John McGran, chief editor at Diet-to-Go, has been covering the fields of diet, fitness and health since 2000. He writes from the perspective of a dieter rather than a dietitian.
When it comes to slimming down, there are countless diet plans out there, so how does a consumer decide what’s a great diet for long-lasting weight loss?
Well, you don’t jump into the latest, greatest trendy fad diet. Baby food anyone? You also don’t opt for a weight loss plan that isn’t sustainable. Yo-yo dieting (the loss, then regain of weight) is extremely prevalent for a good reason. We try to totally change our eating habits, but end up right back where we started – overweight and unhappy.
Sure there are millions of diet plans available, but the weight loss experts have pretty much decided it’s all about the calories. What that means is that almost any diet plan will work for you if you follow it right and cut back on calories consumed.
According to MayoClinic.com: “Despite all the diet strategies out there, weight management still comes down to the calories you take in versus those you burn off. Fad diets may promise you that avoiding carbs or eating a mountain of grapefruit is the secret to weight loss, but it’s really all about calories.”
Okay, so now that you know things not to do, let’s look at three super-popular diets for weight loss:
MayoClinic.com says, “Low-fat diets focus on cutting excess fat out of your diet, usually by limiting fat intake to about 20 percent of your total daily calorie intake.”
Just be aware that even a low-fat diet can lead to weight gain if you ignore calories and eat too much. Think SnackWells back in the 1980s. We scarfed down cartons of those low-fat devil food treats and gained weight!
Also note that we do need fat in our diet, so don’t go too low.
Fats have many uses in the body. They aren’t just metabolized to release greater amounts of energy, but they also store vitamin A, D, E and K – the vitamins that are insoluble in water. Fat also helps protect your brain, heart, kidneys and liver.
“A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates – such as bread, grains, rice, starchy vegetables and fruit – and emphasizes sources of protein and fat. Many types of low-carb diets exist, each with varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates. Examples of low-carb diets include the Atkins diet and the Zone diet,” says MayoClinic.com.
I’ve used low-carb diets very effectively. The problem for me is finding low-carb breads and rolls that taste like bread and not cardboard. Low-carb products have come miles over the past few years, but I still find myself losing interest after a few months without my favorite pizza, subs or sandwiches.
But there are many people who’ve learned to live quite happily without excess carbs in their diet.
A few health benefits of a low-carb diet:
- Weight loss
- Improved triglycerides
- Reduced blood glucose
- Increased HDL cholesterol
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Decreased blood pressure
- Lower blood insulin level
Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., says, “Research has shown that, on average, people who follow a vegetarian diet eat fewer calories and less fat than do nonvegetarians.
“Vegetarians also tend to have lower body weight relative to their height than do nonvegetarians. This makes sense, since a diet that largely consists of fruits and vegetables generally has fewer calories.”
Zeratsky warns that simply switching to a vegetarian diet doesn’t guarantee weight loss. Why? Well, it’s pretty much the same issue that affects those jumping to a low-carb or low-fat diet. You still need to watch your caloric intake!
There’s a bushel basket of benefits linked to going vegetarian. A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and soy just may be your best bet for living longer and being healthier.
Then there’s the green aspect. Many pro-vegetarian folks say you’ll do the planet good by cutting out meat.
So, as we said earlier, low-fat, low-carb and vegetarian eating plans are great diets for weight loss… when done right. The best advice is to choose which plan fits your lifestyle best. You’ll want to remain on it from now until your golden years.
Can’t live without meat? Rule out vegetarian!
Need your breads? Bye-bye low carb!
A proper portion-controlled, low-fat diet just may be the perfect remedy for your weight loss ills.
For more helpful insight from Diet to Go Chief Editor John McGran, check out these articles:
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August 31st, 2010