3 Legit Diets That Work for Weight Loss
Viewed from an angle, diets and eating disorders share several traits: You create (often) arbitrary rules about what you’re allowed to eat, what’s forbidden, and/or which foods you’ll eat exclusively at the expense of all others. There’s a compulsiveness to both, and a sense of shame and punishment for breaking the rules.
But there’s fad dieting, and then there’s simply eating right as part of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. Nutrition therapist Karin Kaplan Grumet, RD takes all of this into account in her own practice. “My main goal is to break diet mentality and teach people how to begin mindfully eating intuitively,” says Grumet.
“Dieting in our country has become a temporary and restrictive way of eating as everyone wants the ‘quick fix.’ Instead, Grumet teaches people to monitor their eating by being more aware of hunger and fullness, and regulating more organically.
That said, there are benefits to having guidelines or a framework in which to build a healthier overall approach to food. So we’re going to take a look at some popular diets to ascertain their usefulness, their effectiveness, and/or their potential hazards.
3 Diets That Work for Weight Loss
These aren’t “diets” in the crash-weight-loss sense, rather sustainable strategies for eating that research has shown support a healthy lifestyle.
Are you ready to party like it’s 1104 B.C.?!? Basically, this diet encourages you to eat only the traditional foods of the Mediterranean region, including Greece and Southern Italy. So a lot of fresh veggies, fish and olive oil, and whole grains, very little red meat, and the occasional glass of red wine.
“The Mediterranean diet has the most supportive research,” says Kelly Dorfman, nutritionist and author of Cure Your Child With Food: The Hidden Connection Between Nutrition and Childhood Ailments. “There is robust research suggesting that this is arguably the best general diet to recommend.”
How does the Mediterranean diet work?
Customarily, under the Mediterranean diet “you’re incorporating whole, natural foods; decreasing red meat; increasing fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil; and increasing your physical activity and maintaining a social life eating with others,” explains Grumet. “There have been many published studies about the benefits of eating the Mediterranean diet, including its links to heart health, healthy blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of other negative health outcomes. It’s not restrictive, and it’s a beneficial way of eating.”
Are there any dangers associated with the Mediterranean diet?
Too much red wine? Otherwise, the focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy proteins makes this a well-rounded and virtually risk-free way of eating.
This is essentially a form of vegetarian eating that allows for some meat or animal products in moderation.
How does a flexitarian diet work?
Because it limits certain foods without eliminating them, the flexitarian plan has a lot going for it. “It encourages plant-based foods while allowing some meat in moderation. Nothing is off-limits and the ultimate goal is decreasing meats while increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” says Grumet. As a result, “you’ll likely feel fuller longer and eat fewer calories.”
None, really. A flexitarian diet isn’t extreme in any way, and its focus on vegetables and fruit over meat and animal products is something that’s recommended whether you follow a set regimen or not. “It’s for those who want the anti-inflammation benefits of a more plant-based diet along with the social flexibility and nutrient-/protein-rich benefits of including some meat,” says Dorfman.
“Vegetarianism isn’t necessarily a healthy choice,” she cautions. For instance, French fries and Oreos are vegetarian, but if you don’t eat actual plant-based foods then you won’t reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet. So, “it depends on which foods are eaten. Meat eating is not necessarily bad, either. Flexitarian attempts to straddle the best of both worlds.”
Mayo Clinic diet
A diet plan that combines food suggestions with changes in behavior, the Mayo Clinic’s system has two phases: Lose It! (during which you’re taught healthy habits like not eating in front of the TV) and Live It! (wherein you learn about portion size and meal planning).
How does the Mayo Clinic diet work?
“This diet out of the Mayo Clinic is basically less of a ‘diet’ and more of a lifestyle approach to a healthier eating plan overall,” says Grumet. “It’s meant to replace poor eating habits, such as the consumption of processed and sugary foods, with more fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Also more lean and healthy fats, and increasing exercise. Again, only positives.”
By making you adopt healthy new habits and break old ones — as well as learning portion control and healthy food prep and increasing physical activity — the Mayo Clinic diet promotes balance and a non-extreme, easily adaptable focus. Nothing here can be seen as potentially harmful.
Diets to Avoid
Desperation can give way to misinformation, which can lead to constipation. Eschew the silly demands and promises of the following diet types.
This is the name given to any diet that involves short-term efforts designed to eliminate toxins from the body, such as fasting or juice cleanses.
According to Grumet, the detox method is, at best, redundant. “Our bodies are made to eliminate toxins on their own, which is why we are equipped with a liver, feces, urine and sweat,” she says.
“Detox diets claim to reset your body’s organs, stimulate your liver, improve circulation, and promote toxic elimination. There is very little — if any — research that shows the benefits of detox diets. They are not beneficial to weight loss and most likely any weight lost is from fluid, and will come right back once eating resumes.”
According to Grumet, people can be misled about how they really feel after food deprivation. “Some people say they feel more energy and focus — which can result from just eating cleaner and decreasing alcohol and caffeine.
“And you’ll find just as many others who say they feel unwell, dizzy, fatigued, and irritable,” she says. “I believe the ‘great’ feeling is often a placebo effect because you think you’re doing something healthy for your body.”
This sort of diet shouldn’t be confused with the kind that feature ultra-clean eating for short periods of time with the intent of helping you amend your eating patterns. “Your body knows how to get rid of toxins just fine,” explains Denis Faye, M.S., Openfit Executive Director of Nutrition, “but taking a few days — or better still, a few weeks — to get a break from all the toxic junk most of us feed ourselves is a great way to push your diet back in a healthier direction. And when you do that, you help your body’s natural detoxification systems work all the better.”
Just don’t. Any plan that forces you to eat one or a small selection of things is extreme, questionable, and potentially harmful. “Single-ingredient diets are an extreme take on unprocessed food,” says Dorfman. “These diets are so boring and lacking in joy and interest that I classify them as fads with no potential for long-term use.”
Grumet agrees. “Single-ingredient or exclusionary diets will never work, as they lack the nutrients that our bodies need for growth and daily function,” she says. “They can lead to eating disorders, or a variety of medical health problems.”