Every few weeks there’s a new fad diet out there claiming to be the way to balance your chromosomes, align the planets, put your chakras in place, spank the monkey, and drop you a couple of pant or dress sizes. Between the cleanses, the flushes, the meals-on-order, and the oxymoronical real hoaxes it’s a minefield of information. It’s enough to make you give up, eat whatever the hell you want, and make sure your will is ready for when you die of congestive heart failure.
Among the white noise about your waistline, there’s some nuggets of truth to be found. Many diets begin from a place of sound science before they start to take strange turns that warps them until you’re somehow deep frying fat and throwing away egg whites. These are empty idols. The best diets are often those that aren’t geared specifically for weight loss, since losing weight is a byproduct of healthy eating. Each year a panel of nutritionists and members of the American Medical Association look at all the diet options available – from the mail order meal programs to dieting books to so-called “toxin removal” or “body flushing” systems, as well as whatever weight loss drugs are on the market. They then offer up the best suggested weight loss programs for healthy eating.
How Diets Are Selected
Diets, in this case, are not strictly being monitored for weight loss, but overall personal health. Starving yourself will lead to a reduction in fat, but that doesn’t make it healthy. Each diet is considered based on the overall effect it has on a person’s well-being, including mood, blood pressure, sleep and sleep satisfaction, meeting nutritional requirements, having sufficient vitamins or minerals for sustainability, and even whether or not the food is enjoyable to eat.
These eating plans are not supposed to be fads so much as ways to overhaul the way a person consumes so they can do so more happily and healthfully. Each plan allows for splurging, but offers such a broad range of choices that you rarely need to go outside of the program to find something that won’t just fill you, but truly satisfy you. The goal here is to make people feel better and live better, with looking better being a happy side-effect. So, while these are effective for losing weight, they are also exceptionally good for improving your eating no matter how your outsides look. They’re heart healthy, and intended to be satisfying so that you avoid the pain of denying yourself.
The Dash Diet
For The Tense: Anyone with hypertension has likely had this diet suggested to them by their physician. Developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) specifically to lower blood pressure, the emphasis here is on whole foods, whole grains, and natural eating with a minimum of processing. This encapsulates dieting plans like Atkins, which is merely a high-protein version, and Paleo diets, but also offers the choice of going with low-fat meal plans instead of low-carb. Both ways often lead to weight loss, and always improve your blood pressure, overall health, and life expectancy better than anything else out there. You’ll need to go easy on salts and sugars, but the replacements available make those possible to incorporate in small doses, and hardly missed from a satisfaction standpoint.
For Fish and Chips: Looking around the world, it was easy to see how the Mediterranean Diet began. Many countries eat rich, enjoyable foods, yet don’t suffer from the same ailments and obesity as many North American cultures. One such region is the area surrounding Italy and Greece, where foods like the Gyro and Pizza were devised, yet the people were, historically, exceptionally healthy. Looking at their diet it was miles of grains and nuts and olives with oil and potatoes, though very little in the way of meat, outside of seafood. Legumes and fish aplenty here, and lots for the carbohydrate junkie who needs their pasta, their cake, and their loaves.
Mayo Clinic Diet
For Overhauling Your Life: Mayo’s diet is a whole plan that is devised to help you gradually but permanently alter everything about your lifestyle habits to lose weight, live better, and survive longer. Developed by the famous clinic, it’s one of the few eating/living plans that is backed by a whole organization of doctors, all of whom have reputations on the line. Based on the new food pyramid and using a mixture of fruits and vegetables in conjunction with pasta, protein, and dairy, following this plan is simple, it’s easy, and it’s actually pleasurable since you’re cutting out bad habits and the resulting guilt, discomfort, self-loathing, and other negatives that go along with unhealthy choices.
For Enhancing Your Brainpower: MIND is a mishmash of Dash and the Mediterranean diet (MIND – Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) that snatches up the items contained in each that offer enhanced brain health. Here you have your dark berries, kale and superfoods, and fish along with carrots and anything that has been shown to help halt the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitive decline is the goal, with weight-loss and other health benefits taking a secondary role. Happily, you’ll almost surely see a trimmer figure and be able to think more effectively long into your golden years.
For Compulsive Chow-Hounds: Dr. Barbara Rolls wanted a diet that allowed people to fill up on food and still lose weight. She postulated that the caloric density of food was what caused weight gain, therefore, by eating foods that have low caloric density it would be possible to eat more while still losing weight. Naturally, this works out, because the foods that are low in calories – celery, lettuce, cucumber, and other cruciferous greens – are full of water and burn away quickly. Lean meats, whole grains, and beans are also included, with lots of snacking on greens between meals. It’s handy for health, delivers weight loss extremely well while allowing you to feel fed, and gives you a lot of control over how much or little you fluctuate in heft.
For Vegetarian Lite: Most of us love animals and don’t want to see them hurt or killed for grub, but we also don’t want to stop eating turkey or burgers. Flexitarians are “flexible vegetarians” who mostly avoid meats, but aren’t living by an exact code that prevents any flesh from passing their lips. Since people were biologically intended to be omnivorous in this way, Flexitarians are generally healthy, happy, and have lots of energy. Plus, less costly animal meat and you can fit this into most any other diet out there.
For Saving Your Life: Because the world was in need of yet another acronym, the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet was devised as a smart bomb for lowering bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the stuff that clogs up your arteries and will kill you long before your time if you let it. Though you’ll almost certainly lose weight on this diet, it also does its job and flushes your cardiovascular system to keep the pipes clean. Never a bad idea!
For Portion Control: Most dieticians will tell you that portion control is the key to eating healthy, and that’s the outlook that Weight Watchers takes. They’re a pay service that is far more limiting in what you can eat – and pushes their own profit – but their program will help you to lose weight, will help your blood pressure to sink, and is more healthy than most fad choices out there. They also do a good job of making their food tasty, balanced, and satisfying, which is helpful for days when you need to splurge.
For Looking Good: Jenny Craig has the same basic meal layout and efficacy as Weight Watchers, giving you a costly but useful meal planning device that will get you down a few sizes without feeling hungry. The only drawback is keeping the weight off of both Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers requires that you stay with them. It’s crack for those of us who like food.