I’m often asked, “What’s the best diet for weight loss?”
Honestly, I almost never give a straight answer to this question because, quite frankly, any “diet” that involves masterful manipulation of calories and/or macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) can inherently support weight loss.
For instance, people on ‘low-calorie’ diets are able to lose weight because they are simply creating calorie deficits through reduced food and/or calorie intake. In this case, it’s simple mathematics. A pound of fat houses an average of 3,500 calories. So, if you create a 3,500-calorie deficit over a given period of time through dieting (and/or exercise), you’ll eventually lose a pound.
On the flip side, reduced intake of carbohydrates naturally enhances the body’s ability to burn stored fat, which is why folks on ‘low-carb’ diets like paleo and ketogenic diets tend to experience very rapid weight loss.
Does this mean that one type of ‘diet’ is better than the other?
Well, not necessarily.
But, people who’ve experienced success with one over the other might tell you otherwise—Because it worked for them!
Now, before I delve more into this topic, a little clarification is warranted, specifically in relation to the term ‘diet’ as it’s perpetually confused with the word “dieting”.
In and of itself, the term ‘diet’ simply refers to your habitual eating patterns. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or not, eating ‘good’ foods or ‘bad’ foods, whatever manner in which you choose to eat is referred to as your diet. Dieting, on the other hand describes the actual act of restricting calories and/or macronutrients for weight loss purposes.
Interestingly enough, 1 out of every 3 adults in the United States is currently ‘dieting’ to lose weight, yet nearly 70% of Americans are still overweight.
Clearly the sheer act of dieting isn’t working for the masses.
1 out of every 3 adults in the United States is currently ‘dieting’ to lose weight, yet nearly 70% of Americans are still overweight.
So, how can you make it work for you?
Truth is, following ANY dieting program can result in significant weight loss. Successful weight loss maintenance is a whole new ballgame, as it’s quite difficult, if not impossible, to restrict calories and/or macronutrients over the long-term.
This is why over 90% of people who resolve to lose weight each year generally abandon their dieting programs by February. This is also why 95% of people who lose weight typically regain it over time.
Any dieting program you choose should encourage realistic eating patterns that suit your unique lifestyle. Understanding you can’t be a dieter forever, you should also approach dieting with a definite start and a definite end and ensure you’ve developed effective strategies for long-term success.
I can’t emphasize the latter point enough, as long-term weight maintenance is the biggest challenge for people who take on dieting programs. Unlike dieting, successful weight loss maintenance is a continuous process WITHOUT a definite end.
95% of people who lose weight typically regain it over time.
It’s a permanent lifestyle change.
That 5% of folks who’ve been able to lose weight and successfully keep it off over the long-term have four things in common:
- They implemented a dieting program involving moderate calorie restriction (a reduction of daily calorie intake by 15-17%) and/or sensible macronutrient manipulation (slight reductions in carbohydrate intake);
- They supplemented their dieting program with regular exercise (cardiovascular “cardio” exercise and weight training) and spontaneous physical activity (taking the stairs and/or walking a few extra blocks throughout the day);
- They maintained sensible eating patterns after achieving weight loss; and
- They continued to accumulate at least an hour of daily exercise/physical activity after weight loss.
This is how to make dieting work for you!
Following ANY dieting program can result in significant weight loss. But, again, you can’t be a dieter forever. Better to approach dieting with a definite end date and ensure your program encourages flexible eating patterns and moderate weight loss over time.
And it doesn’t stop there!
Regular exercise and spontaneous physical activity during and after weight loss are also critical for maintaining your body weight, as they promote continuous calorie deficits, which reduce your chances of gaining weight again.