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Dieting 101: Popular Diets and How They Stack Up

66 percent of Americans are on a diet on any given day. That being said, it’s no wonder that weight loss is such a hot topic. When it comes to trying to lose weight, there are lots of options to choose from, so many in fact, that it can be downright confusing and overwhelming. Which is the best one for losing weight, keeping it off and keeping your sanity in tact while doing it?

In this article I’m going to give you the skinny (pun intended) on today’s most popular diet trends and how they stack up against each other.

Paleo

This diet has been around for a long time, apparently since the dawn of man. The premise is to eat like our caveman ancestors whose diets consisted mainly of meat, vegetables and fruits, while eliminating dairy, grains, legumes, refined sugar and processed foods. There is a lot of controversy surrounding these claims. Publications like National Geographic,  say it’s likely that early man ate more grubs, nettles and wild plants, than meat and vegetables. A diet consisting of grubs would definitely help you lose weight!

Paleo has it’s merits, it will help you eat a cleaner diet, and it’s good to avoid processed foods, refined sugar and nutritionally void starches. You will probably lose weight, however the reason may be, that you’re struggling to find something you’re allowed to eat. The downside of Paleo is it’s very restrictive, which makes it difficult to stick to in the long term.   

Low Carb

The low carb diet has been popular since the Atkins diet was introduced in the 60’s. A low carb diet says you should avoid all sugary foods, pasta and bread. The focus is on protein, veggies and a limited amount of low sugar fruits. This diet has remained popular for many reasons, the main one being it produces results. Promoters of this diet claim that by avoiding sugar and high starch foods, your blood sugar levels will stabilize. Stabilized blood sugar levels can mean reduced fat storage, and increased feelings a satiety after eating, which result in less calories consumed.

It’s fairly easy to follow a low carb diet, and like Paleo, cutting out sugars and starchy foods is a good thing. The drawback is eliminating complex carbohydrates from your diet can affect mood, energy levels, hormonal balance, not to mention, ahem, libido. Eat your sweet potatoes or no nookie for you!

Counting Calories

A pound of fat equals 3500 calories, if you are in a deficit you will lose, if you are in excess you will gain. It doesn’t matter if those calories are from snicker bars or broccoli, it’s the simple law of thermodynamics.

The hard part about this diet is counting the actual calories. Everything has calories, and making sure to count every single one can be tough. There are apps on your phone that can help you keep track.

Counting calories to lose weight is simple, there are no food restrictions and it works, if followed closely.  Another benefit is you will become educated on the calorie content of food, which in turn may make you a more mindful eater. Beware though, this can also be a negative, you’ll never be able to look at a donut the same again. Counting can take the joy out of eating.

Counting Macros

This is even more confusing and time consuming than counting calories. This diet contends, you shouldn’t be worrying about how many calories you’re taking in, but where those calories are coming from. The idea is, if you figure out the ideal amount of protein, fats and carbs you need to meet a specific goal, of say weight loss, your body will respond. Or so they claim. All you have to do is decide on your goal, figure out your macros to achieve that goal, then track them daily and make sure you are staying within your designated range.

Like calorie counting this diet encourages more mindful eating. However, counting anything whether it’s calories or macros takes too much time and energy, and sucks the fun out of your life.

Intermittent Fasting

Fasting is extremely popular at the moment. The idea behind intermittent fasting is to cycle between periods of eating and extended periods of fasting.

Fasting can aid in weight loss simply because of a reduction in caloric intake and also, according to some studies, can help boost your metabolism.

On the positive side, this diet is easy to follow, not restrictive except with time, and delivers results if followed correctly. The main drawback that I see, is making poor food choices during the eating window, due to being incredibly hungry. In addition, this diet could leave you feeling weak and tired, and it may be difficult to do on days when you exercise.

The “Perfect” Diet

My idea of the “perfect” diet that will help you lose weight and keep it off, is a lifestyle change.

It can be difficult to shed pounds in the beginning of your weight loss journey, and perhaps doing one of the above diets will help you get started. 

Eventually you will need to adopt a style of eating that will sustain you through the rest of your life. This should be enjoyable, while allowing you to manage your weight healthfully, and at the same time nourishing your body.

Your body needs protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and an array of vitamins and nutrients to thrive. Your diet should be providing the majority of this for you.

Practice portion control.  Eat wholesome real food but don’t think just because you are eating “healthy” food, you can eat til your hearts content. Eat until your stomachs content. When you finish a meal you should feel comfortably satiated, not overly full. Eat slowly and mindfully. Do this, and it will become routine to eat portions that are right for you.

Lastly indulge on occasion. No one should deny themselves entirely. Let yourself have that treat you’re craving. Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself time to reach your goals and to love your body, I guarantee you, your body will love you back.

Good Luck!

Thoughts? Comment below.

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