It’s that time of year (too late) that we all start hearing about and talking about “summer diets” and “fitting into swimsuits.” While I’m all for people cleaning up their eating habits, I always get a kick out of the seasonal swing that people go through. This time of year it’s “trim down” and “get in shape”. Then in the fall people start to talk themselves into gaining weight for the winter and the fact that their bathing suits are going to hibernate.
While this has a very similar pattern to the body builders “cutting & bulking” cycles, the vast populace doesn’t cut fat and put on lean muscle mass throughout the years. Most people cut some fat, some muscle and do it unhealthily, then just get fat. It’s a cycle that, after many years will leave people frustrated in the spring, fat in the winter and unhealthy year-round.
In my years I’ve heard of and done a handful of “diets” and I’d like to give a brief summary of some of the bigger/stupider ones, then provide my thoughts:
This is a very basic diet. In essence, you’re supposed to eat like a caveman. Sounds simple enough right?
No grains, no dairy. Lots of fruit, veggies and meat. This eating regimen gets a bad rap from the Hardcore Paleo people who will never ever ever even look at a piece of bread or a glass of milk. While this can be a great diet for people looking to find out if they have any gluten sensitivity or are lactose intolerant, it shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all for you.
Verdict: This can be a great diet if you loosen your belt a little bit. If you can stick to this diet 75-80% of your week you’d be in great shape. Save that 20-25% for re-feed meals and para-workout nutrition where the addition of grains and other carb sources are needed.
I grew up seeing this book at my house, and really didn’t know what it was for a long time. I thought it was a cookbook to be honest.
The Zone Diet has very modest roots and a massive best-seller book. The basis of this book is on the proper portioning of your carbs and proteins. This diet allows for things that others like the Paleo Diet asks you to restrict like dairy and whole grains. The belief of this diet is that by eating healthier foods, and not reducing calories; you will lose weight. Um….what? They even go so far (which I like) as to provide you with percentages of your marcos (protein 30%, fats 30%, carbs 40%).
Verdict: This diet does a good job at preaching healthy foods. It falls short with the 30/30/40 ratio of your macros. This amount would be geared more towards either someone trying to gain some mass while training hard, or someone very active (or with a killer metabolism) that’s trying to maintain their weight. Taking in almost half your calories from carbs will hold lots of water weight and not allow you to burn it all off with some training. Plus, people can take it the wrong way and eat 40% of each day’s worth of calories in something ridiculous like mashed potatoes and white bread since it’s technically allowed.
The basis of this “diet”: (really a fast) is that it will help detox your body from….? Toxins I suppose. With this sort of fast you choose a time period, and only drink fruits/veggies from a blender and water. You will absorb some great nutrients and antioxidants with this and you may even lose some weight.
Verdict: Having never done this one, I won’t be able to speak from experience. But I am one hell of a guesser. So my guess is, that with this “fast” you will be starving, lose energy, be in the bathroom (doing one or both) often and generally hate life for the length of your fast. Drinking 100% of your calories is a sure fire way to not absorb the maximal amount of your calories. Humans absorb more from whole foods because it takes longer for it to go through your actual intestines, etc.
This system has always mystified me, so I wanted to talk about it to force myself to do the research. Done and done. Let me first say that I am a believer in the Weight Watchers meetings system. I have multiple friends and family that go to, went or are still going there for support and to keep themselves on track. Doing any sort of weight-loss regimen with a group increases your chances of success.
Now, the points system is where my belief starts to walk off a cliff into a sea of annoyance and mild confusion. From what I read, you are given a number of points a day (with some flex points per week for cheating) that you are to stay at/within. This number is proportional to the amount of protein, fat, carbs and fiber in your daily diet. Want to calculate your own number of points? Here you go:
Now, for those of you who already did your time in school and are done with this type of math forever (me); Weight Watchers will gladly calculate this for you ($$).
Verdict: Outside my agreement with the meeting system, this diet plan gets a big old “fail” from myself. Yes, this calculation is very complicated and I’d never want to do it but, I see it as a complicated way of counting calories. Counting calories is very simple and basic. Want to lose weight? Eat less than you burn. No need for differential equations.
While each of these has something good, they all fail in their own special way. The strictness of the Paleo should be loosened up for it to be acceptable, the Zone Diet doesn’t have the strictness that it should, the detox/juicing diets are temporary and leave you hungry and you’re more than likely to gain that weight back (and probably more). And lastly the WW points system take something simple (counting calories) and complicates it, then charges you.
I’m not a huge hater, so I will say this for all of the above. They all have great points to them:
In the end, it’s all up to what works for each individual but having a diet that works and sticking to it for the long term is more important that finding that special one. And by “long term” I don’t mean for the summer. Six months to a year at the minimum.
Say what you will about these diets and/or my thoughts on them but there’s a massive problem in the US where people can’t stick to one thing for long enough to see results. Stick to it and stop hatin’.