When it comes to dieting, it may seem that there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. There are hundreds of different ‘fad’ diets ranging from the ‘fairly okay’ to the ‘completely ridiculous/possibly dangerous’. On this site we’ve discussed the dangers of many of these different fad diets and we’ve explained why others just simply won’t work. So if that’s the case… then what type of diet will work? Read on and let’s take a look.
The Problem With Most Diets
The problems with most diets are either that they’re too radical and extreme (meaning they’re not healthy or sustainable in the long term), that they’re too minor to have any real effect, or that they’re completely based on misinformation and as such… won’t work at all.
Take Slimming World for instance or Weight Watchers. These diets are largely focussed on losing weight by restricting calories and avoiding fat. While that might sound logical, they actually miss the point that the source of calories is as important or often even more important than the number of calories alone.
Then there are diets like Atkins or like intermittent fasting. These diets are a little more scientific and they at least recognise the true culprit when it comes to weight gain: carbohydrates. At the same time, these weight loss methods are somewhat impractical requiring people to completely cut out food groups, or to essentially starve themselves two days a week respectively. The Atkins diet also happens to be somewhat dangerous. Diets like the paleo diet, and like ‘carb backloading’ are sound in theory but again take matters too far. The paleo diet has a lot of plusses, but to say that ‘all man-made foods are bad for us’ is simply untrue and not particularly helpful.
And let’s not even talk about things like the ‘werewolf’ diet, or fruit juice fasts which are simply ridiculous…
The Right Approach for You
So what’s the right approach? First of all it’s not to subscribe to any of these points of view. While some of them might be harmless… even effective… they all enforce strict rules and usually involve spending a fair amount of money for the information. What I would recommend doing, is reading about each of the different diets and reading as many reviews as you possibly can. Do your research and learn why each diet is designed the way it is, and why each diet is effective or not on a case-by-case basis. From here you’ll then be armed with the knowledge to be able to pick and choose aspects of each diet to come up with something you can work with.
What’s also important to understand here is that different approaches will work differently for different people. This is why choosing a popular ‘fad diet’ at random and hoping it works for you is almost certainly doomed to failure. Not only is your balance of hormones and your metabolism completely unique, but so too are your tastes and preferences and your routine.
Look up different strategies, see what makes sense to you and has been generally well received, and then apply those principles to see what works. Adhere to the useful advice, and discard anything else that isn’t working.
To get you started, we’re going to take a look right here at some of the different principles that are worth adopting and testing. Compare what follows with the advice in various different diet strategies and see how well their advice adheres to these principles.
Don’t Remove Anything: The first and most important tip when assessing a diet is that it shouldn’t advise completely removing any food group from your diet. Some we need more of and some we need less of, but if a diet recommends completely eliminating something then you should disregard it. We eat the way we eat for a reason, and simply getting rid of any part of the diet is inviting problems. Apart from anything else, it’s impractical to completely avoid a whole group.
Lower Fast Carbs: Remove nothing from your diet, but do consider getting much less of some things that are bad for you. And one of the things that are really bad for weight loss is fast carbs. Fast carbs are carbohydrates like chocolate, bread, cake and sugar that result in a sudden and pronounced blood sugar spike. This results in an insulin spike which in turn tells your body to store that sugar as fat. The best diets will advise you to limit your intake of fast carbs while getting energy from other sources such as fats and complex (low GI) carbs. These all provide a slower supply of energy that doesn’t spike blood sugar and thus prevents lipogenesis (the storage of glucose as fat).
Cutting out carbs entirely is a no-no as it results in other health problems, while it’s crucial to ensure that you are still getting enough energy from other sources.
Fats Are Fine: Diets like Slimming World recommend eating low fat versions of popular foods and snacks in order to reduce calories. Their advice revolves purely around reducing calorific intake and reducing fat. As we’ve seen though, this is actually based on misinformation: calories alone aren’t what lead to weight gain so much as the combination of sugar and insulin. In fact, removing fats from foods may make you more likely to put on weight, simply because the fat is no longer there to slow down the release of sugar. Oops.
That’s not to say something like Slimming World can’t work. You are still going to be eating less this way, and that means you’re still likely to see some results. Nevertheless, most people find that they lose a few pounds early on only to then quickly see diminishing returns. A more scientific approach would be far more effective.
The Role of Hormones and Metabolism: Something smart that diets like carb backloading and intermittent fasting do is to look at how different foods and routines can impact on our hormones and our metabolism. This way they are then able to ‘hack’ the metabolism in order to achieve better results. The time of day you eat different foods for instance has a big impact on how you store the energy and/or repair the various functions in the body and this should be taken into account in any good diet.
So now you know the basics of how good diets work, do some more research on your own and find tips that work well for you. Once you find some that you like the looks of, test them out and see what works and what doesn’t. As you start to learn the science as well as how your own body responds you can even take the reins and start tweaking your diet yourself – at which point you’ll likely see the best results you’ve ever had.