In the last 9 years in practice most of my patients have listed weight loss as one of the reasons they have come to work with me. They want to know which diet is the key to weight loss. It is a popular belief that there is one best diet that will create success for all. But popular diets are just that, popular because people have tried them and have experienced a level of success that tempts others to have the same experience. I have been asked about every diet from Eat Right 4 Your Type to South Beach to Ozone. Looking at this question from a naturopathic or holistic standpoint there is no one diet that will work for everybody. The most important thing about deciding on a diet plan, or a “food lifestyle plan” as I like to call it, is to create sustainable life behaviors. People who lose weight and keep it off change their lifestyle and the role that food plays in their life. Educating yourself on what is healthy for your body and your life will allow you to create better, lasting health.
The first point to understand is how your body loses weight. It can be explained in a simple equation: when the amount of fuel or energy that you take in from food (calories) is less than the amount of fuel or energy that you expend (calories) during your daily activities, you lose weight.
How does this equation help you decide on the best diet for you? First it is important to remember that diet is only part of the equation. It is a tool to help you lose weight, not the key. The reason why people tend to lose weight on any of the popular diets is because they put themselves on a plan where they are paying attention to the foods they eat. The diets also are usually based on more nutrient dense foods with restrictions on or avoidance of junk and highly processed foods. Nutrient dense foods usually mean lean proteins, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Some of these foods might be restricted for some portion of the plan but do get added back in as people become closer to their goal weight. For example on the South Beach diet whole foods are emphasized and simple carbohydrates are restricted. Weight Watchers, which tracks nutrition on a point system, allows people to eat as many vegetables as they’d like since they are considered “zero points,” thus encouraging people to eat nutrient dense foods. So when my patients ask me which is the best diet I ask them to evaluate their daily habits and decide how many changes they are willing to make on their new plan. My mom and her friend decided to try the Fat Flush diet. They really loved it but after several days gave up because they felt it was too labor intensive.
Many of the popular diets also ask participants to do some mild or moderate exercise which increases the amount of fuel expended on a daily basis further supporting weight loss. The great thing about exercise is that in addition to improving weight loss it supports other patterns of health such as better sleep, improved cardiovascular health and more regular bowel movements, just to name a few.
If a patient has health concerns beyond just weight loss, I will generally offer them a food lifestyle plan that addresses their specific needs to lose weight at support their health issue at the same time. This approach of using the foods that you eat as medicine to help you feel better and get to your ideal weight is the core of my individualize nutrition treatments. So, the answer to the question “what is the best diet?” varies from person to person based on lifestyle and need but will always be based on whole foods.