What is the Best Diet for Weight Loss?
Dukan, Paleo, DASH, Atkins: they all sound like a list of the most unique baby names from the last century. But as you all probably know, they are some of 2017 news making diets. Are you confused about all the different diets that are gracing our screens and print media? A diet is full of promises and rules but which one is best diets for weight loss? Which diets will produce long lasting weight loss, improved health outcomes and permanent lifestyle change? I get asked this question on a daily basis and what’s more topical then to talk about diets during Easter. Fortunately, the answer is very simple. Multiple medical research studies show that there is no “best diets”: all diets in the long term produce the same results. They may vary in the short term, but in the long term, there is very little difference between them. The simple reason being that all diets cut calories.
The success of a diet actually depends on how long you can stick to it and how successfully you can incorporate it into your life. It is important to understand your own food habits and food personality to identify the best style of eating that you can implement into your lifestyle on a daily basis rather than something that is “fad” that you do for a specified time frame.
I have briefly summarised the six of the commonly discussed diets that I have been asked about.
ATKINS DIET: One of the most famous diets in the world. At one point it was stated that 1 in 11 Americans was on it. The diet involves limited consumption of carbohydrates starting with only 20gms a day and slowly increasing it with the aim of switching the body’s metabolism to into ketosis. It does not limit the amount of fat you can consume.
DUKAN DIET: This diet is a variation of the Atkins diet but contains 4 stages. Stage 1 lasts 10 days and involves eating almost nothing except low fat animal protein foods, eggs and low fat dairy products. Fruit and vegetables are forbidden. Stage 2: Allows you to add non-starchy vegetables every 2nd day. Stage 3: Introduces carbohydrates gradually and allows one “special 3 course” meal a week. Stage 4: Is the plan for life. You eat ‘normally’ for six days of the week and have only protein foods on day 7.
PALEO DIET: The Palaeolithic diet (also known as the Caveman diet) works on the principle that the human body should eat the same diet as our hunter gatherer ancestors. You can eat meat and fish, wild fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Anything that is farmed or agricultured is banned. This includes not being able to eat grains, legumes and dairy products.
DASH DIET: DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
5:2 DIET: Allows you to eat what you want 5 days a week but requires you to fast for 2 days (calories less than 500 calories a day). It is said to be easier to follow than traditional calorie restriction, as you do not have to exclude any food groups. Hunger may be an issue for some.
MEDITERRANEAN DIET: This diet’s principles are eating primarily plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts), replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, reducing salt and limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month.
The Metabolic Style (not diet) of Eating
In my clinical practice, I have taken all the good bits from each diet to create something called the ‘Metabolic Style of Eating” which I find has the most suitability to my patients and easy to implement. The benefits of carbohydrate restriction in diabetes and obesity are immediate. With 65% of the population pre-diabetic or diabetic, this style of eating will help improve their metabolic profile as well as their weight. I also combine this with some intermittent fasting as there is such compelling evidence that fasting helps with conditions such as reducing fatty liver and visceral fat. If you are interested in learning about this style of eating, you can find it in my Redefine Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Weight Loss Program and the soon to be launched Redefine Metabolic program.
The key point is that not all people are the same and not everyone can do the same diet to lose weight. Choose something that works for you not the latest fad or the new celebrity diet as it may not suit you and your ability to sustain it. Combine this with a motivational or psychological strategy such as CBT and you will find that your “diet” will become a permanent lifestyle change.