Which diet is the best, really?
Thursday, January 26, 2017
How many times have you been asked that question? And how many times have you seen a promotion of the latest and greatest diet that is presumably the fail-safe way to lose weight and get healthy? And I think we have all seen that, ultimately, few people are successful with long-term weight loss.
So I was intrigued to read the new list of "best diets of 2017" this month. Here is what I found.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the "best diet overall" is the DASH Diet, followed by the Mediterranean Diet at No. 2, and the MIND Diet at No. 3. Best overall diets are ranked by: ease of following, nutrition, safety, effectiveness for weight loss, and protection against diabetes and heart disease.
I love that all three of those diets are medically sound and based on real food, without excluding huge categories, such as grains, dairy, etc. There were a total of 38 diets evaluated in this article, from best to worst. Just for kicks, at the bottom of the list were No. 36 the Paleo Diet, No. 37, the Dukan Diet, and rock bottom at No. 38 was the Whole30 Diet.
According to the article, the "best weight-loss diets" are Weight Watchers, followed by Jenny Craig, and then the Volumetrics Diet. This list evaluated short-term and long-term weight loss scores. While other diets performed as well or better in their rankings for fast weight loss, the panel of experts evaluating the diets believe long-term weight loss is more important for health. I think we can all agree with that.
The bottom three on the weight loss list were No. 36 the Acid Alkaline Diet, No. 37 the Whole30 Diet and No. 38 the Paleo Diet. Interestingly, two out of three on the bottom of the overall list were extremely protein-heavy and restrictive. The diets that performed the best on both lists were easier to follow as well as scientifically sound.
Keep in mind, this is not the end-all-be-all of diet lists, but I do see a methodical research process. The article also includes seven other "best" lists, including "easiest to follow" and "best plant-based diets."
So which diet is best for you or your clients? The one you will follow.
If you are an all-or-nothing person, then one of the stricter programs with specific rules might be a good choice for you (like the South Beach Diet). If you love meat, go with a heavy protein diet (like the Dukan Diet). If you dislike cooking, go with a prepackaged delivery program (like NutriSystem or Jenny Craig). If you are a vegetarian, there are plenty of those from which to choose (like the Vegetarian or Volumetrics diets).
Just because your friend, mom, spouse or colleague did well on a diet does not necessarily mean that you will. Really have your clients (or you) think about their personality and what they think they can live with day in and day out in terms of eating.
But here's the rub: Even finding an eating plan that fits your lifestyle and eating preferences doesn't guarantee you will follow it. We can all make excuses about why we might not stay with a plan or program long-term, so I wanted to find a method to make a new system of eating stick.
The best way to stick to a plan is to make the plan a habit. The best way to create a new habit is by making the habit easy.
Gretchen Rubin, in her podcast and blog (www.gretchenrubin.com), has created a really cool list (yes, another list) for making habits stick that she calls her "Habits Manifesto." Here are some of my favorites followed by my explanations and suggestions:
"Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong."
If your client hates vegetables, for heaven's sake, he shouldn't decide to tackle the Vegetarian Diet just because he is under the impression he will lose more weight.
If someone wants to partner the healthy eating with some exercise (which we would all recommend), but she does not enjoy running, then she should not force herself to join a running club. Perhaps a class at a local gym or a regular walk date with friends would be a better fit. Then, look at the exercise date as a reward to anticipate.
"Once we're ready to begin, begin now."
Yes! How often have you heard someone say he will start that diet just as soon as the Christmas cookies, Valentine's candy, St. Patrick's Day green beer, etc., is gone? There is always more to purchase at the grocery store, so you may as well make a decision and just do it.
The longer you put it off, the harder it will be to start.
"What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while."
Rubin makes the point that the more choices we have each day, the more fatigued our decision-making muscles get (my analogy). So once something becomes a habit, we no longer have to make a decision about it.
For example, if I know that every day (or every other day, or whatever I have determined) I will exercise in the morning, then it will be part of my daily routine. It may be a walk, or a class at the gym, or a yoga video on YouTube. But I will not have to lie in bed and argue with myself about getting up to exercise because it is just something I do each day.
Or if I have decided to follow the Jenny Craig diet, then there are only certain areas of the grocery store I need to visit. If my daily routine (habit) is to have a prepackaged Jenny Craig meal for lunch and dinner most days, then I won't even need to stop by the prepackaged area of my grocery store where I would be tempted by chicken parmesan and mashed potatoes with loads of butter.
The Habits Manifesto contains 12 suggestions for making those habits stick. This would be a great resource to share with clients who really want to make a long-term change in their lifestyle. We can help make it easier for them by giving them these simple tips to create great habits, which give them a feeling of accomplishment, and ultimately make them happier.
That also reflects positively on us, the health and wellness experts.
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