THE BLOG
12/09/2010 11:29 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Tell if Your Diet Plan Is BS

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that most diet plans out there are full of it. If they worked, a third of us wouldn't be classified as obese. But if you're trying to get healthy and lose weight, how can you tell the healthy diets from the lousy ones?

Bad diets that are designed to slim your wallet rather than your waistline actually have a lot in common. In my opinion, if you see any of these five hallmarks of a BS diet plan, hold on to your credit card and run the other direction.

Five Hallmarks Of A BS Diet Plan:

Single Case Studies And Lots Of Testimonials
People who don't have evidence to back up their claims often rely on personal testimonials instead. Testimonials are accounts by people who have supposedly used the product and had incredible success. But in many cases, these stories are better described as uncredible rather than incredible.

The reality is that it's fairly easy to get people to say/do/look exactly the way you want. Sometimes the testimonials are made by paid actors who are lying for profit, other times the quotes are simply taken out of context and exaggerated. It is even possible that some of the testimonials are true, but that the person giving them doesn't understand the true ramifications of the results they are seeing (or will only see those results for a short time).

The point is, individual case studies rarely reflect the true effectiveness of a product, and are hand-selected to make the product look good. Because you can be sure that if the seller had real statistical data on his product's effectiveness, he would be using that instead.

Black And White Rules
One of the easiest things to do to lose weight is follow a set of very strict rules for a set amount of time. Limiting calories in and increasing calories out will make just about anyone lose weight for a little while, so even ridiculous plans like the Twinkie diet can seem effective for a short period.

But very few individuals can maintain a strict diet permanently, and I would argue that this should not even be your goal. A healthy eating plan must have flexibility, since everyone has different personal and dietary needs. If a diet has too many rules, it isn't going to be your salvation.

Angry Proponents
Rational people don't get upset when someone disagrees with them. When you see health advocates defending their diet as if it were a religion you can bet there's a bigger, more personal reason for all the commotion.

While it is great to be passionate about the way you eat, if supporters resort to name calling and hate blogging there's likely more dogma than truth in whatever they're selling.

Truthiness
Is that data you just told me, or just a bunch of science-y words that explain your opinion? Don't be fooled by a scientific theory about why a diet works. If you can't find numbers to back up that information, then the diet is still a hypothesis and not a proven therapy. People love to tout our need for dietary "enzymes" or what we've "evolved" to eat, but I've never seen any evidence suggesting these things are true.

Fantastical Results
Does that diet sound too good to be true? It probably is. There are many ways to induce rapid, dramatic weight loss, but unless the plan is sustainable the weight will come back. Don't be lured by the promise of quick, amazing results. Look for plans that encourage improving habits and are designed to keep weight off permanently.

You can find more healthy eating tips by Darya Pino at Summer Tomato.