What’s the best diet for healthy weight loss?
Pick almost any diet book, and it will promise to have all the secrets to losing and keeping the weight off. Some argue that the solution is to eat less and exercise more, while others argue that low fat is the only way to go and that carbs should be avoided. So, what are you supposed to believe?
The truth is that there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” strategy to long-term, healthy weight loss. Because our systems respond differently to different foods depending on genetics and other health considerations, what works for one person may not work for you. Finding the weight-loss approach that works for you will take time, patience, commitment, and some experimenting with different meals and diets.
While some people respond well to calorie counting or other stringent weight-loss approaches, others prefer more flexibility in their weight-loss plans. Simply avoiding fried foods or reducing refined carbs can put them on the road to success. So, if a diet that worked for someone else doesn’t work for you, don’t get disheartened. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if a diet proves to be too restrictive for you to maintain. Finally, a diet is only good for you if you can maintain it over time.
While there is no quick answer for losing weight, there are several measures you can take to build a healthier relationship with food, reduce emotional overeating, and maintain a healthy weight.
Four popular weight loss strategies
Some experts feel that keeping your weight under control boils down to a simple equation: eat less calories than you burn, and you’ll lose weight. Doesn’t it appear to be simple? So, why is it so difficult to lose weight?
Weight loss isn’t a linear event over time. When you reduce your calorie intake, you may lose weight for the first few weeks, but then something happens. You consume the same number of calories as before, but you lose less or no weight. Because when you lose weight, you lose water and lean tissue as well as fat, your metabolism slows, and your body changes in other ways, your metabolism slows and your body changes in other ways. So, if you want to keep losing weight each week, you’ll need to keep lowering calories.
A calorie isn’t always a calorie. Eating 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup vs 100 calories of broccoli, for example, can have a different effect on your health. The key to long-term weight loss is to eliminate items that are high in calories but don’t fill you up (such as candy) and replace them with foods that are filling but low in calories (like vegetables).
Many of us don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. We also turn to food for comfort or to reduce stress, which can derail any weight-loss goal rapidly.
A second perspective on weight loss considers the issue to be the way the body acquires fat after consuming carbs, specifically the action of the hormone insulin. Carbohydrates from the food enter the bloodstream as glucose after you eat a meal. Your body always burns glucose before burning fat from a meal in order to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
When you consume a carbohydrate-rich meal (like a lot of pasta, rice, bread, or French fries), your body releases insulin to help handle the inflow of glucose into your bloodstream. Insulin accomplishes two things in addition to managing blood sugar levels: it stops fat cells from releasing fat for the body to burn as fuel (since the body’s priority is to burn off the glucose) and it makes new fat cells to store whatever your body can’t burn off. As a result, you acquire weight and your body demands more fuel to burn, causing you to eat more. Because insulin can only burn carbohydrates, you crave them, which sets in motion a vicious cycle of food consumption and weight gain. To reduce weight, the logic goes, you must break the pattern by eating fewer carbs.
Most low-carb diets recommend replacing carbs with protein and fat, which may have long-term health consequences. If you do decide to follow a low-carb diet, choose lean meats, fish, and vegetarian protein sources, low-fat dairy products, and plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables to lower your risks and limit your saturated and trans fat intake.