In the world of nutrition and health, there are good guys who altruistically look out for your well-being, and there are bad guys who try to trick you and take advantage of you.
As a soon-to-be-dietitian, I get several questions such as, “Is such-and-such a good diet for weight loss?” There are loads of fad diets and diet books out there claiming that they can help you lose weight, and it’s important to equip yourself to know which ones are worth your time.
In my opinion, there’s a simple answer and a complicated answer.
The simple answer: Don’t bother with anything labeled as “diet.” No one needs anything called a DIET to lose weight. What everyone needs is a healthy eating PATTERN.
The complicated answer:
There are a few (I repeat, a few) diets that are backed by research and recommended as heart healthy diets. These include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet. These diets are intended to improve heart health and reduce cardiovascular disease risk, but as they represent overall healthy eating patterns, weight loss may be an additional benefit.
What about all those other diets? The ones that are advertised on TV and the ones that are described in books and the ones that claim to have you slimmed down in no time?
Here’s the skinny on which weight loss diets to say “no” to:
- Any diet that promotes a pill, drink, or other supplement to lose weight. It’s just not necessary and the company is just trying to make money.
- Any diet that calls for extremely restricted calories. While everyone is different and calorie needs should be determined by a professional on an individual basis, think twice before going on any diet that limits calories to less than 1,200 calories per day.
- Any diet that promises rapid weight loss. A weight loss rate of 1-2 pounds per week is recommended as safe and sustainable, as it is often achieved by genuine lifestyle changes rather than crash dieting behaviors.
- Any diet that cuts out entire food groups. Each food group provides an array of important nutrients, and your body can make best use of these nutrients when they come in different combinations from a variety of foods.
- Any diet that is masked by client testimonials. If the diet tries to sell itself mainly on rave reviews from clients instead of legitimate science, be wary. There are likely lots of other people out there who hated the diet and had a negative experience.
The bottom line is, weight loss takes time, effort, and lifestyle changes. The process of ‘yo-yo dieting’ (losing weight on a crash diet, then gaining it back, just to attempt to lose it on another diet) is a harmful to your body and will cause higher body weight in the end. No weight loss diet system is going to do it for you. Rather, follow a healthy eating pattern including foods from all food groups in moderate portions, and incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine.
Spend your time with the good guys and your weight loss journey will be much healthier and more pleasant!
Liebman M. Nutrition & Weight Control Course Manual. 2012. University of Wyoming.
Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process.
Hand B. 12 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet: Identifying Weight Loss Scams. SparkPeople. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=395. 2015. Accessed April 2015.
ChooseMyPlate. www.choosemyplate.gov/about. USDA. 2011. Accessed April 2015.