Every year, there is a new diet program coming out that promises to fill some gap that currently exists in our dietary culture. There are so many out there that it is almost impossible to keep track of them all. While doing research to write this blog post, I came across some “popular” diets that I have never heard of. They are getting so abundant these days that they are almost becoming repetitive. Sometimes, they are simply more extreme versions of what is already popular. Years ago, it was Adkins. Today, it’s Keto. The similarities are big. The differences are subtle.
Some of these are obvious fad diets designed to “get your results fast.” People get caught up in the flashing graphics and pseudo-science. They jump on board, do all the so called research, decide that this new diet is going to be the one to finally help them lose weight, and then crash off the diet a few weeks or months later. The cycle repeats and no lasting change is seen. Regardless of how much education we try to put out there with the correct and incorrect way to eat, it is inevitable that we are asked by a client whether any of the popular diet right now are ones they should consider.
I read a piece of dietary advice a number of years ago that I think still rings true today, “The best diet is the diet that helps you reach your goals.” So, we never tell any of our clients that they shouldn’t do this or that diet. What we do is try to educate them on what the diet really is all about, the pros and cons of that diet, and help the client determine whether it is worth trying. What follows is a layout of some of the common diet programs I am asked about with a basic explanation of the diet, what is good about it, and the most common issues.
Popular Diets Explained:
Diet Explained: At the time I a writing this blog, the plant-based diet is all the rage. I was at the grocery store the other week. While standing in line to check out I was scanning the magazines. Almost all of them had some reference to “plant-based” diets. My biggest beef is the definition. I picked up one of the magazines that advertised the difference between plant-based, vegan, etc. While no certain definition was provided, it seemed to be a basic diet that doesn’t necessarily eliminate anything, but centers around fruits and veggies. In other words, you still eat meats, eggs, cheese, etc. However, you build your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.
Pros: I am never going to turn people away from a diet that is heavy in all nature foods. Lots of fruits and vegetables should be a stable in any diet whether it has a fancy name or not. This diet also seems to steer people away from heavily processed carbs. I can’t find any reference to the diet specifically eliminating anything, so that’s good. The best way to get someone to eat something is to tell them not to.
Cons: It really bothers me that this diet has no official definition. Clients ask all the time, “should I try a plant-based diet?” I tell them that because of the way we organize the Practical Diet Revolution, and base on my understanding of this diet, they already are. This diet makes me think of someone trying to make something cool simply by giving it a trendy name.
Ketogenic (Keto) Diet:
Diet Explained: The Keto Diet has blown up in popularity over the last year or so. Go to the grocery store, go to the pharmacy section, and look at all of the juices, bars, and supplements that say they are “Keto Friendly.” Keto is a fancy name for extremely low carb, high protein, and high fat. When the body doesn’t have carbohydrates to feed on, it starts processing fat as an energy source. This process if known as ketosis.
Pros: Keto was created as a treatment for epilepsy. However, the followers of the keto diet praise it for weight loss and mental clarity. Turns out, the human brain loves to run on fat. So, when the body is mainly running on fat, people have described it as a mental euphoria of clarity. Because it is low carb, people tend to eat less, that means weight loss.
Cons: It is extremely hard to get the body to move into keto and keep it there. Everyone is different on what it takes to move the body into ketosis. However, generally, you need to eat less than 20-25g of carbs per day for about two weeks. You are going to experience extreme hunger and likely some pretty bad headaches. Then, once you are in ketosis, you either have to maintain super low carbs, or risk moving out of ketosis if you relax for even a day. Then, the process starts all over again. This is rough.
Diet Explained: Perhaps just as popular as Keto, intermittent fasting has picked up the pace over the last couple of years. There is nothing new about this diet. I remember talking about it in 2010. However, it has gained traction lately. Basically, you limit your window each day to about eight hours for eating, and you fast for the remaining sixteen hours. The goal is to limit the amount of calories you can eat and provide your body a time to reset.
Pros: There are a lot of hormonal benefits to fasting. Human Growth Hormone skyrockets. You gain insulin sensitivity. Your cells have an easier time repairing. And, you experience greater gene expression for longevity of life and prevention of illness. It is also a great tool to lose weight because the fasting has proven to increase metabolism.
Cons: Intermittent fasting can be difficult to start. You basically have to get used to being hungry a lot in the beginning while your body gets used to it. Also, people tend to use this diet as a way to simply limit the window they have each day to eat crappy food. I usually tell me clients that intermittent fasting isn’t going to do much if you are still stuffing in the chips, fries, hoagies, etc. Worry first about cleaning up your diet. Then you can worry about timing out your meals.
Macro Nutrient Counting:
Diet Explained: Most people these days have heard of people weighing and measuring their food. This is the number one objection I get when talking with potential clients about starting a diet program. No one wants to weigh and measure their food. When you are macro counting, you are literally counting every gram of protein, carbohydrate, and fat that you eat. The goal is to stay within a certain number of calories per day with a specific ratio of Protein/Carbs/Fat that make up those calories. You will use a lot of food scales and measuring cups.
Pros: You can gain a lot of control over your diet when you are counting macros. Do have a certain body imagine in mind that you are trying to achieve? We can play trial and error forever with other diets. However, if you really want to nail it, let’s start counting your macros. There won’t be any hidden calories.
Cons: Most people with specific goals in mind can get motivated to count macros for a short period time. However, counting macros is really hard in the long run. Weighing and measuring everything you eat, keeping a daily food log, having the will power to say no to anything that isn’t in your diet plan, that’s going to wear on you fast. Additionally, studies have shown that people who count macros for a long period of time often develop micro nutrient deficiencies.
Diet Explained: This is probably the least discussed popular diet amongst our diet clients. However, it is gaining traction lately, so we anticipate more questions as we go. A proper vegan diet eliminates any food product that is derived from animals. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no cheese, even no honey for some vegans. The Vegan diet is all plants or products derived from plants, like tofu.
Pros: What could be better than a diet built entirely upon plants? Is it a fruit or veggie? Eat it! Did it grow on the ground or in a tree? Eat it! Vegan is the true plant-based diet.
Cons: A vegan diet can feel very limiting in today’s food culture. Remember what I said earlier, if you want to get someone to eat something, tell them they can’t wait it. Vegan is a hardcore elimination diet. Additionally, while you are going to get all the fat and carbs you need, protein is hard in a Vegan diet. You often need to eat highly processed protein foods like tofu, seitan, or tempe.
In the end, there is nothing wrong with the diet that works for you. We have even worked with clients to create their own diet programs. Want to go all week without eating added sugar and then have some added sugar on the weekend? Does this help you reach your overall health goals? Then great. That is the diet for you. That is how I approach it through The Practical Diet Revolution. We will help you work through any diet you are interested in trying. However, I will never force you into one just because it worked for me.
If you have any additional questions regarding any of these diets, or any that you want to try, reach out. We’d love to talk with you: