New Year, New You, right? While you may already be thinking of ways you're going to overhaul your diet and lifestyle and begin again in 2023, you might be considering which path is right for you to follow. Maybe you've tried some things before, maybe they worked at a time, maybe it really is time to switch things up... but with any dieting choice, it's important to take a holistic viewpoint while you're considering what's right for you. What will best support your body, mind and spirit in this current phase of life? What are your goals, and what food choices are best aligned with them? We thought we might help you make your best informed decision by taking a birds eye view of the most popular diet trends. So, without further ado...
The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Dieting
5 Fad Diets Pros and Cons
Keto Diet (Low Carb, moderate protein, high fat) & Atkins diet (Low carb, high protein, high fat)
- More fat & protein means higher levels of satiety
- High protein has a higher thermic effect meaning it burns more calories than fat or carbohydrates
- Body may adapt to high protein, which could cause a plateau in weight loss and a need for other strategies to be put forth to lose weight
- With higher fat, could result in an increase in LDL Cholesterol (bad cholesterol) over time
- Benefits may not last long term
- Tends to exclude foods with a lot of health benefits such as whole grains, fruits, beans, carrots, potatoes, and yams
- May lead to a decline in athletic performance due to lack of carbohydrates as an energy source
- Can lead to a loss in water weight rather than fat loss
High protein diets typically burn more calories and make you feel fuller longer, which decreases the chance for overeating. However, with less carbohydrates and more fat intake, there is a chance for decreased energy, increased risk for high cholesterol, and missing out on nutritionally dense foods that could benefit overall health. If you decide on this diet, be sure to eat an appropriate mix of quality fats, with a focus on Omega-3 Fatty Acids (cold water fish, nuts and seeds, flaxseed). Also, don’t be fearful of things such as whole grains, potatoes, beans, and even fruits, these are all foods that provide nutritional value to our daily calorie consumption.
Weight Watchers, Plant Points, other point systems (points system)
- Controlled portions, which can lead to less overeating
- Not cost effective
- Can lead to “yo-yo” dieting
- Difficult to eat packaged meals and low calorie strategies such as meal replacement shakes over a long period of time.
- Studies are inconclusive on whether or not someone will continue to lose weight for long term because studies are poorly designed or have significant bias.
With this diet, portion control is effective with weight loss and minimizing the chance for overeating. However, the points system approach can eliminate or discourage people from eating outside of their recommended daily points, which overtime can lead to yo-yo dieting. If you choose to follow this diet, keep your meals well balanced, but allow for yourself to not become too obsessed with points. Simply eat as many whole foods as you can, but remember that life can be unexpected and that’s okay.
Elimination Diets/Gluten Free, Whole 30, Low FODMAP etc.
- Self reported studies have shown that those who are on a gluten-free or Low FODMAP diet typically have a lower body mass index, higher weight loss, and reduced waist circumference.
- Decreases inflammation in those with gluten sensitivity such as celiac disease, but there is not currently reliable evidence that gluten causes inflammation in “healthy” individuals without sensitivities.
- Can provide temporary relief to individual's suffering from specific GI issues such as SIBO, IBS, GERD, Celiac Disease.
- Self reported studies have a lot of room for error because there could be other factors for weight loss other than diet.
- Gluten-free diets can come from prepackaged items and therefore be nutritionally incomplete.
- Can be much lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals due to specific food restrictions.
Gluten-free diets can be beneficial for decreasing inflammation in those with gluten sensitivity, but if you do not have an intolerance to gluten, eating gluten free will not decrease inflammation. If you choose this diet, then you should focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods to make sure you are eating balanced and nutritionally complete rather than choosing pre-packaged options with fillers and preservatives.
Elimination diets have a time-stamped and specific benefit to those suffering with gut inflammation (that can manifest as a long list of GI symptoms and/or diagnoses), but should be part of a multi-pronged approach to help get to the root cause of symptoms, and should not be followed for prolonged periods of time unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider.
Cleanses/Detoxes/Historical context diets
- They can lead to short term weight loss due to extreme restrictions
- Eliminate “toxins”, aid in organ function and digestion, improve energy levels, reverse diseases.
- Not sustainable for long term
- Can be nutritionally incomplete
- The word toxin is too loosely defined. Could refer to heavy metals, pollutants in the air or from hygiene practices, or chemicals in food and drinks.
Cleanses and detoxes can be beneficial for short term weight loss and allowing for digestion, organ function, and energy levels to improve. However, cleanses as a long term approach to dieting will not only eat away at your pocket, but will also leave you with missing pieces in your recommended daily nutrition. If you decide to do a detox or cleanse keep it short term to jump start digestion and follow it up with a nutritionally balanced whole foods diet instead.
- Can be a way to eliminate “bad fats”
- Can lead to short term weight loss
- “Fat free” foods are often replaced with other things such as sugar to taste “good”.
- May end up with a essential fatty acid deficiency (rash, hair loss, wound healing issues, immune issues, Alzheimer’s, dementia)
- Eliminates good fats such as unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 & omega-6)
- People are under the assumption that since a food is labeled “fat-free” you can have a lot of it, which is misleading.
This diet allows for individuals to cut out bad fats and lose weight for a short period of time. However, cutting out fat may lead to serious issues over time. It is also important with this diet to not be misled by packaging and labeling that is considered fat-free. Most foods have a recommended serving size and an ingredients list, be sure you are looking at the nutrition label to determine if that “fat-free” food is everything it is cracked up to be and how much you should truly be consuming. If you are eating whole foods and finding balance within your nutrition you will still be able to enjoy the foods you love while losing weight and maintaining good health.
Our take? Choose what diet you believe is best for your overall health and well being. Be aware that many diets can be strict and eliminate foods that may actually benefit your overall health and weight loss journey (if this is your objective. There are different reasons for different individuals to choose certain foods and ways of eating. Be curious about who you are and how your diet can best support you). Instead of “dieting”, develop a healthy relationship with your body and food. Meaning, choose whole foods over processed foods, eating the foods that fuel your body, yes, that can mean eating carbohydrates, the suggested amount of protein for your body to stay full and be more metabolically efficient, and choosing a good mix of quality fats that are properly-sourced and prepared (check our blog on fats for more details here!). By finding the right balance in your eating habits you will be able to enjoy your life without the stress of “cheating on your diet” or having to start over again on Monday.
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