Eeny, Meeny, Miny Diet!

Eeny, Meeny, Miny Diet!

Have you been told you need to lose weight for health reasons? Do you have a special event coming up you want to look your best for? Are you just not happy with the way you feel and look? Looking for a diet to follow but feeling overwhelmed with all the options out there?

While we always recommend sustainable lifestyle changes that can be followed for the rest of your life over short periods of dieting, short term diets can play a role in kickstarting weight loss.

The first trick to successfully dieting lies more in how you choose the diet than in the diet itself because a successful diet is all about adherence.

Are you able to follow the diet as set out for long enough to see results?

The below factors have the biggest impacts on adherence:

Is the restriction something you can easily live with?

In my case the minute I put myself on “Diet” and cut out a food, for example chocolate, I almost instantly develop an intense craving for chocolate. So develops a cycle where I “cut out” chocolate, crave chocolate, eat chocolate and then feel guilty for “breaking” my diet and start over again.  If you are like me then choosing a diet where a certain type of food or food group you are fond of is cut out entirely is setting yourself up for failure.

Is it affordable?

If the diet requires you to buy foods that are going to double your grocery bill then the chances are you aren’t going to continue on it for very long.

Is it palatable to you?

Eating provides pleasure. Eating should be pleasurable. If you are only eating grilled chicken and broccoli day in and day out you are going to get bored quickly and feel like you are missing out.

Does the diet fit in with your lifestyle?

Maybe you travel a lot or eat out a lot – choose a diet that will allow you to maintain it within the circumstances of your life.

How supportive will the people around you be of your diet choice?

Diets and exercise are both easier when they are done with others.

Is it going to aggravate any existing medical conditions you have?

Kidney stones, for example, don’t play nicely with high fat or high protein diets.

The second trick to successful dieting lies in what you have planned for once your diet ends.

Often people will choose a diet to lose weight for an event or holiday that is a short time away. They follow the diet, lose weight, feel wonderful and then once the event is over go back to their previous eating patterns. Let’s point out the obvious here – the weight you were at before you started the diet was a result of your eating habits and lifestyle at that time. If you go back to that way of eating and living you will return to that weight or, as is often the case, a higher weight.

Make sure you have a plan in place to relax the strict diet you were following into an eating pattern that is healthy, sustainable, and can be a life long choice.

Bear the above in mind when you read about the different, evidence based dietary interventions for weight loss below

Diets can generally be split into 3 categories:

  • Diets based on the manipulation of macronutrient content (fats, carbs & proteins)
  • Diets where certain foods or food groups are restricted
  • Diets focused on the timing of food

The common thread through most of these diets is that they all generally result in a reduced calorie intake which in turn results in weight loss. Some of the diets result in faster weight loss, some of them are a bit slower but when studied over longer periods the amount of weight lost evens out amongst them.

1. Macronutrient manipulationLow carbohydrate dietsCarbohydrates are limited to 30 to 130g/day Improve insulin sensitivity, help decrease fat storage and increase its usage. Similar weight loss results to low fat diets with higher fat loss actually being noted in low fat diets instead of low carb diets. Increased mortality associated with long term intake of both low carb and high carb diets
Ketogenic dietHigh fat, low carb diet Decreases appetite. Side effects include constipation, bad breath, headaches, muscle cramps & weakness. Studies show both negative and positive effects on cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk factors. Higher intakes of animal derived protein and fat associated with increased risk of mortality over the long term
High Protein dietsHigh protein with varying fat and carb amounts Increased satiety and energy expenditure Can result in significant weight loss over short periods. Similar total weight loss over long term as other diets. Risk of increasing LDL cholesterol Negative effects on metabolism and gut health over the long term
2. Restriction dietsVegetarian/VeganProtective against cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes and some cancers. Effective as weight loss diets Can lead to nutritional deficiencies of protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and Vitamin B12 if not implemented properly.
Paleo dietBased on the theory that humans are genetically adapted to follow the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Possible improvements noted in cardiovascular risk factors and the metabolic syndrome but more research is needed. Nutrient deficiency risks include Vitamin D, Calcium & iodine
Mediterranean dietDoesn’t exclude foods just limits red meats, processed foods and refined carbs Proven for short and long term weight loss. Strong evidence from its health and metabolic benefits. Improves glucose control, decreases inflammatory markers, decreases cardiovascular risk markers and mortality even without weight loss. Possible benefits being studied in liver disease and cancers
Meal replacementsCan result in significant weight loss Short term approach due to severe calorie restriction Improves metabolic parameters.
3.TimingIntermittant FastingSupposed to promote changes in metabolic pathways, cellular processes and hormonal secretions. Increases insulin sensitivity, decreases blood pressure, improves cholesterol and inflammation. Adverse effects are similar to ketogenic diet (but more moderate) Weight regain often seen when fasting is stopped Similar weight loss to standard calorie restriction diets

How can we, as dietitians, help you? We can:

  • help you follow the diet correctly while preventing nutritional deficiencies
  • help you identify realistic goals
  • provide you with a sense of accountability & support
  • help you integrate back into a more normal and sustainable way of eating post diet

Written by Tracey Bremner