With two out of every three people overweight or even obese, losing weight is something of a national pastime. Hardly a day goes by without someone asking me “what is the best diet.”
There are lots of effective and healthy diets out there – many of which I have studied – but is there a diet that suits everyone? Probably not.
The thing is, any diet that restricts the number of calories you eat, so your body is forced to burn fat for fuel will result in weight loss. It’s a question of thermodynamics. Food contains energy and if you don’t eat enough, your body must turn to fat to make up that calorie shortfall. This is called creating a calorie deficit.
There are lots of ways to create a calorie deficit including:
- Cut down or eliminate certain food groups from your diet e.g. sugar, carbs, or fat
- Eat smaller portions of food
- Make your meals using lower calorie ingredients e.g. replace rice with veggies
- Eat fewer meals per day
- Increase the length of your night time fast – also known as intermittent fasting
- Skip eating altogether – also known as fasting
Most diets use one or several of these calorie-saving strategies to create the deficit necessary for fat burning and weight loss.
Of course, this doesn’t answer the question “what is the best diet plan for me” does it?! Over the years, I have tried several diets and, in my opinion, these are amongst the best…
1) The Paleo diet
The Paleo diet is all about eating like your hunter-gatherer cave-dwelling ancestors used to. In simple terms, you only eat the natural foods that you could have foraged for 10,000 years ago. All packaged and processed foods are out and, instead, you eat unprocessed natural foods such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Meat and fish
Because the paleo diet includes no grains, no sugar, and no processed food, it is automatically a low carb diet. Carbs are not banned but they are hard to find if you only eat natural foods. Other foods that are not allowed include dairy, beans, and any other food that would not be available naturally.
The paleo diet is not designed specifically for weight loss but it will help you lose weight simply because all fattening foods are banned. It is restrictive but, if you get creative, you’ll be amazed at how many different paleo meals you can make from just a small selection of food types.
2) Meal replacement diets
Meal replacement diets are very simple, and that’s one of the reasons I like them. Simply replace one or two meals a day with low calorie shakes, soups, or bars to save a lot of calories without having to do a whole lot of counting.
I’ve had a lot of success with meal replacement diets and have used pre-prepared meal replacement powders and bars as well as made my own.
The meal replacements themselves are designed to be nutritionally balanced, high in filling protein and fiber, low in sugar, fat, and calories, and healthy too.
The number of meals you replace is up to you; if you have a lot of weight to lose or want to lose it fast, you might swap out two meals a day. If you have less weight to lose, or are in less of a hurry, one meal replacement per day should do the trick.
Most meal replacement diets recommend that you have one solid meal per day to ensure your digestive system gets a workout too. This meal should be small and healthy e.g. fish with green beans, brown rice, and an olive oil dressing.
Meal replacement diets are simple but they can be expensive, and some people find them to be socially exclusive – especially at family meal times. That being said, swapping a meal or two a day for a meal replacement shake or bar will result in weight loss – guaranteed!
3) The easy low carb diet
This diet is my own plan that I used to help me lose weight and keep it off. The premise is simple; eat fewer high-carb foods like bread and pasta and eat more low-carb veggies to create a calorie deficit and lower blood glucose and insulin levels for faster fat burning. That’s why I call it the easy low carb diet!
In simple terms, to to lower your carb intake, you need to cut back on foods like:
- Breakfast cereals
And eat more:
- Healthy proteins such as fish, chicken, lean beef, eggs, and turkey
- Unrefined grains such as quinoa and buckwheat
With the easy low carb diet, you don’t have to eat less food, just different foods, and that’s what makes it so effective – you aren’t going to get hungry on this plan.
4) 20 no-sugar days diet
This is another one of my plans. I invented this plan when I realized that I was becoming a real sugar junkie and that was causing me to gain weight and feel unhealthy. The 20 no-sugar days diet is simple and is designed around two rules:
1. No added refined sugars (white sugar, corn syrup, brown sugar etc.)
2. No added artificial sweeteners (Truvia, Splenda, NutraSweet, aspartame etc.)
By following these two rules you eliminate all major sources of sugar and automatically cut a lot of calories from your diet. Instead, you eat more fresh vegetables, fruit, and complex carbs which are filling without being fattening.
Many people are addicted to sugar, and the 20 no-sugar days diet is designed to break that addiction while teaching you to choose foods that are naturally low in sugar. As a result, you’ll overcome your sugar cravings and find it much easier to eat healthily.
Is this plan easy? No! But by the end of the 20 days, you will have lost weight, rebalanced your energy levels, and will no longer be addicted to sugar.
So, what IS the best diet? The best diet is (drum roll please!) the one you can stick to. Any diet will work if you can stick to it for long enough. When you are choosing a new diet, make sure you read up on it to ensure you like all the foods you’ll be eating. If you like bread and rice and can’t imagine not eating them, low carb diets will not work for you. In the same way, the paleo diet is no good for vegetarians; cavemen ate meat!
The best diet for YOU might not be the best diet for ME so shop around and look for the plan that slots seamlessly into your lifestyle and that you can live with for a s long as it takes to ose weight. The best diet DOES exist but only you can choose it.