Is there even such a thing as the best diet to lose weight?
This blog takes the bests bits out of a recent research study that investigated the different types of diet to lose weight.
In THIS STUDY, overweight men motivated to lose weight were counselled to adopt 1 of 4 different diets. Basically, the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat emphasized in each diet was different. In one diet for example, the dietitian emphasised a little more protein; in another diet a little less carbs and a little more fat was the focus; and in another a little more carbs and less fat was the message. You get the idea. The participants were then followed for a 2 year period, had regular counselling – in both group and individual sessions – and had measurements taken at various time points across the 2 years.
The results are just great, as they highlight common issues/obstacles for weight loss individuals, and highlight points that practitioners would do well to remember. In addition, the results highlight that what to eat to lose weight will differ from person to person, and provide guidelines on healthy weight loss goals.
Healthy weight loss
Most people lost weight in the first 3 – 6 months of the study; weight loss after 12 months on the diets, however, was minimal. Conversely, a large number of people actually regained weight between 12 and 24 months after the initiation of the diet. Some people actually began to gain weight after the first 6 months on the diet, some after 12 months on the diet as above. All diets led to weight loss, especially in the 3 – 6 month period, and the difference between the diets was not all that different.
What to remember: most weight loss trials focus on the short-term (3 – 6 months), and in doing so often show very positive results i.e. large weight loss per person. In actuality, medium to long-term diets show a much more moderate weight loss. Not perhaps headline grabbing, but nearer to reality – weight loss is hard, often not maintained, and if it is then it tends to be small. See article HERE & HERE about how to keep the weight off.
Best diet for weight loss
BE REASLISTIC, and in this case perhaps don’t “shoot for the stars”. Implement very small, but effective and SUSTAINABLE dietary changes. Do this consistently. And do this consistently for the long term i.e. make sustainable change that can last a lifetime. This will be the best diet to lose weight for you! Crash diets – that may look great in the short-term – are often hard to adhere too long-term, and likely lead to weight regain in future. The best diet for weight loss is the one you can stick too.
Another result: there were favourable changes in various markers of health across all diets. These included things like: cholesterol levels, blood glucose, insulin and blood pressure. Thus, weight loss has huge implications on health, such that very small reductions in weight can have large beneficial effects on health markers. The type of diet matters less than actual weight loss being achieved. Therefore, weight loss trumps the type of diet being followed in terms of health, if weight loss is achieved.
What to eat to lose weight
Low carbohydrate, high carbohydrate, low fat, high fat, low protein, high protein……where health is of primary concern, weight loss appears to be the route to better health, and will lead to positive changes in various blood markers that in reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disorder and other states of ill-health. Beyond that, and when weight loss is achieved, it may then be worth looking more specifically at macronutrient compositions i.e. actual amounts of protein, fats & carbohydrates. Based on the evidence, I would advise against going low protein, and going too high carbohydrate. As unsexy as it sounds, taking a balanced/moderate approach might just be more beneficial when selecting a diet to lose weight.
Various quotes form the authors that I thought were worth including. I’ll add my interpretation underneath.
“Overall, these findings with respect to adherence to macronutrient goals suggest that participants in weight-loss programs revert to their customary macronutrient intakes over time but may nonetheless be able to maintain weight loss”
The participants made small changes to their diet, and took on board ‘some’ of the suggestions provided by the dietitian. However, when participants had their diet tested at various stages over the study, the results showed that the participants hadn’t quite met their food targets quite as the dietitian demonstrated. That being said, they did show that they had made changes ‘in the direction’ of the type of diet they were on. Importantly, people tend to revert to what they know. Thus, when giving dietary advice, simplicity is key – make changes that will LAST.
“These findings together point to behavioral factors rather than macronutrient metabolism as the main influences on weight loss”
In weight loss attempts, the actual composition of the diet to lose weight matters far less. Being able to ‘actually DO the dietary changes’ matter most. So regular contact with an expert, group support, access to the right food stuff, access to enjoyable activity – these all make weight loss more likely (more likely than whether it’s high carbohydrate, high fat etc.)
“Conformity to cultural norms, scientific novelty, and media attention are non-biologic reasons for the success of specific diets”
‘Diets’ work not because of the actual diet, but the ‘belief’ in the diet, or the factors surrounding the diet. Simply, cutting calories will facilitate weight loss. How you cut those calories can be achieved a million and one different ways – find a method you can adhere too.
The best diet for weight loss is the one that you can adhere too or stick too. Being able to remain on your diet is probably the most important factor. In fact, the actual composition of your diet matters less than your ability to stick to it. Clearly, if your diet meant that you consumed more calories than you were expending, then you wouldn’t lose weight. However, assuming you’re in a calorie deficit, being able to actual stay on plan is what matters most.