There are a thousand and one different diets out there, all of them distinct with varying degrees of effectiveness. It is naturally difficult to navigate the veritable library full of diets that are available online, so we’ve decided to go over some of the most popular diets around today and discuss them in terms of effectiveness, ease of adherence, and some other important factors to consider when choosing a diet for yourself.
Fundamentals of Dieting
Before we go into the different types of diets available, we should discuss what it is that makes a diet effective or ineffective and how this will play into our evaluation of various dietary strategies. First of all, what is the goal of a diet? Presumably, it is to lose body fat. Now, how is this done? The key to losing body fat consistently is something called an energy balance. Your energy balance is how much energy you expend each day versus how much energy (in calories) you intake a day through food.
If you expend more energy than you consume, you lose body fat. It’s that simple! You need to intake fewer calories than you are expending daily in order to be in a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit causes you to be in what is called a negative energy balance, which is when you are intaking fewer calories than you are expending. You will inevitably lose body fat if you are in a negative energy balance/caloric deficit. The most straightforward way to lose body fat with regard to diet and exercise is to track your daily caloric intake. You would typically use your height and weight to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), then multiply that by a constant representing activity level to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is how much energy in calories you spend each day, and if you eat fewer calories than this, you will lose body fat. There are plenty of online calculators that can calculate your BMR and TDEE for you, so all that remains for you to do is to track your daily food intake to make sure it is below your TDEE. There are many apps and online resources that will track your daily food intake for you. However, many people struggle to track their daily caloric intake, or doing so simply does not fit in with their lifestyle. These people often opt for one of the diets we will be going over in this article.
The way that all these popular diets function is by incidentally lowering the number of calories you intake without tracking required. The types of foods and methodologies utilized by all the various diets we will go over are different, but the underlying mechanism of the fat loss taking place is always the same: energy balance.
What Makes a Diet “Good”?
Other than achieving a negative energy balance and, thereby, fat loss, what makes any given dietary strategy effective? Well, it typically comes down to three important factors: satiety, adherence, and consistency. Satiety is the feeling of fullness you have throughout the day. This is critically important in judging the quality of a diet because it, more often than not, determines the other factor: adherence. Adherence is how closely you stick to your diet without violating it or overeating. Your fullness throughout the day helps determine your adherence, as the less hungry you are, the less compelled you will feel to violate your diet.
A diet that is high in both satiety and ease of adherence is ideal because it will keep you comfortably full and be easier to stick to, as consistency in dieting is the ultimate key to achieving success. You must be consistent in implementing your dietary strategies over a period of time in order to lose the body fat that you want to lose, and a diet that is high in both satiety and ease of adherence is one that you will be consistent with.
Different Diets Evaluated
Here we will evaluate a number of popular diets in terms of efficacy in terms of the critical factors we’ve outlined above.
This is a dietary strategy by which you break up your entire day’s food consumption into “feeding windows” of a few hours (typically six to eight hours) and fast (don’t eat) for the remaining 16-18 hours. This has been touted as a very effective way to lose body fat for some, although, like any diet, it has its shortcomings. First of all, as with any diet, energy balance must be controlled for, and if you eat more than your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) each day during your feeding windows, you will actually gain weight, as you would ordinarily.
However, the benefit of this diet is that most people find it hard to overeat for the day in only six to eight hours of eating, so overall calories are typically decreased, and a negative energy balance is maintained. This diet is generally good in terms of maintaining satiety, as once you acclimate (this typically takes about a week or two) to not eating throughout the day and just eating during your feeding window, six to eight hours of relatively unrestricted eating keeps you full throughout the day.
Additionally, many schedule their feeding windows such that most of their fasting time is spent asleep, so there are no long periods of waking discomfort from no food. In terms of ease of adherence, this diet is also generally good, though some have difficulty scheduling their feeding window into their workday or dealing with family eating at normal hours while they are intermittent fasting.
This diet relies on the principle of ketosis, which is when, due to a lack of glucose from carbohydrates, the body begins to solely use dietary fat for energy. This type of diet is more commonly known as the low-carb or no-carb, or Atkins diet, depending on the severity of the carbohydrate restriction. This diet works well for those who can adhere to it by causing strong feelings of satiety from a diet solely composed of dietary fats and protein, both of which have high satiety profiles while allowing for lower overall caloric consumption due to this feeling of satiety. People generally do not report being too hungry to function on this diet, though they will often intensely crave carbohydrates.
This brings us to our criticism of this dietary strategy. The ease of adherence to this diet is very low, as almost everyone engaging in this type of diet reports strong cravings for carbohydrates almost immediately and consistently throughout the diet. Many schedule weekly or bimonthly “cheat meals” or breaks from the no-carbohydrate adherence to address this concern, but overall, this is a quite difficult dietary strategy to stick with. Though, for those for whom this is not a problem, it often produces excellent results.
The protein-sparing modified fast diet (PSMF) is a diet originally designed to help obese people lose large amounts of body fat quickly while sparing lean body mass (muscle). In this diet, protein is prioritized, while carbohydrates and dietary fats are severely restricted. This type of diet typically utilizes very low overall amounts of calories per day. This type of diet is ideal for those who are severely overweight and are interested in quickly losing large amounts of body fat or for those to whom preserving muscle mass while dieting is a priority.
This diet is relatively low in terms of satiety due to the severe caloric restriction involved. For this reason, it is also reasonably low in ease of adherence, though not as low as a ketogenic diet, generally speaking. However, if you can adhere to this diet, you will undoubtedly get tremendous fat loss results.
This diet is based on the idea that the human body is evolutionarily adapted to eat what paleolithic man ate, and the ideal diet should consist primarily of meat and exclusively whole, unprocessed foods. While eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods is generally very healthy, this diet is based on an apocryphal historical premise. Paleolithic man did not eat meat and eggs primarily, as many proponents of this dietary strategy advocate. Furthermore, there are historical records of “processed foods,” such as bread, dating back fifteen thousand years, and there is no evidence that humans are less “evolutionarily adapted” to eat such foods.
Having said that, as with all other diets, if you are in a negative energy balance while eating according to the paleo diet, then you will lose body fat. The incorrectness of the logic behind the diet doesn’t modify the results that can be achieved if this diet is the easiest way for you to restrict your caloric intake. For this reason, this diet is high in both satiety and ease of adherence, as you eat more or less normally with some discretion in food choice to avoid the oftentimes highly caloric processed foods that are common today.
What If Dieting Isn’t Enough?
Now, what if you’ve found the optimal diet for yourself and you’ve tried your best to adhere and be consistent, but no matter what, you can’t seem to do so? Well, there are a few options to help you in dietary compliance, as well as cosmetic procedures with which you can skip over a lot of the dieting.
Occasionally, weight gain and fat retention are the results of mental health issues. For example, binge eating disorder is a mental disorder that can lead to obesity. Even if a mental condition isn’t necessarily the cause, many people gain weight or are unable to maintain a healthy weight because they have an unhealthy psychological relationship with food. They oftentimes comfort themselves or reward themselves with food. For these reasons, therapy is a viable option for weight loss for many people. A therapist will help you get to the root of the problem and address why you are overeating, and will consequently help you lose body fat. Therapy can be a very helpful tool in your weight loss journey.
These are a type of medications that can cause increased satiety and fullness when eating. GLP-1 agonist medications imitate a hormone called incretin, which is responsible for the feeling of satiety, thereby increasing fullness and decreasing hunger. This results in weight loss through caloric restriction being far easier, as the person is not as hungry and feels significantly fuller from the same quantity of food. Individuals will be less hungry and remain full for longer while on this medication, though they will still have to adjust their eating habits in order to lose body fat. However, unless the eating issue is purely psychological, this will be far easier to do, as the cravings for food and general hunger will be significantly diminished.
This procedure, also referred to as “laser lipo,” involves the application of a low-intensity laser to the fat areas you wish to lose. Lasers can generate singular-directional light and heat to a minimal area. With laser lipo, the technician will target the cell with the laser. The laser penetrates the skin, reaches the targeted fat cells, and bores a tiny pore into the cellular membrane. In addition to creating the small hole, the laser emulsifies (melts) the lipids inside the cell, which allows them to seep through the pore.
The body’s lymphatic system then naturally disposes of the lipids. Emerald Laser by Erchonia works differently from other laser lipolysis methods. Emerald’s system uses ten 532 nanometer lasers to target fat cells. While the system allows the cells to drain, they remain intact. Other laser systems destroy the fat cells, which can lead to fatty deposits developing in other areas of the body.
Additionally, Emerald Laser is relatively painless when compared to other laser systems. Most patients don’t feel anything at all. Laser lipolysis is a minimally invasive weight loss method that targets body fat exclusively. It is innovative and relatively new. Laser lipolysis by Emerald Laser is the first FDA-approved laser lipolysis process.
Whichever dietary strategy you choose, Emerald Laser can help make your fat loss journey a success through laser lipolysis, so contact us to find a provider near you!