It’s a sorry fact that today more people in developed countries are either overweight and/or dieting than those who aren’t. Being on a diet is so common that we are actually surprised when we meet someone who ‘just eats normally’!

Fads and trends come and go, usually accompanied by celebrity endorsements and a wonderful array of marketing tactics, but do today’s popular diet plans actually work?

Where does it all go wrong?

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There’s thought that if diets worked, none of us would ever need to be on a diet. So maybe that’s the problem – it’s not the diet itself that’s holding us back but our ability to stick with them.

What makes a good diet long term?

Well as well as keeping you feeling, looking and performing at your best, whatever that means to you, it has to fit to your lifestyle in a convenient and not too disruptive way. You have to enjoy it.

And it has to have enough room for manoeuvre to adapt to whatever is going on in your life and wherever you are.

But many people resort to temporary diets to kickstart their weight loss, which is fine if it is indeed temporary, which means knowing how to continue eating healthily once you reach you goal weight or come to end of the ‘plan’.

A diet’s downfall

Unfortunately that’s where short term diets fall down – they don’t teach long term habits and strategies for health.

Here five of the most popular diets and why they may or may not work for you.

Low carb

Reduced consumption of starchy carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and pasta, as well as often dairy and fruit which also contain carbohydrates.

Going really low carb also means restricting the amount of higher carb vegetables consumes such as beetroot, carrots and squash, and sticking to mostly lean proteins and green vegetables.

It’s thought that reducing carbohydrates helps to balance blood sugar and therefore energy levels, as well as keeping hunger to a minimum (protein and veg are really filling).

popular diets effective_2Pros

Very filling without over consuming calories. Restricted food choices make meal planning easier – the guidelines and options are clear and simple; just cut out the starchy part.

Cons

Going too low carb doesn’t work for everyone, and some people don’t feel great without enough carbs to suit their own physiology. Though you can make and buy low carb treats, traditional sugary snacks are off limits which can in some people lead to binges later down the line when they feel too restricted.

Paleo

Eating ‘ancestrally’ is not meant in the literal sense, in that many of the meat and vegetables around thousands of years ago don’t even exist anymore, and in addition it’s still ‘Paleo’ to eat modern foods created from paleo ingredients, like nut based cookies or avocado ‘cheesecake’.

All grains and dairy are cut out, as well as legumes, alcohol, and of course processed foods of any sort, including most sugars except a honey or other similar natural sugars.

Pros

No processed foods and only whole, natural, nutrient dense foods makes this an extremely nutritious way of eating that will almost certainly be providing you with all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need to feel and perform at your best.

Cutting out dairy and gluten in particular (two of the most ‘problematic’ foods) can also increase energy and decrease digestive and other problems in many people.

Cons

Whilst most Paleo followers eat relatively low carb, this isn’t an essential requisite, nor is calorie counting, and so whilst the types of food eaten are restricted (and very nutritious), overall quantity and proportions of fat, carbohydrate and protein guidelines are vague and means you won’t necessarily be getting the right balance of macronutrients for you.

It’s also very easy to over under eat if you’re not being mindful of energy intake. There are health benefits to all of the banned foods so if you don’t have an issue digesting these, you may be cutting them out unnecessarily.

Currently on a diet that’s not listed here? Look out for Part 2 of the article, Pollyanna will be debunking the 5:2 diet, Meal Replacement and Plans and discussing the pros and cons of a Vegan diet.

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