With so many conflicting diet programs on social media today, it can be difficult to understand which ones actually work.
The truth is, they all work.
People have lost weight on the carnivore diet, intermittent fasting, juice cleanses, Optavia, no-carb, etc. because they all have something in common: they all put you in a caloric deficit.
So which one should you do?
You will need to figure out what weight loss strategy you can adhere to for a long period of time. Everyone’s journey will be different so it’s best to find your own path and not follow anyone else’s. These diet programs are simply not sustainable and a majority of people will gain their weight back afterwards.
There is no ‘best’ diet as you can lose weight eating anything you want.
A Kansas State University Nutrition professor, Mark Howell proved this by losing 27 pounds in 10 weeks eating nothing but Twinkies and Little Debbie’s cakes.
How is this possible?
It’s all about energy balance. We need energy to sustain life and a calorie is simply a measurement of that energy. We get calories from foods and we use them for daily activities, but when we consume more calories than we use, our bodies store them as fat(you’d be eating in a caloric surplus). When we burn more than we use, we will achieve a caloric deficit. This deficit is THE ONLY way to lose weight. All these diets do is make you eat less than what you’re normally eating.
No carb diet?
Caloric deficit. You took out a whole food group.
Caloric deficit. You skip breakfast.
Caloric deficit. It basically starves you.
See the pattern here?
This is how Professor Howell lost weight with Twinkies. He simply ate less calories than he was normally consuming.
Did he feel great during this period? I doubt it.
People think you need to go to the extremes and cut out all sweets and greasy foods to lose weight when it’s very important to have balance. The reason why junk food and sugar should be limited is because they’re easy to overeat.
I mean think about it: how easy is it for you to eat a large bag of Lay’s potato chips? What about a sleeve of Oreos? How much of a family-sized portion of lasagna can you eat?
These foods are hyper-palatable, meaning they’re made to hit the ‘sweet spot’ and tell your brain to eat more, even when you are full. As long as you stay in this deficit, you will lose weight.
So how do you figure out how many calories you need to eat?
It depends. There’s a lot of factors that go into accurately determining your caloric intake. The truth is, there is not a single way that could determine it with a 100% accuracy, meaning you will basically have to give yourself an educated guess and then rely on trial and error.
There are plenty of calorie calculators and equations online you can use to give you an idea where to start. The Harris-Benedict equation is the one I personally like for myself and my clients because it uses gender, height, age, and activity level to give a more accurate result. What these equations and calculators will do is give you your caloric maintenance.
Caloric maintenance is the amount of calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight.
If you go a week or two eating a certain amount of calories and your weight has stayed pretty stable, then you have figured out your maintenance. If you lose weight, then the calories were set too low. If you gain weight, the calories were too high. Most people will have to adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, SLOWLY adjust your calories to fit your needs. I like to increase or decrease in 200-300 calorie increments.
It’s always recommended to start your weight loss journey once you’ve established your maintenance.
From here, you can lower your calories slowly to put yourself in a deficit. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I can guarantee that you will enjoy your journey more and sustain it a lot longer than cutting your calories by a lot. Plus, lowering your calories slowly will help you preserve muscle (assuming you’re eating adequate protein).
Dropping your calories too much will ensure that you lose more lean body mass than fat, giving you that ‘flabby’ look and end up looking like a smaller version of your current self.
If you don’t believe in the Get rich quick! schemes, why believe the Lose weight fast! schemes?
Just remember, weight loss needs to be a marathon, not a sprint. The best diet is the one you can sustain for the rest of your life. Start by making small changes and see what works best for you since making drastic changes too soon will have you feeling miserable and more likely to give up.
These small changes could be as simple as adding a glass of water to your daily water intake, going on a 10-15 minute daily walk, or maybe even going to the gym one day a week (one day is better than none). Everyone’s journey will look different so no need to copy someone else’s strategy.
(Tip: If the diet has a name to it, most likely not a good option i.e. carnivore diet or Weight Watchers)