7 Most Popular Diets: What Works and What Not
Every year we make good resolutions and turn to diets to make us lose weight. Some are logical, others weird and still others are useless. Here’s a guide to help you find your way through all the weight loss diets you may be trying in this new year
Diets are the fitness equivalent of solutions to get rich fast: they are often too good to be true. This is not to say that it is not useful to examine the principles behind these fad diets and to separate facts from fiction.
We spoke with Lilly Nhan, a dietitian and a Master of Public Health student at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, about the best dietary trends in the market. Do they work? Are they safe? What can we learn from it?
Here are seven popular methods for losing weight analyzed by Nhan.
1. Juice diets
“Detoxifying” juices became trendy in 2007 when celebrities began using them to lose a lot of weight. This restrictive and potentially dangerous regime has since fallen into oblivion. It has, however, paved the way for the current craze for juices.
Juice-based diets can replace a meal with a juice (usually made from fresh fruits and vegetables). Juices can also replace all your meals for a period of three to ten days.
Although juice has its benefits (it’s a quick way to ingest vitamins and minerals), it’s better to eat fruits and vegetables in their solid form. ” There is more fiber in fruits and vegetables in their solid form. When you make juice, you lose all these nutritious fibers , “says Nhan.
Making juice is a legitimate way to quickly reduce calorie intake, but it is not an ideal long-term solution. ” Your body is taking longer to break down the fibers. That’s why when you ingest more fiber and carbohydrates, you feel full. On the other hand, when you drink juices, you absorb a large amount of sugar that will quickly break down and you will not feel full. You can drink juice at breakfast, but at lunch and dinner you will eat more to make up for that calorie deficit . “
Recommendation: A juice-based diet is a good way to “restart” your body before a long-term diet to lose weight. In the long run, replacing a meal with a juice is safe and healthy, but instead of extracting the juice, mix whole fruits and vegetables into a smoothie or supplement with high-fiber foods to avoid to be hungry.
2. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is very popular today thanks to research that has proven its benefits. There are several types of intermittent fasting programs: some consist of a 16-hour fast followed by eight hours of “meal” while others alternate between a full day of fasting and a full day of normal eating. Preliminary research has shown that intermittent fasting is beneficial, although some programs require much more than others.
” This is a very promising area of research, even if it is relatively new. What I’m wary of, and it’s typical of any such restrictive diet, is that when you restrict yourself to such an extreme degree, you can fall into a vicious circle where you nibble to compensate . “ Not all intermittent fasting programs are as extreme and many people who do intermittent fasting get used to it.
From a more practical point of view, intermittent fasting (and any very restrictive diet) can also impact social life: if you are fasting and your friends want to go out to dinner, it can affect your lifestyle.
Recommendation: According to some research, intermittent fasting is a legitimate and safe way to lose weight. If you choose to start an intermittent fasting diet, go for a less restrictive program like the 16/8 method before gradually switching to a more extreme variation such as alternative fasting. Do not, however, turn your social life around food. If you start to develop dangerous habits such as purging or restricting food for longer periods than those recommended in the program, stop the diet immediately and seek professional help.
3. Paleo and keto diets
The Paleolithic diet (the diet that CrossFit athletes often choose) and the ketogenic diet share similar principles but have some differences. The paleo diet avoids legumes, cereals, sugar and most dairy products. Carbohydrates are allowed in the form of root vegetables and purees. The ketogenic diet shares a list of similar restrictions, but allows dairy products and has stricter restrictions on carbohydrates. This high-fat, low-carb nutritional plan is designed to put your body in a state where it burns fat. This condition is known as ketosis.
” People particularly like these two diets because they get results quickly if they follow them to the letter. They lose a lot of weight and say they feel better .
The biggest obstacle is sustainability. ” Most people are able to follow these plans in the short term, but it is difficult to translate this very strict adherence to a lifestyle. These are rather expensive diets and if you follow them to the letter, being able to go out for dinner or share a meal with other people can be complicated .
Nhan worked with patients to adopt the ketogenic diet because it was proven to help treat epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. In these situations, she closely monitored ingestion. macro and micronutrients and the health of its patients. ” It can be dangerous to restrict your carbohydrate intake to such an extreme degree. Our body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates and glucose. When you restrict yourself, you risk suffering from health problems .
Recommendation: Several principles of paleo and keto regimes have advantages. We should all consider high quality carbohydrates, limit or eliminate all refined sugars, avoid processed foods and refined grains, and eat more leafy vegetables. Replace carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice with spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower rice and brown rice. If you choose to follow these diets, know that when you stop, you will gain weight.
4. Avoid carbohydrates
In general, most people eat too much carbohydrate, especially refined carbohydrates. Decreasing our carbohydrate intake is usually a good idea. Avoiding carbohydrates can be good for your health (although this can be problematic for people with low blood sugar). Some people avoid even more carbohydrates to lose weight, which can have the opposite effects (you remember the Atkins diet?) And the results are canceled as soon as you stop.
Nhan recommends some tips to avoid carbohydrates without eliminating them completely. ” Replace your carbohydrates with vegetables. Many people opt for cauliflower rice or for spiral vegetables like zucchini.Many of us do not eat enough vegetables. Personally, I advocate for these techniques .
Recommendation: Before removing carbohydrates from your diet, try to eat the best carbohydrates possible. Refined carbohydrates have none of the benefits of carbohydrates such as fiber and vitamins. Opt instead for pasta and wholemeal bread. If you are ready to take the next step, start substituting rice and pasta with vegetables such as spiral zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and broccoli and cauliflower rice. When you eat carbohydrates, go for complexes like farro, bulgur, quinoa, millet and brown rice that are absorbed much more slowly than refined grains.
5. The raw food diet
Advantage of the Raw Food Diet: It will probably help you lose weight by significantly decreasing your caloric intake and increasing your fiber intake.
Disadvantage of the raw food diet: it is incredibly restrictive and requires a superhero’s will to stick to it.Even worse, it can become very dangerous. Steve Jobs followed this diet and some say it contributed to his pancreatic cancer, which eventually killed him. Ashton Kutcher, who plays Jobs in his biopic, also tried to follow this diet for a month and finished at the hospital.
” My biggest fear is whether you are eating enough protein and fat. People consume most of the protein in their cooked form, whether it’s protein that comes from meat or vegetables like beans. Fat is an essential macro nutrient and if you do not prepare your food with extra fat, you may miss it . “
However, raw foods have their benefits. ” Often, during cooking, some vitamins and minerals disappear. By keeping raw foods, you can keep all the vitamins and nutrients they contain. However, be careful because sometimes vitamins and minerals are activated by cooking .
Recommendation: Choosing to eat raw foods can be beneficial in the short term, but we do not recommend it in the long run because you will run out of protein and it can have negative effects on your liver and pancreas. Of course, it is beneficial to consume some raw vegetables, especially nuts and seeds, red fruits and onions. However, it is better to cook carrots, tomatoes, spinach and cruciferous vegetables.
6. Tea to lose weight
Tea to lose weight? Complicated, says Nhan.
While diet teas can help people lose weight fast, they do not work in the long run. ” Usually, teas for weight loss have a laxative effect and the weight you lose, you lose it in water. You do not burn more calories. Our body is amazing and it works a lot to stay in homeostasis, which means keeping a balance in terms of hydration and electrolyte content. In the end, you will recover this water and the weight you have lost .
As with any aggressive diet to lose weight and which revolves around an extreme decrease in hydraulic contributions, be careful not to go too far. ” Abuse of laxatives can lead to serious health risks. If you want to lose weight without retaking it, I advise against these teas .
Recommendation: Unless you are constipated and use diet teas sparingly to relieve yourself, we do not recommend them.
7. The cabbage soup diet / the grape-based diet
These diets work on the philosophy that there are “negative calorie foods”, that is, your body burns calories by digesting them.
Even though the thermal effect of food (aka the energy your body spends to break down food and absorb it) could theoretically offset the caloric content of these foods, the idea of ”negative calorie foods” is can.
” Some people believe that some foods require more energy to be absorbed, but that’s not a large portion of calories in your diet. Yes, if you eat cabbage and grapes and nothing else, of course you will lose weight. But if you add half a bunch of grapes to your diet or you drink cabbage soup every day, it will not burn more calories.This idea is totally wrong .
Recommendation: cabbage and grapes are good for you. Eat as much as you like, but do not expect them to magically remove your love handles.
Last points about extreme diets
Even though most of these diets are not fundamentally bad for you, Nhan points out that any form of severe restriction can be difficult to maintain and create mental complexes as well as unhealthy behaviors. ” The plans that work the best are the ones you can follow in the long run. You must be able to incorporate your diet into your lifestyle. You will have to learn and make mistakes. It focuses on sustainable strategies such as portion control, moderation and smart substitution.
If you need to lose weight quickly, she recommends seeking professional advice. ” Sometimes people want to lose weight fast. We always hear about it in the stars when actors lose weight for roles. The best way to do this is to seek help from a professional such as a certified dietitian, a nutritionist or a personal trainer . “ Be ready to get involved seriously. ” If you want to lose weight fast, you will have to burn a lot of extra calories through exercise and a big restriction on calories .” Not to mention a great mental strength.