We’ve seen so many diet fads emerging in recent years, The Military Diet, the HMR diet, cleanses…but do any of them actually work? 

In Part 1, Pollyanna takes on the low carb and Paleo diet, here she continues to review the most popular tried and failed diet fads…

5:2 Diet

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A form of intermittent fasting, on two days a week only 500-600 calories (for women or men respectively) are consumed, while a ‘normal’ diet of 2000-2400 calories are eaten on the other five days.

This results in an overall calorie deficit over the week and therefore weight loss, as well as other purported health benefits such as improved blood pressure and cholesterol profile, and improved insulin sensitivity leading to improvements in diabetes or reduced chances of developing the disease.

Pros

Learning to go for longer without eating and being able to sit with hunger are skills that in the long run will mean you feel less inclined to snack at the first tummy rumble.

Cutting calories drastically will result in an overall reduction in calories over the week as long as you don’t make up for it by over consuming on non-fast days, so weight loss is a likely outcome. May improve insulin sensitivity in some people.

Cons

500 calories in a day is not very much at all and many people will struggle with hunger, low energy and poor concentration.

Women tend to fare worse with intermittent fasting as our hormones stay better balanced when we don’t go too long without eating, and not everyone has improved insulin sensitivity and are better off sticking to a more consistent eating pattern.

Meal Replacement Plans

Slim Fast, Lighter Life, Cambridge… you don’t have to have cooking skills, or indeed any nutritional knowledge at all when your meals consist of ready-made bars, shakes, soups… sometimes microwave meals too!

All products are calorie restricted, which means that if you stick to the plan and eat only the products provided almost everyone will lose weight simply because they’re consuming fewer calories than they’re burning.

are the popular diets effective_2Pros

Convenient, time saving, and no cooking/preparing/calorie counting required. Available at most supermarkets as well as some health food stores and chemists.

Cons

Pre-made foods will never match up nutritionally to fresh, whole, natural foods, especially when many of these products use cheap ingredients and bulking agents.

Adding vitamin and minerals to the ingredients will make no difference if the added nutrients are not of the highest quality (which would make the end product much more expensive than they are) as our bodies just don’t absorb these synthetic nutrients well.

Taste is obviously subjective.

However, sticking to the same products day in day out may result in flavour fatigue where you get so sick and bored of eating the same things you are more likely to go off track and not stick to the plan.

Vegan

There’s only one rule on a vegan diet, and that’s that nothing consumed can be of animal origin.

Meals comprise of vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, but as well as not meat or fish, eggs and dairy are also not allowed, and even gelatine used in commercial sweets and puddings.

Most people who eat a vegan diet do so for health rather than weightloss, and with no parameters for macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) or calorie intake, health and weight outcomes are very much dependent on an individual’s food intake.

Vegans tend to be health conscious by nature and often consume lots of whole, natural foods, with lots of vegetables and fruit, though this isn’t a requisite of a vegan diet.

Pros

If tonnes of vegetables, fruit, and high fibre legumes and some grains are consumed then this way of eating can be very nutritious.

Vitamin and fibre intake is undoubtably high, and it’s likely that no or minimal processed foods are consumed as most processed foods contain animal products of some sort.

Cons

It’s very hard to get all the nutrients you need without consuming meat and fish, or eggs and dairy. The same nutrients that are in these foods, such as calcium, iron, and omega-3 fats, just aren’t absorbed as well from plant sources.

Vitamin B12 which is needed for energy is only found in animal foods, so all vegans should be supplementing with this vitamin at the very least.

So are popular diets worth the hype? Do they work?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Any diet will ‘work’ if you follow it in the right way for your goals for long enough. Ultimately though you need be asking yourself, is this way of eating contributing to my health? Or taking away from it?

What popular diets have you tried? Did you get the same great results as people before you or were you left feeling disappointed and demotivated? Let me know in the comments boxes.

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