24 Sep Is There An Ultimate Weight Loss Diet?
As nutritionists, one of the questions we get asked the most is: ‘Is there an ultimate diet for weight loss?’. If your goal is to lose weight, finding an effective, nutritionally balanced approach is an important first step. Finding a plan that works for you is key, which is where working with a dedicated weight loss nutritionist comes into play. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular diets and their pros and cons.
IS THERE AN ULTIMATE WEIGHT LOSS DIET?
The truth is, there is no one-diet-fits-all. The key is to find the weight loss strategy that best suits your needs and goals. In this article we’ll take a look at the most popular weight loss diets. We’ll discuss how they work and their pros and cons.
THE KETO DIET
It’s popularity is unquestionable, proved by the fact it was the most Googled diet of 2020 and 2021. The ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate diet. When you deplete the body of carbohydrates it turns to burning stored body fat as a primary energy source. A keto diet is typically rich in high protein and high fat foods. Think eggs for breakfast, a salmon salad dressed with olive oil for lunch and meat with low carb vegetables for dinner. For a more in-depth look at the keto diet, read our guide to the ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diets can result in quick fat loss. Being in a ketogenic state offers other advantages. It can help stabilise energy levels and suppress hunger. Studies show that ketogenic diets suppress the secretion of the hunger hormone ghrelin and as a result, reduce feelings of hunger. There is no counting calories and people on a keto diet can enjoy foods rich in proteins and fats which are both satisfying and tasty.
In order to stay in ketosis, you need to be consistent. If you consume carbohydrate foods you are likely to come out of ketosis. This not only includes refined, starchy carbohydrates like white rice, bread and pasta, it also includes most fruit and number of vegetables. After coming out of ketosis it may take a couple of days for you to get back into a ketogenic state. It’s strict, but if you follow it closely the results can be worth the effort.
THE PALEO DIET
‘Paleo’ is short for Paleolithic. It focusses on foods that could have been obtained by our ancestors by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet includes food like pasture raised meats, wild fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
The Paleo diet is based largely on whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods. It’s not as restrictive as the keto diet and it does allow carbohydrates and sugars of some kinds. The paleo diet is one of the few dietary approaches that places emphasis on the importance of how food is produced. For example, it highlights the big difference between the wild meat our ancestors ate, compared with the factory farmed animals we eat today. This is a very important consideration and one to bear in mind regardless of what dietary approach you choose.
It’s quite possible to follow a Paleo diet and not lose weight. While sticking to unprocessed, whole foods will almost definitely have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing, if you do not structure your meals around proteins, healthy fats and plenty of vegetables while limiting your intake of sugar to some extent, keeping your weight down may still prove challenging. Working with a nutritionist on meal plans and dietary habits will help, however.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
The Mediterranean Diet has been consistently voted the healthiest diet. The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating patterns of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, like France, Greece, Spain and Italy. It varies depending on who you are asking, but in general the diet involves a high intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, whole grains, and olive oil, plus plenty of fish and poultry. It avoids sweets, refined carbohydrates (sorry, no pizza) and ultra processed foods and is therefore associated with improved cardiovascular health and longevity. Indeed, Greece and Italy are home to two of the world’s so-called Blue Zones.
MEDITERRANEAN DIET PROS
One of the unique benefits of following the Mediterranean diet is the focus on consumption of olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is antioxidant-rich and has many known health benefits including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean diet goes beyond just including and excluding certain foods and incorporates other lifestyle elements including exercise and communal meals, meaning it is good for long-term weight loss and healthy eating habits.
MEDITERRANEAN DIET CONS
If you think that the Mediterranean Diet is a license to eat unlimited pasta and pizza, think again. The true Mediterranean Diet is about a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fish and healthy fats. The benefits come not just from the foods themselves but the lifestyle; communal meals that encourage slowing down and avoiding grab-and-go bites and plenty of time outdoors. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet plan here, so working with a nutritionist to apply the principles in a way that makes sense for you is the best way to ensure long-term results.
THE LOW GI / GL DIET
The G stands for glycemic. GI refers to the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly carbohydrate foods break down into simple sugars. GL stands for glycemic load. This gives a more real-world idea of the impact a food will have on our blood sugar levels, based on the amount we are likely to eat.
The aim of this diet is to choose your carbohydrates wisely. Focussing on low glycemic carbohydrates minimised their impact on your blood sugar levels and subsequently can help support weight loss.
For a deeper dive into the glycemic index, here’s our guide to GI.
GI DIET PROS
If you’re a carb lover, the good news is that carbs are still on the menu with a low GI diet. This can be an easier adjustment for people who have been basing meals around carbs and feel that cutting them out completely would be too restrictive.
GI DIET CONS
The bad news is, you still need to watch your portion sizes. You’ll also need to opt for the whole, unrefined versions. There can be a lot of work involved in the GI diet compared to other eating plans, as you’ll have to educate yourself around the glycemic index and the impacts of various types of carbohydrates on your blood sugar levels.
Weight Watchers was the original diet group, started by a New York housewife and mother, Jean Nidetch. She conceived the original Weight Watchers diet and programme in the 1960s.
In 2018 Weight Watchers rebranded to ‘WW’, it’s new tag line being ‘wellness that works’. This is to tie in with an apparent focus around general health and wellness, rather than just weight loss.
The diet is based on a points system where you are allocate a certain number of points to ‘spend’ on food each day. These points are based on calories.
The community aspect is one of the biggest draws to weight loss clubs like WW and Slimming World. Weekly group meetings offers the chance to spend time with other people who are on the same journey. It also provides accountability, particularly getting weighed in front of everyone!
With WW, the things we outlined as pros can also be cons. Some people have reported that unhealthy eating behaviours can be picked up at these group meetings. Weighing in front of a large room full of people is not appealing to everyone and can be quite traumatising if you have hang-ups in this area.
Groups are not led by qualified nutrition experts, but rather by company representatives. Therefore there is the risk of being given inaccurate nutrition and dietary advice.
It is possible to have an overall unhealthy diet on WW. You could theoretically choose to ‘spend’ your points on nutrient devoid, ultra processed foods, meaning you could end up tying weight loss to very unhealthy methods, which could lead to health problems long-term.
One of the most popular weight loss clubs in the UK, Slimming World is based on the principles of food fitting into the categories of ‘Free Foods’, ‘Healthy Extras’ and ‘Syns’. The first category you can eat completely unrestricted, the second are limited to supplement the first, and the third are treat foods that you can only enjoy occasionally, such as alcohol and chocolate.
SLIMMING WORLD PROS
As with WW, one of the benefits of joining is weight loss club is the support and accountability. Some people find that they lose weight quite quickly when being held to account in a group setting. The plan is also quite easy to follow with foods fitting into yes, no and sometimes groups.
SLIMMING WORLD CONS
The diet advised by Slimming World is not an approach we advocate. Of all of the dietary approaches we have outlined here, this one is least aligned with our values.
One con is the advocating of high carbohydrate foods as ‘free’ foods. This goes against the principle of basing meals around nutritionally-dense proteins and healthy fats for slow-release energy.
Another is the ‘Syns’ category, which encourages negative relationships with certain food groups. It sounds exactly like ‘sin’, which means that people who have attended Slimming World can end up with an unhealthy approach to weight loss. One client we spoke to noted a comment along the lines of “why would you use up your Syns on avocado when you could save them for vodka”. Grouping foods simply by good and bad without any reference to nutritional value can have long-term negative effects. We always encourage our clients to find long-term solutions that will work for them, based around balanced, healthy relationships with food.
If you’re considering joining a weight loss group, I contributed to this detailed comparison of the two most popular on Cosmopolitan.
WORK WITH US
Ultimately the best weight loss diet is the one that’s right for you. We are all different. We all have different goals, different challenges and different nutritional needs. How can we expect one diet to suit us all?
Working with a qualified nutritionist will enable you to find the diet that’s right for you. If you’d like to find out more about personalised weight loss with Kim Pearson and team, you can book a complimentary consultation call here.