With over 65% of adults struggling with maintaining a healthy weight, it’s really no wonder that so many diets have been competing for the limelight over the past few years. From low-fat and low-calorie diets such as the Ornish and Weight Watchers diet to low-carb diets such as keto and Atkins, the number of diets to choose from has become overwhelming. But with so many choices available, how do you know which diet will work best for you?
The truth about dieting
Traditionally speaking, there’s only one method that works universally, and that’s calorie restriction. It doesn’t really matter which diet you follow; if you don’t eat fewer calories than you are burning, you will not lose any weight. In other words, calorie restriction is the cornerstone of weight-loss.
On the other hand, we also know that weight loss is never as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Age, sex, activity levels, overall health, and other factors affect weight loss. Another problem is that weight loss is never a linear process. Weight-loss plateaus happen because of drops in resting metabolic rate (RMR) in response to dieting, making further weight loss difficult and weight regain easy.
With that said, losing weight can be complicated, and that’s why so many people struggle in the first place. But as research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests, choosing a diet that you can enjoy and stick to makes a huge difference.
How to choose a diet
A diet you can stick to is probably the best diet for you personally. But there are many other things you should know about dieting before making your pick. To help you make the best choice of diet for weight loss, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I see myself following this long-term?
Many diets come with promises of fast and sustained weight loss, but is it easy to follow? A good example is the keto diet, the most popular diet of 2018. The keto diet limits carbohydrates to less than 50g per day and makes fat the primary source of energy, which is difficult enough for most people. And if you’re not familiar with counting calories, measuring macronutrients, and keeping track of blood ketone levels, then keto can be too much to bear. On the other hand, more sustainable examples include the Mediterranean diet, vegan diets, and Paleo.
Is this diet supported by evidence?
It’s always a good idea to see if a diet was tested in clinical trials for efficiency. The more evidence there is behind the claims, the more foolproof said diet will be. Of course, just because some diets have yet to undergo testing does not mean that they’re not effective. On the other hand, if a diet is proven to be effective for weight loss, it may not guarantee that the diet will work for you, but the evidence is there. An example of a weight-loss diet that underwent testing is the Weight Watchers diet.
Does it fit my budget?
Going on a diet does not have to be costly. Your goal is to eat fewer calories to lose weight while still being mindful of your health and your budget. If a diet requires splurging on expensive products, foods, plans, and lessons, it really may not be any better than the next diet that requires simple meal adjustments to trigger weight loss. Check if a diet fits your budget and you won’t feel like you’re pouring your money down the drain.
Is this diet healthful?
Ideally, a weight-loss diet should also be a healthful diet. As already said, you want to choose a diet that you’ll stick with for the long haul. Since you’ll be following this diet for months or years even, you want to make the healthiest choices possible. Many crash and fad diets come with flashy claims of incredible weight loss, but these also tend to be worse for health. On the other hand, plant-based, DASH, and the Mediterranean diet promise moderate weight loss but loads of health benefits. These diets promote cardiovascular and metabolic health and can lead to weight loss when paired with portion control.
Does it affect my diagnosis?
If you are diagnosed with a health condition, speak to your doctor before making any changes to your eating habits to reduce risks and improve your outcomes. Some diets are contraindicated in people with certain health conditions. The keto diet, for example, is contraindicated in those with disorders of fat metabolism and pancreatitis. If you have diabetes, you will also need to adjust your insulin dosage when switching to low-carbohydrate diets especially. Furthermore, diets that incorporated fasting are not the best choice for those with a history of eating disorders.
What are the options?
There are countless different diets out there, but many diets that come with a primary focus on weight loss can be categorized into one or more of the following:
With some diets, the main focus is on developing ways to help you reduce your calorie intake, while food type is less important. The Weight Watchers diet and the 5:2 diet are examples of low-calorie diets. Health-promoting diets like the Mediterranean diet can also be low-calorie if you watch your portions.
With these diets, it’s important not to go to extremes because this is unsustainable and can be bad for your health and well-being in the long-term. Studies show that a modest calorie reduction of up to 500 calories less per day is enough to cause weight loss. Combined with exercise, these diets can be effective.
Health authorities across the globe suggest that we should reduce our fat intake to make up less than 35% of our daily calories. This is partly because fat contains more calories than carbs and protein combined, but also to help us reduce our intake of saturated fat, which is considered bad for heart health.
While these diets may work for some, they may not be as tasty or fun as other diets, making them difficult to follow long-term. A better approach may be reducing your intake of saturated fats and increasing your intake of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are proven to support weight loss compared to other types of fat.
Low-carb diets such as keto and Atkins have become increasingly popular in the past couple of years (learn more about the differences between keto and Atkins here). The main appeal behind these diets is that they force the body to switch from burning sugar to burning fat for fuel. These diets may also suppress hunger, which makes calorie restriction easy.
However, low-carb diets have yet to gain support from the scientific community when it comes to weight loss. Studies seem promising, but more research is needed before anyone can provide a conclusive answer.
Which diet you should go for should depend largely on whether you see yourself following this diet for months and years to come. It would also be wise to choose a diet that’s supported by evidence and health and nutrition experts. But whichever diet you choose, make sure that you end up eating fewer calories than you are burning. This is at the heart of all weight-loss and that’s easy to achieve with most diet plans, especially when paired with a weekly exercise regime.
If you looking to start a new eating plan? Why not join our healthy eating community on HealthUnlocked and connect with people for online support when starting a new diet, share recipes and tips.
Written by Sofia Norton
Driven, dedicated and team-oriented professional with more than 6 years of experience providing wellness and nutritional support in various capacities. After Sofia learned about “food deserts” as a kid, she became determined to devote her life to making healthy foods accessible to everyone, regardless of income or location. Sofia has traveled around the world, teaching nutrition to communities in extreme poverty. In her spare time, Sofia loves long bike rides and exploring local farmer’s markets.