sceptic to the core and yet this struck a cord with me.

    I saw this post on a facebook page with an image of the cover of Breaking the Vicious Cycle a diet intended for Chron’s, Ulcerative Colitis and antibiotic induced diarrhoea. After I took the pharmaceutical drug isotretinoin I ended up developing Chron’s, there were talks of colostomy bags and all. I was getting worse and worse, and yes I did refuse to take more drugs/antibiotics as even the science stated they most likely wouldn’t cure me of the crippling pain that led me to the bathroom a couple of dozen times per day.

    Then I came across this diet. Within a week I was symptomless. However, if I went back to anything ‘illegal’ e.g. rice, potato, milk etc etc. I would be back on the toilet bloated, in pain, with severe diarrhoea within the hour. It’s taken me now about 2 years on this diet to allow me to consume these ‘illegal’ foods with only minor problems. For the record I had zero problems with any of these illegal foods pre-isotretinoin. I could drink a gallon of whole milk a day (whilst intentionally gaining weight) without issue, to having about 25ml and experiencing diarrhoea.

    The thing is, this diet is not based on robust evidence and it doesn’t claim to be. It presents a biologically plausible theory that has some merit both in science and yes *sigh* anecdotal evidence too. Bottom line, more evidence is needed.

    I have in my time been told some total hogwash though, whether it be the theories behind raw veganism, liver flushes, homeopathy, “finding God” etc etc. which have pretty much non-existent scientific merit to their cause and caused me to get beyond irate on several occasions.

    Another controversial remedy I have tried is cannabis oil *gasps*, this too was actually very helpful. But then again, this has some early evidence it could be helpful for Chron’s. An Israeli study in 2013 found cannabis to be helpful in Chron’s and I believe this was simply smoking it, a very inefficient ingestion method indeed.

    Basically, some of these diets need further investigation before they can be derided as being outright ludicrous. For example paleo, I don’t doubt our ancestors ate exactly what the diet prescribes that much is obvious. But I do believe paleo to be one of the healthier diets around. Although that being said there seem to be so many variations to paleo these days I’m sure you can twist my words to make me sound like I’m promoting a terribly unhealthy diet.

  11. Jared Olsen says:

    Ha! You would have made one helluva villian Steve!
    Don’t know what it’s like in the US, but here in Oz, it seems like the primary purpose
    of a pharmacy is to sell Kim Kardashian’s latest crap or the newest fad diet, with maybe 15%
    of floor space dedicated to actual medicines.

    I’d *love* to print out your recipe for success and paste it to the windows of a couple dozen
    …actually, why not?..

  12. Nitpicking says:

    Steve, learn the lesson of Oprah. No, not that one, the lesson from when the Texas beef producers took legal action. This essay implies that big servings of butter are unhealthy–watch out for dairy industry lawsuits!

  13. grabula says:

    Crank93, there’s no evidence the pale does I’d anything butt made up based on several assumptions. Some activity and better eating choices work just fine. Pizza will not kill you, eating a couple of whole pizzas a week and living a sedentary lifestyle just might.

  14. Waydude says:

    Ok, I got my Kickstarter going, Thanks Steve!

    The Amazing Diet!

    Lose 10 pounds of Fat a week while building muscle!

    You’ll unlock the secret to hacking your body and unleashing your genetic code to turn your body into a fat burning muscle building machine!

    This will rid the body of toxins and start the fat superburning process only guaranteed by the amazing diet!

    Plus learn to avoid certain foods that signal the body to store fat like broccoli and kale! All while never giving up the things you love to eat! Did you know that pizza and hamburgers can be a part of the amazing diet and will actually burn fat while building muscle!

    If your doctor knew so much about nutrition then why are you still overweight?! Remember when scientists said eggs and avocados were bad and now they’re suddenly good for you?!! Nice try scientists!

    So try the amazing diet today and simply watch in amazement while your body burns fat and builds muscle! But don’t take out word, listen to these Amazing diet real like true stories!

    “I went on the amazing diet, and wow, just amazing”

    “The amazing diet is simply that. Amazing”

    “I went on the Amazing Diet and got type 2 diabetes, shortly thereafter my left leg had to be amputated”

    “Just like the most Amazing Diet ever!!!”

    So try the Amazing Diet today, what have you got to lose?! Nothing with our money back guarantee as long as you meet a few strict guidelines.

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