Regular readers of my articles will probably note that typically I’m not a big fan of diets. This is largely because most weight loss diets on the market today are little more than passing fads that spread misinformation by over-promising their results. That said, not all weight loss diets are bad. And the reality is that some people find the structure of a diet more useful than simply trying to follow general healthy eating recommendations. The question is, how do you select a good one?
Things to consider:
Is the diet balanced?
A healthy diet is based on eating variety of foods. You should be suspicious of any diet that advocates for eliminating or severely restricting any particular food group (for example “carbs”). Restrictive weight loss diets are often unsustainable and can even sometimes lead to nutrient deficiencies. Good weight loss diets also promote regular physical activity, so any program claiming that you can lose weight “without stepping foot in a gym” probably isn’t worth your time.
Who endorses/created it?
Who is promoting the diet and what are their credentials? Are they a qualified health professional with specialized training in obesity and/or nutrition? Unfortunately even this doesn’t always guarantee the validity of a diet (I’m looking at you Dr. Oz!), but if your weight loss program was created by someone without the letters MD, RD, or some equivalent title behind their name, it almost certainly means that they’re more concerned with selling products than helping you lose weight in a healthy manner.
What is the pace of weight loss?
Impressive claims like “you can lose 10 lbs in 10 days on diet X!” should be a red flag. A good weight loss diet should provide at least 1200 calories/day for women and 1500 calories/day for men, which will result in up to 1 kg (2 lbs) of weight loss per week for most people. Diets promoting weight loss of more than 1kg/wk are too low in calories and may cause you to metabolize lean tissue (ie. muscle) rather than fat. They can also lead to other health problems including, headaches, fatigue, nutrient deficiencies and, in extreme cases, death.
Is the diet right for you?
In order to be successful in your weight loss it’s important to think about whether or not the diet will fit your lifestyle. Consider things like: Does the diet provide the flexibility to eat foods that are important to you? Will it require you to take supplements? What are the financial costs associated with the diet? Will you enjoy being on the diet or will it make you miserable? Will you be able to sustain it?
The Bottom Line
You can lose weight on any literally diet that restricts calories. The tricky part comes in trying to lose weight in a healthy way and making sure that you’re able to stick with your diet long enough to see results (and sustain it over the long term). It’s also important to speak with your doctor before going on any weight loss diet so that they can review any medical problems that you may have and help you set appropriate weight loss goals.
*originally published on www.dietitianabroad.com on June 11, 2014