On TV, online, and in magazines, you might have seen them. Glossy before and after pictures of people in their forties, and taglines promising almost unhealthy weekly weight loss. Or maybe you’ve seen them on social media– models promoting diet teas, juice cleanses, and pills that they claim will help you shave pound after pound. With all this marketing surrounding a nearly multi-million-dollar industry, how do you find a healthy diet plan that works for you, and how do you stick to it? Read on for expert advice on how to navigate the murky waters of the diet industry and come out unscathed.
In the early 1800’s, Lord Byron popularized the first fad diet– eating flattened white potatoes drenched in vinegar. From then on, dieting was never the same. Many of the diet plans before 2000 revolved around substituting food or drugs for regular food consumption, like the aptly named “Drinking Man’s Diet” or a 1925 ad campaign for Lucky Brand cigarettes that spawned the “cigarette diet.” Other diets involved counting a specific type of mineral, like the diets we have today. Calorie counting, one of the most popular modern weight-loss methods, actually originated in the 1920’s. In the late 1900’s, diets began to be developed by specific people and therefore bear the names of their famous creators. Prominent examples include the Atkins diet and the Dukan diet. Calorie counting, and the advent of new “detox” trends have especially risen to prominence after the new millennium, with followers like Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even Benedict Cumberbatch advocating for drink cleanses and the 5:2 diet.
The Most Popular Current Diets
Some of the most popular current diets include Nutrisystem, the South Beach diet, the Paleo diet, Weight Watchers, and the Atkins diet. How do each of these diet plans work, and what are the results of a long-term commitment to each program?
Nutrisystem, a 28-day diet plan that emphasizes half of your calories coming from carbs, a quarter of your calories coming from fat, and another quarter coming from protein, promises to deliver meals to your door to help you avoid the struggle of meal prep. It’s not cheap, though– a month of Nutrisystem can cost anywhere from around 230 dollars to 300 dollars for a month of meals, plus anything else you buy from the grocery store. There is also an online community and a support phone number if you need a little extra help sticking to it. On average, users lost weight on Nutrisystem, and the meals satisfied their hunger.
The South Beach Diet, a low-carb diet created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston in 2003, advocates eating in three stages. Dieters can eat progressively more calories over the span of the three phases. The diet’s effects on short-term health are known, but the long-term results are unknown. Similar in nature to the Atkins diet, this plan lacks a formal community. The South Beach Diet company was also recently purchased by diet giant Nutrisystem, who has promised to release more food and educational materials under the South Beach Diet brand.
Paleolithic diets have also risen to the forefront of diet trends. Commonly called “paleo diets,” the diet plan advocates for the consumption of only solid, unprocessed foods that the cavemen would have eaten. This diet is notoriously hard to maintain, and the purchase of fresh produce and some meats can be costly. This plan also tends to lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Weight Watchers, a diet plan touted by many well-known celebrities, is the most involved of all the modern diets. It offers relatively inexpensive private coaching, support meetings with other Weight Watchers dieters, and online support. The plan itself, which assigns every food and beverage a point value, is relatively easy to follow and inexpensive. Weight Watchers also advocates for exercise and coaching as part of the plan, making it involved and a lifestyle change.
The Atkins diet, created by Robert Atkins, aims to help you lose weight by reducing the number of carbohydrates consumed over a period of four phases. It is healthy and lacks a lot of the nutrient deficiency problems inherently present in other diets. However, the constant consumption of foods like steak and lobster tails tends to be relatively expensive.
Expert Opinions on Weight Loss
So, what do the experts think about weight loss? Experts involved in the US News and Record’s rankings advocated for eating in moderation, eating mostly plant-based foods, and making sure to drink copious amounts of water. They also recommended getting proper sleep and exercising for around 30 minutes per day.