Inside Scoop: Popular weight loss solutions reviewed based on science, and what works in the long run.
This post was submitted by Sofia Norton, dedicated and team-oriented professional with more than 6 years of experience providing wellness and nutritional support in various capacities.
A lot of people will shudder at the sheer mention of the word ‘diet’.
That’s because this scary word is often associated with restrictive eating patterns with the sole goal of weight loss. But, that’s not the only definition of diet.
Diet can simply mean:
“Food and drink you habitually consume”
Diets also don’t have to be extremely low in calories to help you with weight loss. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that extreme low-calorie eating only leads to short-term weight loss and frequent weight regain. Many low-calorie foods are also often highly processed and low in nutrients. Restrictive eating can also jeopardize your health and make you downright miserable.
Luckily, there are better ways to achieve a healthy weight. Healthful diets that focus on abundance, but also sustainability are a much better long-term weight loss solution. And what’s really important is that the weight loss solution you choose is backed by science and has a high adherence rate.
Here is a review of 6 popular diets that are known to help shed extra pounds. Which of them work in the long run? Read on to find out.
6 WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTION METHODS REVIEWED
The Mediterranean diet is based on eating in a way that is traditional to countries surrounding the Mediterranean such as Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. Emphasis is put on vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, and olive oil. It also involves low intake of red meat and dairy.
The Mediterranean Diet was recently named the best diet for 2019 in several categories, including weight loss. The diet was part of the Seven Countries Study, which found that the Mediterranean Diet was linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) compared to diets in other European countries as well as the United States. However, its benefits extend beyond heart health.
For example, one meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials concluded this diet was a useful weight loss solution, especially when combined with exercise. Because this diet is rich in fiber, quality protein, and healthy fat, chances are eating fewer calories on this diet should come naturally since these nutrients promote satiety. The Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory diet which can boost your overall health and well-being. This is actually one of the most realistic, intuitive and sustainable diets in the long run.
Did you know that the N5Diet created by Naughty Nutrition is also based on Mediterranean diet principles? The N5Diet is a realistic 5-week health plan with delicious recipes all made with 5 ingredients or less. Find out more here.
VEGETARIAN/ VEGAN DIET
Vegan diets are exclusively plant-based diets while vegetarian allow for some eggs and dairy. While both may seem restrictive at first glance these diets are actually abundant in whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fibrous veggies, vitamin-rich fruit, starchy roots, and healthy oils, just to name a few.
So, a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet actually involves eating plenty of high-quality food.
People nowadays go vegan for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Some look at weight loss as another motivational factor to forgo animal products. And they are not in the wrong for thinking this way. A 2016 meta-analysis of vegetarian diets and their effects on weight loss notes found that vegan diets induced significantly greater weight loss than other plant-based diets. But, a vegetarian diet on its own was also associated with significant weight reduction compared to a non-vegetarian diet.
That’s likely because people on plant-based diets consume more fiber and less saturated fat and cholesterol. Studies show that fiber can help people maintain a healthy weight. Fiber slows down digestion, makes you feel fuller for longer, and prevents sugar and insulin spikes. Eating less saturated fat is linked to a lower weight as well.
A balanced vegan or vegetarian diet can also help reduce inflammation because it’s rich in the antioxidant vitamins C and E as well as antioxidant phytochemicals and it’s one of the top diets for health heath. Studies show that inflammation is significantly associated with greater weight gain, and plant-based sources of antioxidants can help fight this.
All in all, a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet is among the healthiest ways not only to achieve a healthy weight, but to also support your overall health.
It’s important to consider your own preferences for foods, and know that going on either of those diets can put you at a greater risk for some nutrient deficiencies including B12, iron and protein. So, if you’re considering this type of weight loss solution, make sure that you discuss it with your dietitian or nutritionist.
Also called keto, the ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet that was developed by scientists in the 1920s to help treat epilepsy. It eventually fell out of use with the introduction of antiepileptic drugs, but grew in popularity as a weight loss solution and health-promoting diet, especially over the past two decades with the start of the low-carb trend.
Carb intake on this diet is so low that it puts the body in a state of ketosis, aka fat-burning mode. Studies have found this diet to be more effective for weight loss than standard low-calorie diets. Interestingly, research also found that the keto diet spares muscle and does not lower resting metabolic rate following weight loss like other diets do.
While it does restrict carbohydrates to a meager 50 g per day, the keto diet does not require calorie counting. That’s because the diet suppresses appetite through its effects on insulin and due to the ketosis itself. The thermic effect of this diet also leads to more calories being burned with little effort.
To increase adherence to this diet, it’s important to plan well and include a wide variety of high-fat and low-carb food. Great examples of ketogenic foods include avocados, zucchini, nuts, seeds, cruciferous veggies, grass-fed butter, almond flour, coconut oil, and almond milk.
Planning this diet can be tricky and complicated though and that is why it has a very low adherence rate – it is extremely restrictive! It can also keep us stuck in the diet mindset and the cycle of restriction.
While the keto diet does have its applications in medicine and in helping with healing, it is one of the least favourable diets for long-term weight loss and establishing healthy habits.
METABOLIC BALANCE® DIET
The Metabolic Balance® Diet was developed by in Germany by Dr. Wolf Funfack, Internist & Nutritionist, Birgit Funfack, Naturopath and Silvia Bürkle, Ecotrophologist. It is a science-based holistic weight management program that gives you a personalized nutrition plan tailored to your own individual needs based on your bloodwork, and biomarkers from thirty-four different analyses.
These results are then combined with your entire health profile including height, weight, measurements, diseases, food allergies, medications and food likes/dislikes and your own individual 4 phase plan is created based on what you need.In a 2010 observational study funded by Metabolic Balance® with follow up after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months found that the program resulted in long-term improvements in health status and most importantly health-related quality of life (HRQOL). It also ranked highly in adherence, because people liked the individually designed nutrition plans and found them easy to stick to.
A flexitarian diet is essentially a semi-vegetarian diet. It involves eating primarily vegetarian foods and only occasionally fish and meat. When including a variety of wholesome and real foods and excluding sugar, refined grains, and ultra-processed products, the diet can be effective for long-term weight management.
According to a 2016 study review, people following flexitarian diets generally have lower weight than those solely on more animal-based diets. The same review, however, also noted that evidence shows that strict vegetarians have the lowest body mass index. However, strict vegetarianism is not for everyone, and a more relaxed approach can definitely help you get the benefits of plant-based diets with less food restriction.
If you’re afraid that eating only plant foods and excluding meat completely will put you at risk of deficiencies, then this diet may also be for you.
An example of eating flexitarian is eating plants, eggs, and dairy 5-6 days a week and having fish or meat 1-2 days a week. However, there are no strict rules and guidelines that define what eating a flexitarian diet entails. To get the benefits of this diet, weight loss included, make sure to stick to healthy eating patterns overall and base your diet on whole grains, fruits, veggies, and healthy unsaturated fats. Overall, a flexitarian diet is easy to follow for life.
SOUTH BEACH DIET
The South Beach Diet is a low-glycemic index (GI) diet that cardiologists Dr. Arthur Agatston and dietitian Marie Almon designed in the 1990s to help people lower their risk of heart disease. Years later, the South Beach Diet also became popular for weight loss. One of its most important aspects is reducing your intake of high GI foods like refined sugar and products made with refined white flour.
Your focus is on eating three meals a day as well as occasional snacking and exercising. The South Beach Diet is divided into two phases. In the first, two-week phase, you eat lean protein along with some low-GI plant foods and unsaturated fat, and this is meant to induce rapid weight loss.
In the second phase, weight loss is slower but sustained. This phase lasts until you achieve your desired weight, and it re-introduces carbohydrate foods such as whole grains, fruits, and ground vegetables. The main purpose of this diet is to remove foods known to spike blood sugar. That’s because there’s a lot of evidence that having increased blood sugar levels due to high-GI foods increases hunger.
This diet may help you adjust to more healthy eating patterns by reducing sugar cravings. Studies found that sugar cravings are lower in those following low-carb diets than those on low-fat diets. With that in mind, the South Beach Diet does have some draw backs including the fact that it can be very restrictive, doesn’t focus on healthy fats and includes highly processed oils like soybean and safflower while restricting butter and coconut oil. So it may be better to simply opt for a more Mediterranean or flexitarian way of eating.
And the verdict?
Weight loss is never easy, and in the end, it comes down to making small and sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle rather than choosing a restrictive plan that you are only able to stick to for a few weeks.
Many diets that come with promises of easy weight loss may also put you at risk of nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, and the dreaded yo-yo effect. And chances are, you won’t last long on diets that are excessively restrictive but also ineffective.
That’s why you need to do your research before adopting a weight loss solution that works for you because your needs, likes and dislikes are unique. Diets that target appetite, improve metabolic health and that most importantly teach you how to build healthy habits and let go of the diet mindset like some of the ones described here are best. Emphasis on healthful and nutrient-dense foods, as well as foods that bring happiness and enjoyment to your life are important when you are looking for a long-term weight loss solution.
Driven, dedicated and team-oriented professional with more than 6 years of experience providing wellness and nutritional support in various capacities. After Sofia learned about "food deserts" as a kid, she became determined to devote her life to like to making healthy foods accessible to everyone, regardless of income or location. Sofia has traveled around the world, teaching nutrition to communities in extreme poverty. In her spare time, Sofia loves long bike rides and exploring local farmer's markets.