You may have tried dieting before. Maybe you’ve even tried several diets over the course of several years, lost the weight, and then had it all come back. Diets can be tricky. There is a multitude of diets that say they will help you shed the pounds. That may be true, but weight loss doesn’t equal health especially when so many diets aren’t sustainable.
Weight loss isn’t the only thing you should be concerned about. Your health could be in serious danger if you only worry about your weight. Instead, look at dieting from a holistic perspective. You can feel great, look great, and improve your health. You don’t have to pick just one. So, what diet actually works and provides your body with the nutrients it needs to lose weight, gain muscle, and stay healthy for life?
Here’s our list of some of the top non-healthy fad diets, and which ones will help you shed the pounds and keep you healthy long-term:
- The Atkins Diet
- The HCG Diet
- The Paleo Diet
- The Keto Diet
- The Plant-Based Keto Diet
- And … how you can develop a weight loss meal plan that is healthy, sustainable, and that really works
THE ATKINS DIET
The Atkins diet was invented by Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist, in the 1970s. He believed that changing the way you eat rather than restricting your calories was the best method for rapid and sustained weight loss.
This diet is characterized by eating a low-carb or no-carb meal plan accompanied by a high-protein intake.
Atkins is designed to eliminate the spikes and slumps in your blood sugar, stop the process of your body converting carbs to fat, and burn your fat reserves.
Many people who follow this diet have experienced significant weight loss. Sounds great, right? Well, the issue is that while there have been studies that show the short-term effects of this diet, the long-term effects have never been investigated.
There is research on the problems with eating too much protein and fat though. Diets rich in fats, especially saturated fats found in dairy products and red meat, are linked to a higher risk of acquiring cancer, diabetes, kidney problems, and osteoporosis.
Though you may experience weight loss in the short-term, if you use this diet plan for an extended period of time, the long-term health problems will settle in. The temporary satisfaction of weighing less won’t be worth the risk of multiple chronic diseases especially when your weight loss goals are achievable through other means.
THE HCG DIET
The HCG diet is probably the most extreme diet we are going to discuss. The diet is popular for weight loss because it allows you to lose 1–2 pounds per day. The idea behind the diet was conceived by Dr. Albert Simeons, a British endocrin-ologist, during the 1950s. This diet is composed of HCG hormone injections and a startling low-calorie diet of only 500 calories a day.
HCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone produced by women during their pregnancy. The theory behind the use of HCG is that the hormone is supposed to suppress your hunger, boost your metabolism, and promote fat loss and muscle retention. However, scientific studies have not supported these claims.
The reason behind the dramatic weight loss is seen by many to be because of the restrictive calorie diet. A few studies report that when comparing someone who took an HCG injection to another who took a placebo, the two had equal weight loss.
You are essentially put your body into a temporary state of starvation. Soon, your fat and muscle stores will be eaten away. But, after you stop the diet, you are likely to gain the weight back. Studies that looked at the effects of this diet on patients discovered that the patients gained the weight back after a few months. The weight loss is rapid but so is the weight gain because a 500-calorie diet is not sustainable.
The FDA calls HCG products illegal and recommends that consumers steer clear from these products. They even call the diet fraudulent, dangerous, unhealthy, and hazardous. Some people have ended up with serious health concerns after partaking in the diet and have been hospitalized.
Gradual weight loss is always the safest, healthiest, and most sustainable.
THE PALEO DIET
The Paleo Diet was popularized by Dr. Loren Cordain by his 2002 book The Paleo Diet. He received his Ph.D. in Health from the University of Utah and developed an interest in the Paleolithic diet after reading Dr. Eaton’s paper “Paleolithic Nutrition.” The diet is based on how our ancestors ate as hunter-gathers.
Dr. Cordain promotes a whole-foods diet high in protein from grass-fed, cage-free, and wild-caught sources. The diet also recommends a low carbohydrate intake. You are able to eat non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables, but whole grains aren’t permitted.
Dr. Cordain also believes that dairy products, beans, and legumes are inflammatory to your body and suggests that you avoid them. High levels of healthy mono-saturated and Omega-3 fats are also integrated into the diet.
These ideas for how to eat come from the belief that humanity’s shift from hunter-gatherers to an agricultural lifestyle causes many of the health problems that you see today.
One of the criticisms of the Paleo diet is that it is impossible to eat exactly like the prehistoric humans did during the Paleolithic era. Our fruits, vegetables, and meats are vastly different from theirs.
Another source of criticism for the Paleo diet is the lifespan of humans during the Paleolithic period. Present day humans’ average life expectancy is 70.5 years. In contrast, prehistoric humans lived to be around 33 years of age. Some studies question how healthy the diet is for you for this reason.
Outside of the criticism of the diet’s historical accuracy and relevance, the lack of carbohydrates in the diet is also concerning. Carbs are used for energy especially during exercise. Without adequate carbohydrate intake, our body starts feeding on fat and even muscle mass.
So, the long-term effects of this diet might decrease your muscle mass rather than increase it like you might typically think when eating a high-protein diet. Many experts believe that we consume 50% more protein than we need when eating a standard American diet. The Paleo diet increases your protein intake even more. So, you might be eating twice the amount of protein needed.
High levels of meat intake are also linked to several cancers. Dr. Cordain believes that 55% of Paleolithic diets were from meat consumption. So, these astronomically high amounts of meat in your diet would increase your risk of developing cancer.
THE KETOGENIC DIET
The Ketogenic diet has become more popular in recent years. You’ve probably heard of it and may even have a friend who told you about his or her amazing results from the diet. The term ketogenic diet was actually first coined in 1921 by Dr. Russel Wilder. He prescribed the diet to patients suffering from epilepsy and seizures. Fasting was previously the best way to help seizures,
but the keto diet offered a way for patients to still receive adequate nutrition while still lowering their seizure rate.
Today, this diet is primarily used for weight loss, but some users also experience additional benefits from the diet. It is another low-carb and high-protein diet similar to Atkins or Paleo. Except, this diet has a much higher fat consumption requirement. You replace what would normally be your carb intake from a standard diet with fat.
The decrease in carbs puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis where your body begins to burn fat for energy rather than carbs. When your body no longer has sugar, it begins to convert fat in the liver into ketones. Your brain then uses these ketones for energy as well.
When your body transforms into this state, it is called ketosis. By being in ketosis, your body becomes a fat burning machine. Many people experience the result of weight loss from the diet and continue to maintain lean figures.
The weight loss comes without having to restrict your calories, and you won’t become lethargic. You remain energetic because your body will use fat stores for energy.
For this diet to work, you will need to avoid gluten, processed sugar, and junk foods. In contrast to other diets for weight loss that recommend lean meats, this diet requires you to eat fatty meats. Other sources of fat for this diet include eggs, cheese, avocados, coconut oil, Greek yogurt, olive oil, butter, ghee, and nuts.
For optimal results when following this diet, you should allocate 80% of your calories for fat, 15% for protein, and 5% for carbs.
People who try the keto diet experience benefits such as:
- Appetite reduction
- Increased weight loss from other diets
- A higher amount of fat loss that comes directly from their abdominal cavity
- Lowered triglycerides in the bloodstream
- Improvement in blood sugar and insulin levels for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes
However, there can be side effects to ketosis. Critics of the keto diet believe that the diet only works for the short term and can become unhealthy. If not done properly, the body will enter into ketoacidosis from the buildup of ketones.
The diet is also not always the best for those who participate in aerobic exercises such as running and cycling. In a study from April of this year, athletes who ate a high carb diet performed better than those who ate a keto diet. So, if your goal is to improve your athletic performance, then this diet might not be right for you.
Also, the primary issue with this diet, like other high-protein diets, is the excess protein and saturated fat that comes from the idea of consuming the majority of your calories from these sources. When the diet is done incorrectly, the liver will transform excess proteins into sugar or glucose to use as fuel. This process is called gluconeogenesis. The keto diet’s main principle is to rid your body of sugar so that your body will run off of fat instead of sugar from carbs. So, the effect of gluconeogenesis can be counterintuitive.
Protein sources from meat also contain cholesterol, and saturated fats from dairy and eggs can also increase the risk of heart disease. When you avoid animal products, you can lower your risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancers.
If you combine this diet with a plant-based diet, you can combat some of the ill effects and still lose weight.
THE PLANT-BASED DIET
In 1944, Donald Watson coined the term vegan. However, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets have been around for thousands of years. Many ancient Greek philosophers partook in the diet and believed that abstaining from animal flesh helped them live healthier and more peaceful lives. People committed to a plant-based diet often do not eat animal products including meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.
The plant-based diet is often practiced by vegans and vegetarians for a variety of reasons.
Large amounts of people eat the diet for an ethical reason. The diet doesn’t contribute to animal cruelty and can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Outside of these ethical reasons for the diet, some eat a plant-based diet because of the variety of health benefits such as:
- Long-term sustained weight loss
- Clearer skin
- Lowered blood sugar levels
- Dramatically lower risks of heart disease and even reversal of heart disease
- Prevention of certain cancers
This year at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual conference, Nutrition 2018, the association confirmed the immense health benefits with eating a plant-based diet. According to their new research, the society believes the plant-based diet is one of the healthiest while promoting weight loss.
At the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, they observed 30,000 people and found that eating quality plant-based foods is more important than eating quality animal products. The plant-based foods are more essential for peak health.
The American Diabetes Association even supports the plant-based diet to prevent and manage diabetes. Though the association once believed that carbs would raise blood sugars, after new research, the ADA believes that carb and calorie restrictions are pointless for the health of diabetes patients.
Medical News Today reports that the diet has little to no health risks. The diet will require some planning initially until you adjust to eating a plant-based diet, but it is entirely possible to acquire all the nutrients your body needs. In fact, when Medical News Today interviewed Megan Ware, a registered nutritionist from Orlando, she said, “A vegan diet contains far more nutrients than the average American diet.”
The diet is rich in nutrients, vitamins, and fiber when you eat whole-foods. In order to experience weight loss from the diet, you cannot continue to eat processed foods. Just because that box of crackers is free from animal products doesn’t make it nutritious.
For more information on the benefits of going vegan, check out our article on how a plant-based diet benefits you, the environment, and prevents animal cruelty.
COMBINING THE KETO DIET WITH A PLANT-BASED DIET
Achieving ketosis is still possible through a plant-based diet without eating meat, dairy, and eggs. The way to be successful with keto is to adopt a lifestyle that, according to science, prevents the risk of chronic disease – including cancer. By combining the ketogenic diet with the plant-based diet, you get all the amazing health benefits of adopting a plant-based diet with the accelerated weight loss effects of ketosis.
Before you can understand how to properly combine these diets for maximum efficacy, let’s first briefly touch on how this diet combination can be beneficial for those with diabetes.
Dr. Carrie Diulus, a U.S. board-certified orthopedic spinal surgeon, adopted a vegan keto diet to manage her type 1 diabetes. In this video below, she explains her strategy for using a vegan keto diet for diabetes, and how to safely and effectively apply the diet to your own life.
She believes that studies have shown that people respond in different ways to carbohydrates. The brain doesn’t require glucose to function properly. Ketones work just as effectively.
She originally tried a high protein diet as a paleo pescatarian before transitioning to a vegan keto diet. The high protein diet did work well in lowering her blood sugar levels. But after she battled with a virus which left her with gastroparesis, she found animal products to be difficult to digest.
After transitioning to a plant-based keto diet, Dr. Carrie Diulus explains that she completely manages her type 1 diabetes and feels fantastic without animal products.
WEIGHTLOSS MEAL PLAN
The vegan ketogenic diet is also excellent for weight loss. You can develop a strict meal plan for yourself that consists of the standard ratios of 80% fat, 15% protein, and 5% carbs if you want to kick-start weight loss or manage diabetes.
Intermittent fasting is also an excellent way to fulfill your weight loss goals. This practice for planning the timing of your meals maximizes your metabolism’s potential. Here’s an article to find out the benefits of fasting, how to do it, and the best method for rapid weight loss.
But, you may find that by adding a few more delicious, healthy carbs into your daily meals you can still stay fit and even build more muscle. If you want to know the easiest way to build muscle while staying plant-based, Sunwarrior guides you through the steps.
You may be new to the plant-based diet, so we have provided a few short lists of plant-based fats and proteins.
Here are some great sources of plant-based fats:
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
- Raw Cacao
- Nut Butters
- Chia Seeds
- Vegan Butters and Yogurts
Here are a few sources of plant-based protein:
- Dairy-free yogurt
- Chia seeds
For ideas on how to make delicious and wholesome fat burning meals from these ingredients, check our recipes. You’ll love how your weight loss tastes, and this diet is effective for your entire life.
The majority of diets only work short-term because they can’t be sustained or provide the energy and satiety your body needs. The plant-based diet is backed by science to show that it is the best diet for your optimal health.
STARTING YOUR PATH TO HEALTHY LIVING
There is so much more to a holistic lifestyle than weight loss. When you start your journey to healthier living, there seems to be so much information to weed through. It can be confusing and difficult to determine what you should focus on first.
That’s why we developed a short 15 Point Guide to Essential Health. Take charge of your own health. With a little help, you’ll be living a healthier more fulfilling life in no time.