At Prototype Nutrition we believe that there is a continuum of food ranging from less nutritious to highly nutritious. We don’t believe that foods are good or bad, and we believe in food as fuel! We work with so many clients who have adapted to extremely low-calorie diets and as a result, have slowed down their metabolism. We also work with people on the opposite end of the spectrum who struggle with emotional eating and indulge in excess. What we have found? Fad diets are all the craze when it comes to the general populations obsession with battling the bulge.
From Atkins, to South Beach, from the cookie diet, to the paleo diet, these diets lead you to believe that you need to eat certain food groups and completely eliminate others. In reality, by denying the body certain food groups both physically and psychologically, those found on these diets tended to lose less weight overall than those eating a moderate, balanced, and wholesome diet. In fact, many people found on these fad diets fall prey to “yo-yo” patterns of eating, leading them to actually gain more weight than when they had originally started.
So the question is… How do we differentiate fad diets from real diets, and which diet is the best? Prototype Nutrition weighs in with an answer that may come as a surprise. The best diet is no diet. Research-based on a comprehensive study at Louisiana State University focused on tracking weight loss and ones ability to maintain that weight loss over a 2-year time span. A variety of trendy diets were studied including a high-fat diet, a high-fat high-protein diet, a low-fat low-protein diet, a low-fat high-protein diet, low-carb diet, and a high-carb diet. 811 Overweight adults were chosen and randomly assigned to one of the aforementioned diets, all of which had a goal of a 750-calorie daily deficit, but none of which were below 1,200 calories a day.
The diets all consisted of similar foods and promoted guidelines of cardiovascular health. Carbohydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index were promoted with each diet, and participants were even given menu plans along with nutritional and group support for behavioral modification and education. While the program promoted exercise, the main focus of this study was on the diet, and so they encouraged their subjects to exercise but kept the recommendation at a minimum of three sessions of moderate-intensity exercise for thirty minutes.
The study included a variety of health parameters but mostly focused on overall scale weight at the end of the two-year study. Along with scale weight, factors such as BMI, blood pressure, lipid profiles, and metabolic rate were taken into consideration. Psychological and environmental factors were also accounted for through surveys on hunger, cravings, behaviors, habits, and values in regards to eating.
What researchers at Louisiana state university found surprised almost all of the subjects in this study. It made no difference which diet plan was followed. After two years the amount of weight lost by participants was the same, regardless of the diet. Carbs or no carbs, high fat, or low fat, there was no difference in weight loss or change in waist circumference among the various groups.
The most interesting thing about this study, however, is that while subjects lost an average of 13 pounds in the first 6 months, after the 1 year period, some of the test subjects had gained back that 13 pounds plus some more. At the end of the two-year study, the net weight loss was only at 6 pounds per person, and only 2-3% of the subjects had lost more than 10% of their initial weight despite the promised drastic weight loss that each diet sells themselves for.
What this study confirms is what most of us already know: diets are hard to follow, and more often than not extremely inconvenient. The best way of eating is not some cookie-cutter meal plan. Subjects who were assigned a diet strategy closest to their own diet did better than those who had to make big changes to follow the plan. This tells us that while although you might be able to tolerate a diet for a month or two; your chances of success and sticking with that diet are probably slim. By eating a moderate, balanced, adequate diet including all of the food groups in variety, you can ensure you are healthy and the rest will follow.
Losing a pound here or there is a short term goal. At Prototype Nutrition we believe that weight loss and maintenance is a long-term outcome of changing old habits into new habits that make you feel better and have positive effects on your well-being. When you commit to following a diet that is sustainable and nourishing, you will have the energy you need to do all the other things you want to do, to make you happier and healthier in other areas of your life.
The question about which diet is best is settled. There is no perfect diet. It is whatever works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try on different strategies for size as it may be the only way to find what works best. Just remember to follow healthy guidelines, to listen to your body and to remember moderation.
Prototype Nutrition’s Recommended Steps :
- Reduce what you eat by 200 calories a day if you are in a caloric surplus.
- Eat as much real food as possible.
- Increase fiber intake from whole grains, veggies and fruits.
- Eat your protein, for CrossFit .8- 1g/lb is recommended and drink that water!
- Make a plan that fits your lifestyle
- Keep a diet log, we love MyFitnessPal
- Use the buddy system: someone to hold you accountable
- Don’t skip meals
- Eat until you are satisfied but not stuffed!
- Sacks FM, BRAY GA, et al. Comparison of Weight loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med, 2009.
- HASKELL WL, I-M Lee, et al. Physical Activity and Public Health: Updated recommendations for adults from the American Heart Association. Med Sci Sports Exer, 2008.
- Kleiner Susan. The Scientific Approach to Fitness, 2010.
By Leah Hantman