Low-carb. Low-fat. Cayenne pepper and cabbage soup. Strictly yellow M&M’s and water.
Each day, it seems, there’s a new diet plan to lose weight that promises quick results, ranging from the sensible to the downright insane.
Losing weight fast, and choosing the best plan to do so, is something most of us have attempted at least once … or twice … or, let’s face it, many times. What makes dieting especially difficult is that, unlike “quit smoking to increase your life span” or “deep-fried fast food is bad for you,” there seem to be no one-size-fits-all rules in place.
Your cousin Margaret swears that giving up bread for a few weeks helped her shed pounds just in time for her high school reunion. You, on the other hand, haven’t eaten a slice of toast in five years and still haven’t lost those last few pounds. As soon as you’ve learned the ropes of one diet, another swoops in, threatening to be even more effective.
Take, for example, this study released in August 2015. (1) It found that, among obese adults, cutting fat helped them lose weight at a rate 68 percent faster than when cutting carbs. What great news!
But before you start tossing out your full-fat dairy products, check out this other study released just two months later. (2) According to this one, following a low-carb diet as well as a Mediterranean diet is more effective than restricting carbs. The real kicker is its statement that no diets work particularly well in the long term, and low-fat diet risks are real. That’s right: Even science says your diet is doomed.
All hope isn’t lost, however. You see, there is an optimal diet plan out there to help you lose weight. It’s the one that works for you. Not your spouse, your cousin or your co-worker, but the one that works with your body’s needs and, when combined with regular exercise, makes you feel great.
So, what are the best diet plans to lose weight? A diet plan shouldn’t be looked at as something to follow for a few weeks or months until you’ve reached a goal weight and then it’s back to your old ways. In fact, that’s the exact reason researchers say diets don’t work.
Instead, a diet plan should be a lifestyle change, something you’re able to stick to because, unlike starving yourself or eating weird concoctions, it’s something sustainable. The way you eat should leave you feeling your best while providing your body with the nutrients it needs so you can live a long and happy, healthy life.
Because abs are made in the kitchen, I’ve rounded up information on the supposed best diet plans to lose weight to help you make the most informed decision.
Which Diet Plan Will Help You Lose Weight?
In a low-carb diet, or a ketogenic diet (an extremely low-carb diet), you drastically reduce or completely eliminate the amount of glucose you eat. Once glucose has been eliminated from the body and there are no carbs available for your body to use for energy, the body will turn to stored fat instead, helping you lose weight fast.
- You’ll likely experience rapid weight loss, particularly in the first few weeks and months. When we eat foods with sugar and carbohydrates, our bodies release insulin, the “fat storage hormone.” It sends a signal to your cells to store as much energy in the form of glycogen — i.e., fat — as possible. By drastically reducing our intake of carbs, our bodies release less insulin. Less insulin in our bloodstreams means glycogen is used by our bodies as energy and not stored — and when that supply is over, it turns to fat next.
- You might lower your risk of diabetes. When you switch to a low-carb diet, you naturally take in much less sugar and starch, since high-carb diets can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. (3)
- Since ideally you’ll replace grains and other carbohydrates with more protein-rich foods and healthy fats, you’ll be more full and less hungry. Fats and proteins are known for their satiating effect, while reducing insulin intake helps turn off ghrelin, the “hungry hormone.”
- Reducing or totally eliminating carbs can result in a lack of energy and feelings of fatigue, which isn’t exactly the motivation you need for hitting the gym. If you’re especially active — for instance, you’re training for a marathon or cranking up the intensity of workouts — a low-carb diet might not provide you with the stamina you need to keep going.
- Carbs lurk in unexpected places, like in fruits, legumes and quinoa. Totally kicking them out of your diet might mean missing out on essential vitamins and minerals.
Low-fat diets reduce the amount of (you guessed it) total fat you eat in a day. The diet became especially popular in America following the release of the federal government’s dietary guidelines in 1980, leading to the proliferation of low-fat food availability.
- Foods high in fat are usually high in calories as well. If you play a strict numbers game, reducing high-caloric foods will usually help you lose weight.
- Cutting out obvious fat-filled villains, like sweets and sodas, can help you lose weight; plus, it’s great for your body.
- Low-fat foods are often processed foods or what I call “frankfenfoods,” filled with sugar and unnatural ingredients designed to make low-calorie foods taste like their full-fat counterparts. These added ingredients can actually cause weight gain.
- By choosing low-fat foods, it’s easier to overindulge. This happens for two reasons: The low-fat versions just don’t have the same satiating tastes and ingredients in them, and we’re more likely to reach for that second cookie when we think it’s lower in calories. (4)
- Our bodies need fat! While foods like avocados or butter might have a high calorie count, they’re filled with healthy fats our bodies crave and need to function properly. Plus, what would you rather eat: butter churned from a cow or a “butter-like substance” created in a lab?
Made popular by the fortunate folks living in one of the most beautiful regions on Earth, people on the Mediterranean diet enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, embrace fats like olive oil, and eat high-quality poultry and seafood, all in close-to-natural states.
- Because this diet focuses on foods found in nature, you’ll eat very little processed or sugary foods. It’s more likely you’ll snack on nuts, for example, than cookies.
- The abundance of foods rich in healthy fats helps reduce your risk of heart disease.
- It’s probably the most sustainable long term. With the allowance of an occasional glass of red wine or steak, this diet allows you to enjoy food and the occasional indulgence.
- It’s easy to go overboard. While healthy fats are good for us, portion control still needs to be exercised, which can be difficult for some people.
- While eating this way is good for your body in the long run, if you’re looking to lose weight fast, this diet is probably not for you.
Vegetarian or Vegan
While there are different levels of vegetarian and vegan, most vegetarians steer clear of eating meats, including seafood and poultry. What do vegans eat? Well, they take it a step further and avoid all products that come from animals, including dairy and eggs.
- A plant-based diet is naturally low in fat and high in fiber. No need to count calories when you’re chomping down on lettuce.
- Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. (5) If you’re looking to control those conditions naturally, eliminating meats can help.
- Good, quality meat can be pricey! Eliminating it from your diet can really save money in your grocery budget.
- What do meat-free, deep-fried burritos, potato chips and French fries have in common? None of them are healthy, and they’re vegetarian/vegan. Simply eliminating animal products doesn’t guarantee you’ll eat wholesome, nutritious foods.
- High-quality animal meats provide nutritional benefits that are hard to replicate naturally. Vegans especially need to beware of serious nutritional deficiencies and should consider adding a supplement.
What about the Paleo vs. vegan diet? They’re two of the trendiest diets out there. “Going Paleo” is something you hear more and more these days, especially in athletic communities such as CrossFitters. It’s modeled after what our ancient (specifically, Paleolithic) ancestors would have eaten thousands upon thousands of years ago.
- The Paleo concept of going grain-free can be greatly beneficial, as you strip away nutritionally bankrupt, starchy calories that spike insulin levels and instead usually replacing with more vegetables.
- Following that hunter-gatherer lifestyle can aid in getting more minerals, more omega-3 foods, more protein and more healthy fats overall in your diet. In fact, if you follow the Paleo diet in the right way, it’s been shown to help improve autoimmune illness and support weight loss.
- Along with jettisoning grain, sugar (a major inflammatory and disease creator) is forbidden. Instead, the diet relies on popular anti-inflammatory foods like wild-caught salmon, blueberries, leafy greens and nuts.
- Unfortunately, for many who follow the Paleo diet, they tend to consume probably a little bit too much meat, in my opinion, as well as some toxic animal substances.
- Additionally, they really do not stress organic in that diet. For example, I’ve known people on the Paleo diet where their diets consisted of consuming conventional butter and fried bacon — if you eat that every meal, it could be considered a Paleo diet.
Remember, you don’t have to follow a specific diet’s rule completely, especially for these supposed best diet plans to lose weight. Some aspects of a particular diet might appeal to you while others don’t.
For example, you might want to be vegetarian one or two days a week to give your wallet a little breathing room and encourage your family to try a variety of seasonal veggies.
Or you might reduce your carb intake for a few weeks to level out your insulin levels and jump-start your diet, then switch to a Mediterranean diet, where whole grains are consumed in moderation. It’s all good!
For some, a health issue is what prevents them from losing weight, so I encourage anyone that fits this description to try a healing diet. After all, the “best” diets will come and go, but eating in a way that enables you to give every day 100 percent never goes out of style.