Is losing weight or eating healthier on your mind these days? There are hundreds of weight loss diets out there calling our attention. And the reality is that most diets — the good and bad — will help you shed pounds in the short term. But the difference is in keeping it off with a doable plan that fits your lifestyle. Also, important to consider is a plan that protects your overall physical & mental health and your metabolism along the way.
Some of the trendy diets that are popular right now for 2020 include the keto diet, whole 30, paleo, intermittent fasting, Mediterranean diet, and Adele’s SIRT diet. It seems like new diet trends are surfacing all the time with no end to their promises – which can easily entice us to consider trying one of them. These diets find us online, while we’re watching TV, or on social media through the excited claims of celebrities, authors or doctors with or without nutrition expertise, or even recently converted friends and family members. And while some include all the components of healthy eating, some fall short and put people’s health at risk.
When a new book comes out with a plan for rapid weight loss, oftentimes it may not be from the actual diet per say but simply from calorie restrictions from the reduced choices available (along with some water loss and/or muscle loss if the diet over restricts carbohydrates and calories). Marketing gets creative with new ways to mask limiting calories with choice rules and restrictions.
Many of the trendy diets out there target carbohydrates. Some diets eliminate them almost completely since it’s a quick way to shed water weight. The typical American diet is heavy in carbs, sugar, and saturated fats, so some reduction in carbohydrates is often helpful thus it’s worth learning about portion sizes (think french fries, pizza, & pop). For example, if you are an adult desiring weight loss, reducing carbohydrates to 40-55% of your diet instead of 70-80% (which is the current American unhealthy trend) will get you closer to your healthy weight goals. But keep in mind that many of the trendy diets promote 5-20% carbohydrates which make it very challenging to get the nutrients needed to support overall health.
The long list of diets can get overwhelming, and it’s hard to figure out what really works, what’s safe, and what’s actually doable. There’s the paleo diet, which encourages eating like cavemen — lots of plants and meat, restricted grains and no dairy (although not as restrictive as the whole 30 diet). The keto diet features lots of saturated fat, but almost no carbs – and, in reality, is very challenging to eat more than 1000 calories with all the restrictions. Short term, with some “guided tweaking”, these diets may fit for some people.
But how can you evaluate what’s right for you?
I won’t go into detail about all of the diets out there (and boy there are 100’s) but when choosing how to trim down without compromising your health ask these questions:
- Can you get the nutrients you need while following this diet?
- Is there “wiggle” room to support you emotionally and socially?
- Does the diet encourage lifestyle recommendations that support sleep, stress management, movement and behavior strategies for success?
- Can you follow this diet but “tweak” it some with a Registered Dietitian to make sure your health needs are supported?
You may want to avoid a diet if:
- It seems too good to be true?
- Lack of scientific evidence – or only 1 study for example.
- Elimination of entire food groups with no plan for missing nutrients?
- Requires you to buy their supplement to achieve success.
- Recommendations that promise rapid weight loss (AKA dehydration & muscle loss)
- Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
I have found with working with thousands of clients over the years that nutrition does indeed effect brain health (our mental health, memory, and focus) so the nutrients we get from food plays a role here. I have seen many people in my office who follow some of these diets with symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. The long-term health effects may not be worth the short-term weight loss or some critical adjustments need to be made to cover all the nutrient bases. Some of these diets may even affect our gut health in a negative way. Be cautious with diets that limit nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies can directly affect:
- Mental Health (anxiety & depression)
- Energy, Focus, and Memory
- Healthy Hair & Skin
- Strong Muscles, Strength, and Stamina
- Bone Health
- Restless Legs, Poor Sleep
- Blood Pressure & Heart Health
- Food Cravings & Metabolism
- Healthy Digestion & the Microbiome
Which Diets do the nutrition experts like best?
Some of the more popular diets that have stood the test of time with hefty evidence behind them include Mediterranean and DASH diets, Flexitarian (AKA flexible), American Heart Association Diet, Diabetes or Pre-diabetes Association Diets, and the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet. All of these are often the first choice the nutrition experts and Registered Dietitians lean towards when developing a personalized plan for clients. The TLC philosophy is highly individualized and takes the whole person into consideration while crafting all aspects of lifestyle to reach optimal health and weight. Other methods that are currently being rigorously studied and may be promising (but needing a bit more evidence) include plant-based diets, Volumetrics (choosing filling foods), and maybe some (not all) intermittent fasting techniques for some individuals who don’t experience rebounding glucose or blood pressure spikes.
What do all these evidence-based diets have in common?
- Overall balanced diet with emphasis on whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.
- PROTEIN/FIBER at each meal.
- More whole foods – choose fresh over processed.
- Moderation: saturated fats, sodium, sugar, & alcohol.
- Include important nutrients.
- Moderation – but not over restriction of healthy carbohydrates.
- Lifestyle that promotes healthy food relationships, good sleep, stress management, and body movement.
- Accountability plan: a health professional/ dietitian, supportive community, or a tracking/ journaling system
What about trending dietary supplements or pills – your best resource to determine what is right for you is a registered dietitian, your doctor who knows you well, or a naturopathic doctor (ND or NMD) all specializing in supplements.
People are more successful when a diet plan or supplementation is tailored to their own unique macro and micronutrient needs – an individualized approach is key. An effective diet covers all the bases by maximizing “your” nutrients needed for better sleep, good mood brain chemicals, hormone and insulin support, and a body that can feel energized for movement. These all indirectly effect a healthy weight.
What can you do today?
Regardless of whether you decide to try a trendy diet or if you just want to eat healthier, visit with a registered dietitian to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need. At Fluid Health and Fitness, we can do a nutrient / symptoms analysis to assess if any supplements or food source recommendations are in order. As a Registered Dietitian I help people navigate individualized plans for success. Sometimes it includes strategies from a diet trend a client brings to the table but it always includes a holistic approach along with the lifestyle and mental health components needed for long term change.
If you are looking for 2-3 visits to jumpstart your weight loss efforts or if you want to work with a Registered Dietitian long-term to make a significant transformation click here to set up a free 15-minute call to learn more.