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Types of Diets

There are dozens of diet plans on the market, and many promise to magically shed fat off your body in a matter of days—often in bizarre and sometimes dangerous ways, we cover some of the better weight loss programs. Keep in mind this is a general overview and you will need to research any program further and consult your doctor before starting any diet or nutriton plan.

 

The Atkins Diet

Promotes itself as a long-term eating plan for weight loss and maintenance that emphasizes eating lean protein and low-starch vegetables. In this diet plan, simple carbohydrates such as flour and sugar are highly restricted or eliminated altogether. Dramatically changing eating habits is the cornerstone of the Atkins Diet.The Atkins Diet is a high-protein, high-fat, and low-carbohydrate diet.

Pros & Cons

Low-carbohydrate diets have proven to be effective for weight loss for a limited period. These diet plans call for a reduction in snack foods and alcohol, which are often high in simple carbs and sources of "empty" calories that lead to weight gain. In the past, the Atkins Diet was popular for allowing its followers to consume large amounts of fat (burgers, cheese, bacon, eggs, etc.) and still lose weight, as long as the carb count was low. Consuming a large amount of animal fat, and therefore cholesterol, is not good for your health. It increases your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Because of this, the Atkins Diet has since repositioned itself and now promotes lean protein and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.

While reducing their encouragement of high fat foods is good, a low-carbohydrate diet may be difficult for people to stick to on a long-term basis. With so many foods deemed “off limits,” the diet plan can quickly get boring.

In some cases, the Atkins Diet can also create unwanted side effects. These include:

  • bad breath (due to a condition called ketosis)
  • insomnia
  • dizziness
  • constipation (due to lack of fiber)
  • lethargy

For some, these are tolerable during the initial weight loss, but become more troublesome as the diet continues and the weight loss slows.

 

The Eat Right for Your Type diet (a.k.a. the Blood Type Diet)

Advises people to eat certain foods based on their blood type: A, B, AB, or O. D'Adamo—who introduced the plan in his book Eat Right for Your Type: The Individualized Diet Solution to Staying Healthy, Living Longer & Achieving—claims that each blood type digests food proteins (called lectins) differently. Furthermore, he believes that eating the wrong foods containing the wrong lectins can cause ill effects on the body—including slower metabolism, bloating, and even certain diseases such as cancer. By avoiding the foods that are wrong for your blood type and eating foods that benefit your blood type, better health can be achieved. D'Adamo breaks each blood type down by the evolutionary theory behind each group that was posited in the 1950s.

Pros & Cons

This diet plan is founded on a sound principle that every person is different when it comes to dieting. There is no caloric restriction on this diet, which means less chance of hunger pangs normally associated with dieting, but also may not produce much actual weight loss. And it does encourage a more active lifestyle of varying degrees of exercise (based on blood type). There also seems to be plenty of people who have reported having success on this diet plan, and D'Adamo's website has a wealth of information and support forums for those who are interested in exploring his approach.

The Blood Type Diet runs into problems with the significant lack of independent research available to back up D'Adamo's claims. The medical community at large does not support an idea that blood type has many connections at all to health and especially to a specific diet for each blood type. Furthermore, limiting or restricting entire categories of foods is not recommended by most nutrition experts, nor is it easy to do for many dieters. And because of the individualized plans, this diet would be difficult for families or groups to try together because varying blood types would require different eating plans and exercise schedules.

 

The Best Life Diet

Is more than a diet; it's a comprehensive plan for changing the way you eat, exercise, and live to achieve better health. It's designed to get at the root cause of overeating and to tackle it. The Best Life was developed by Bob Greene, an exercise physiologist who achieved fame in 1996 when Oprah Winfrey promoted his book Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body...and a Better Life. Greene subsequently became Winfrey's personal trainer, helping her lose nearly 80 pounds.

Pros & Cons

If you want to diet but are worried about suffering months of boring salads, have no fear; the Best Life program has very few severe dietary restrictions and offers a range of interesting recipes. It's a practical and realistic diet with relatively generous calorie counts that are still within the range established for successful weight loss. The program is individually tailored so that if you're performing an especially high amount of physical exercise, the Best Life site will adjust your allowed calories accordingly. The Best Life Diet is balanced nutritionally and takes a commendable multi-pronged approach to weight loss. Unlike many other dieting programs, the program purposefully takes things slowly to make sure you are adjusting physically and emotionally to the changes being made in your life.

On the other side of the coin, if you're looking for a quick fix, don't have the patience to commit to a long-term program, or are unable or unwilling to address the psychological aspects of weight maintenance, then The Best Life Diet program probably isn't right for you.

 

Glycemic Index (GI) diet 

Plans are centered around the glycemic index, which is a scientific ranking that classifies foods based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Initially developed as a tool to help diabetics manage their blood sugar, the glycemic index is now the basis for multiple mainstream weight loss plans.

High-GI foods trigger a rise in blood sugar and release insulin, which is thought to promote fat storage, intensify hunger, and subsequently lead to weight gain. The premise of GI diets is that by avoiding foods that have a high-GI score, your appetite will decrease, and you will subsequently lose weight.

The glycemic index runs from 0 to 100 and uses glucose, which has a GI score of 100, as a reference point. The effect foods have on blood sugar levels are compared with this, and then given a GI value of their own.

The majority of GI diet plans suggest eating low-GI foods such as many vegetables, and whole grains. Foods that are considered to have a high-GI rating (greater than 70) are to be avoided.

Pros & Cons

Low-GI diets promote the eating of healthy food and normally offer an easy-to-follow format on what you can and can't eat. Many GI diets also provide a wide range of recipes and healthy meal plans. However, eating foods with a low-GI count as a method of weight loss isn't scientifically proven and can be confusing. There is a wide range of GI scores based on a variety of factors that can affect foods, such as ripeness and cooking times. For example, the riper a banana, the higher its GI value is going to be. Plus, GI index scores only pertain to the effect foods have on blood sugar levels when they are eaten on their own, and not when they are consumed with other foods. This is a fundamental problem that many nutritionists and skeptics have with GI diets. It's not the GI score of individual foods that should be considered; it's the GI score of an entire meal that matters. Research has also shown that the GI response of foods can vary tremendously from person to person, and can even change within the same person from day to day. These factors all make it very difficult to gauge whether or not the diet is actually being followed correctly.

 

The Hormone Diet 

Stems from the book of the same title by Dr. Natasha Turner. Its primary focus is on hormone fluctuations that supposedly can negatively affect a person's weight, as well as other factors that can contribute to weight gain and other adverse health effects.

It is a six-week, three-step process designed to sync hormones and promote an overall healthier self through diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, and detoxification. The diet regulates what you eat and also tells you the right time to eat to ensure maximum benefit to your hormones.

Pros & Cons

The diet takes a solid stance not only for weight loss, but for overall health: natural, nutritious foods and regular exercise. Also, the focus on emotional health, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are all important components that more people should be doing, regardless if they are on a diet or not.

One major downside to the diet is its reliance on numerous nutritional supplements during the first phase. Using certain nutritional supplements and herbal preparations can be detrimental to your health as they could interfere with medications or bring out unknown allergies. A diet plan that recommends 12 pounds of weight loss in two weeks is either unrealistic, or unhealthy and not sustainable. 

 

Jenny Craig 

Is a diet program that is nearly 30 years old. It's a three-tiered personalized weight loss program that focuses on food, body, and mind. The core of the diet is portion control that begins with pre-packaged meals, which are usually frozen. The price of the meals, as well as the costs of enrolling in the program, varies depending on which plan you choose and which food items you purchase.

The Jenny Craig program also provides support to their clients through one-on-one consultations. The consultations are available at more than 650 locations throughout North America or through consultants over the phone. Jenny Craig employees will discuss diet, exercise, overall well-being, and will attempt to provide inspiration for clients.

While the program's initial focus is on the pre-packaged portioned meals that are supplemented throughout the day with fresh fruit or vegetables, its ultimate goal is to wean people off the prepared meals and teach them to make healthy food choices on their own.

There are two main types of the program:

  • In-Center: After a personal meeting with a consultant, clients get started on their personalized program and have regular visits with a Jenny Craig nutritionist.
  • At-Home: For those who can't get into a Jenny Craig Center, there is the option of an in-home plan where participants can use online resources, delivered meals, and over-the-phone consultations to work through their plan.

There are also additional Jenny Craig programs targeted specifically towards men, seniors, spouses, and teens.

Pros & Cons

One of the biggest positive qualities of the Jenny Craig diet is that it is custom-tailored to the client according to their goals, current weight, and body type. This includes different types of meals that cater to a person's diet restrictions: vegetarian, vegan, etc.

Along with those pluses, there is the one-on-one counseling, whether through the Jenny Craig centers or their toll-free number. Another big plus for Jenny Craig is the convenience. Meals come prepared and can be delivered directly to your door. In one box, you have your meals ready for the week and preparations require nothing more than a few minutes in the microwave and a fork.

While convenience may be nice, Jenny Craig's own prepared meals are also a con. They may be more costly than preparing your own meals at home, and may not whet your appetite after months of meals straight from the microwave. Another hindrance is the potential challenge clients may face after eating the prepared meals for an extended time and later preparing their own meals.

 

Macrobiotic Diet 

Isn't some fad where you skip a few carbs and give up sugar. A blend of Buddhism and Western practices, this "diet" is closer to a life makeover for both physical and zen-like mental harmony. The term was coined by Hippocrates—the founder of modern medicine—in ancient Greece. It means "long life." The macrobiotic diet and lifestyle were codified by George Ohsawa, a French-Japanese writer and thinker in the early 20th century. The macrobiotic is primarily a vegetarian diet, with the occasional fish and seafood, which focuses on natural and organic foods. The majority of the plan comprises of whole grains (especially brown rice) and vegetables. Other regular components of the diet include beans, legumes, Miso soup, and sea vegetables.

True followers of the diet opt for fresh foods and stick to locally grown foods. Pairing flavors of foods follows a yin-and-yang assortment to achieve balance—the same way Eastern philosophies see similar balance in nature.

  • Yin foods: Considered "passive" foods, these are usually cold or sweet foods.
  • Yang foods: The "aggressive" of the two, Yang foods are salty or hot foods.

Pros & Cons

While macrobiotic diets have their ancient roots, some foods are allowed that wouldn't have been available to the ancient Greeks. Nutritionally, the macrobiotic diet is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and void of processed foods, sugars, and other unhealthy foods that are overly used in traditional Western diets. Whole grains and lean proteins, as well as seafood, are great alternatives to those who need to watch their cholesterol or are looking to improve their long-term health outlook. In the long run, the diet will help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers. (The diet is also believed by some to help prevent cancer from forming or slow its progression, but there is no empirical evidence to back up this belief.)

A diet consisting primarily of brown rice, beans, soup, and vegetables will rarely get anyone excited to eat, and this may be enough to turn some people off. However, those who are dedicated and believe in the Eastern philosophies of the diet will find greater satisfaction than just looking better in a bathing suit.

Importantly, the diet does not at all address the issue of exercise, one of the largest factors in weight loss.

 

The Mediterranean Diet 

Isn't about richness at all. Instead, it's about finding depth and range in simple, fresh foods, while staying healthy and fit in the most natural way possible. It's based on the traditional eating habits of the poor coastal regions of Southern Italy, Crete, and Greece and was initially promoted by Dr. Ancel Keys, who studied the eating habits of a small Italian fishing village for more than a quarter century. In the 1990's, Dr. Walter Willet of Harvard University codified the diet in the form that is recognizable today.

The essential elements of the diet are:

  • Lots of vegetables and legumes
  • Fresh fruit every day
  • Olive oil as the principal source of fat
  • Dairy products, mostly as yogurt and cheese
  • Fish and poultry in moderate amounts
  • Very little red meat
  • 0-4 eggs a week
  • Red wine in moderate amounts

Typically the Mediterranean diet includes primarily whole-grain and unprocessed carbohydrates that have very few unhealthy trans-fats. Nuts (part of the legume family) are a big part of a typical Mediterranean diet, and while nuts are high in fat and calories, they are very low in unhealthy saturated fats and high in healthy, polyunsaturated fats.

Pros & Cons

There's something for everyone in the Mediterranean Diet. Its guidelines do limit some types of food, but unlike many other diets, this one does not restrict anything outright. It's a diet that is both effective for those trying to lose weight and for those who simply want to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. It is heart-healthy, brain healthy, and healthy for pretty much every system in your body. It's hard to believe, but people living in Mediterranean countries have significantly lower rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes than northern European and American countries.

The problem is that it's not really a "diet" in the way most people might expect (i.e., weight loss). It's almost more of a lifestyle choice that has proven health benefits, and dieters will need to relearn how to shop and cook. There's also no calorie counting, no carb counting, no advice on portion sizes, and no "steps" or "phases." Consequently, people who need strict limitations and set-in-stone rules for success might have a hard time staying on this diet.

 

Weight Watchers 

Is the mother of all commercial diet plans and has been around for 45 years. The primary focus of Weight Watchers is long-term weight management with a commitment to not just better eating habits, but a healthier lifestyle. There are no forbidden foods on the Weight Watchers plan. Instead, a point system ascribes values to foods. Until recently, the point system was based on fiber, fat, and calories. In 2010, Weight Watchers announced that it would be changing it's point system. The new system will assign points based on a complex algorithm that takes into account the specific proportions of protein, fiber, carbs, and fat in a food item or dish. The new system is a complete overhaul, meant to remove the focus on fat and calories, and to recognize that not all calories are equal; your body works more or less hard to turn certain sources of calorie into energy that you can use.

Pros & Cons

Unlike many other branded diet plans, the Weight Watchers program is based heavily on scientific research and data and is free of gimmicks. Instead of promising a quick-fix drop in weight, it instead focuses on steady, long-term weight loss that is practical and healthy. There are no foods that are strictly off limits, and the point system is straightforward and easy to understand. Weight Watchers also offers plenty of support and education throughout the process and has earned high marks from nutritionists and the medical community as a safe and healthy way to lose weight.

Higher quality usually means a higher price, and Weight Watchers is no different. Classes cost between $10 and $15 each, or for about $40 a month, members can attend as many sessions as they want. There is also an online subscription fee that comes out to about $5 per week.

One drawback is that the points system can allow for some abuse.  Each member is allowed bonus points each week that they can "spend" anytime they want. If someone uses all of their bonus points at one time or on one day, that could significantly affect weight loss. In addition, there are quite a few foods that are "free" on Weight Watchers but still have a significant amount of calories. This can also lead to abuse of the points system.

 

Palio Diet

Paleo, also known as Primal, Caveman, and Stone Age diet draws its core principles from our hunter-gatherer, ancestral lifestyle and combines those with modern scientific research and a good dose of common sense. The diet has gained a huge following lately and as a result it is often scrutinised, misrepresented, and often misunderstood. The thing about Paleo is that it’s not really a new diet.

 

Pros & Cons

 

You will eat a clean diet without additives, preservatives, or chemicals.

You do get the anti-inflammatory benefit from the plant nutrients in fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds.

You will be eating more iron through increased red meat intake.

You will have improved satiety — a feeling of fullness between meals, due to the higher intake of protein and fats.

Most people will lose weight primarily due to the limited food choices.

This eating plan can be very pricey.

You don’t eat any grains, whole or otherwise, which are good for health and energy.

Consuming no dairy foods is not great for your bones.

If you take away foods and nutrients and don’t find suitable replacements, you can create a nutrient imbalance.

This diet can be really hard for vegetarians, especially since the diet excludes beans.

Most athletes need between 3 to 6 grams of carbs per pound of their body weight, per day. This would be very hard to do with just fruits and vegetables.

The paleo diet for athletes recommends that two hours before exercise, you can eat:

Eggs and fruit, but no apples, berries, dates, figs, grapes, pears, mangoes, or pineapple, which means you could have bananas, oranges, or grapefruit.

Applesauce mixed with protein powder,jarred baby food mixed with chopped meats.

During exercise, you can have a sports drink. After exercise, you can have a recovery beverage with electrolytes, or a turkey sandwich with vegetables.

The diet does not specify portions of the allowed foods, and because there aren’t a ton of approved foods, you may find yourself overeating some of them. This wouldn’t be a calorie issue if you ate a lot of lettuce, but could be a problem if you ate a 5-pound jar of nuts.

The diet is higher in protein, which is an important nutrient to build and maintain muscle. But too much protein usually means too little carbohydrate, which is the energy source for exercise.

The amount of carbohydrate may be inadequate for athletes. The diet does allow some carbohydrates, but it is still fairly restrictive.

 

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