Here are the facts about several options
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Losing weight represents a top New Year’s resolution. Considering the obesity epidemic, it is a good idea. Many people turn to a popular eating plan or “diet” to shed pounds.
The following are some of the plans popular in 2022:
1. 5:2 Diet / Intermittent Fasting
• How it works: With 5:2, you eat as normal five days a week and restrict yourself to 500-600 calories on the two other days. With standard intermittent fasting, you eat only during an eight-hour window every day.
• Why it works: You are not restricted on what you eat, which helps you feel satisfied and not deprived. The calorie depravation days will result in overall calorie reduction. Most people think this is easier to stick with long-term.
• Caveats: You are not restricted on what you eat, which means you can eat a lot of unhealthful foods. You may also really overdo it when you do eat.
2. Sirtfood Diet
• How it works: Initially, you drink a lot of green juice smoothies. Then, you eat primarily foods that contain sirtuin proteins, such as kale, parsley, red wine, onions, strawberries, soy, matcha tea, salmon and mackerel.
• Why it works: The initial phase restricts calories, and the second phase includes foods many people enjoy.
• Caveats: It can be hard to stick with the smoothie phase and with the second phase, it can be challenging to eliminate many favorite foods. You also need nutrients from foods not on the list.
3. The Mayr Diet
• How it works: You reduce high acidity foods and mindfully consume high-alkaline foods like vegetables and fish.
• Why it works: You are not eating as many calories by boosting the intake of low-calorie foods.
• Caveats: It is difficult to sustain longterm as it eliminates entire food groups. You can also miss nutrients found in certain foods.
4. The New Keto
• How it works: You eat as minimal sugar and carbohydrates as possible and eat moderate amounts of healthful fat and high levels of protein. (The standard keto diet limited protein to 20%).
• Why it works: Minimizing consumption of sugar and carbohydrates will reduce caloric intake and force the body to burn stored calories (fat).
• Caveats: It demonizes good sources of nutrients and can be hard to commit to long term.
5. Meal Kits/Ready-to-Eat Meals
• How it works: A company ships you packages of ingredients to prepare as your meals or completely prepared meals.
• Why it works: You have the convenience of home-cooked meals without the time commitment. Restaurant food can be high in fat and calories. If you fix it yourself, you may save calories. The portions of meal kits or ready-to-eat meals may be lower than at restaurants as well.
• Caveats: Unless you select a company with dietary considerations built in, you may not save as many calories as you think. This is also expensive and could be repetitive (most companies have a limited number of entrees and may not vary them often), which can make it hard to stick with.
• How it works: The app tracks your calories and helps you learn whether they are helping you lose weight or not.
• Why it works: It also offers the support of coaches for accountability, along with facing the cold, hard nutrition facts. People who like technology can find this very convenient. Noom can help you learn about food, which can result in lasting changes.
• Caveats: You can fudge about your consumption of fudge and other foods. No one will ever know. Also, it can seem a hassle for people who do not like using technology.
7. Pescatarian Diet
• How it works: You eat mostly produce, along with seafood. Its focus is on whole, natural foods, eschewing processed foods. Grilling is an important part of food preparation.
• Why it works: By reducing calories, you will lose weight. Whole foods are also healthful source of nutrients.
• Caveats: Cooking with so few ingredients and methods of preparation is tough. It can take considerable time ensuring you are obtaining all the nutrients you need from such a limited number of foods.
8. Mediterranean Diet
• How it works: You eat healthful fats and, about twice a week, fish, along with beans, produce, whole grains and, in moderation, cheese and red meat.
• Why it works: Reducing your caloric intake will result in weight loss. It also offers some benefits by nixing simple carbohydrates. The food is delicious and easy to stick with for weight loss.
• Caveats: Eliminating food groups is tough. This can make it hard to stick with for life.
9. Paleo Diet
• How it works: You eat only food that would have been available in the wild to people: nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat.
• Why it works: By cutting out processed foods, you cut lots of calories. Many of the foods are tasty and appealing.
• Caveats: Entire food groups like dairy, grains, beans and legumes are eliminated, making it hard to stick with long-term. These food groups offer nutrients you miss.
10. DASH Diet
• How it works: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet was meant to help people reduce their blood pressure by reducing sodium intake. You eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, while limiting saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.
• Why it works: Eliminating processed and fatty foods helps reduce calorie intake. You would also feel better by lowering the body’s inflammatory response. This can make it easier to stick with.
• Caveats: You should still be mindful of calories even while eating very healthful foods. Some people may feel deprived not eating treats occasionally.
11. Volumetrics Diet
• How it works: You focus on foods that offer the most nutrition for the least among of calories by dividing foods into four categories, from least to most energy dense and then eat more of the lower-density foods as you can.
• Why it works: Filling up on low-calorie foods will reduce overall caloric intake. The plan will also help you stay satisfied as you eat the most nutritious foods most of the time, yet occasionally can have treats.
• Caveats: It can be difficult to determine what is low-calorie and higher calorie for some people, so Volumetrics does present a learning curve. It also requires constant scrutiny to stick with it.
12. W.W. (formerly Weight Watchers)
• How it works: With this still-popular classic, you follow a program that assigns points based upon calories and nutrition.
• Why it works: By keeping the calorie count low, you lose weight. It can be easy to stick with as you can eat as much as you like of zero-point foods. You can sign up for a point tracking app and get access to meetings. The accountability makes a big difference.
• Caveats: WW can be tricky to learn. Members with budgetary constraints may find it expensive to maintain at more than $500 per year to join (although WW offers some free information online). Plus, to keep weight off, they will have to learn how assess foods.
So, What Do Local Experts Say About Popular Dieting?
Alicia Caiola-Hicks, a licensed practical nurse and practice manager at Vitalize Medical Center in Rochester, knows from personal experience that weight loss is not easy. At her heaviest, she weighed 354 pounds at 5 feet, six inches tall. For her, bariatric surgery in 2013 began her journey from morbid obesity.
“Anyone can go through the motions of getting the gastric bypass,” she said. “You can tell them you’ll change your ways, but what I did was lie to myself. I was not truly ready to end that addiction.”
However, her stomach eventually stretched back out. This enabled her to overeat and gain weight again. She had to be willing to change her outlook on food and learn how to eat right and stay active to lose 207 pounds total.
“What I try to tell my patients is it comes down to your mental state,” Caiola-Hicks said. “You have to change the mental component that drives you to eat. Those who are morbidly obese have an undiagnosed eating disorder, which is a food addiction. What stressors make you compensate with food?”
Managing the stress that causes “comfort eating” was key for Caiola-Hicks, rather than finding a perfect diet.
“Once you can say, ‘This is my problem’ and work on establishing healthy ways to overcome these issues instead of self-sabotage, you will lose weight,” Caiola-Hicks said.
She allows her patients 24/7 access to her support via email or cell phone to offer moral support and mentoring.
After breaking her hip just before the pandemic began, she has put on some weight. Now that she has recovered from the injury, practicing yoga and getting back to eating healthful meals is helping her back towards her target weight.
She believes that beyond being mentally prepared for weight loss, people who want to lose weight need to adopt a healthful, lifelong eating plan: not a temporary diet.
She also finds fault with eating plans that lead to unhealthful outcomes, such as the keto diet.
“I’ve checked lab work on people who do high fat diets and their cholesterol levels are dangerously high,” Caiola-Hicks said.
Highly limiting diets can be difficult to maintain.
“If you restrict yourself from eating what you want, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” she said.
As for the pre-packaged meals, she advises people learn how to cook for themselves and select food while eating out or else they will regain weight once they stop buying the meals.
Paige Smith, training director at Gold’s Gym in Webster is also a black belt in tae kwon do and precision nutrition-certified. In her 24 years in the fitness industry, she has learned that focusing on nutrition first means eventual—and lasting—weight loss.
It is also important to occasionally indulge.
“Life is precious and we should take advantage of an opportunity to go to the birthday and have the cake, have a drink,” Smith said. “It’s so important to have that balance.”
With that in mind, she advises clients to avoid highly restrictive eating plans. She encourages meal planning to stay on track with healthful food and decrease “falling off the wagon” of nutrition.
“It takes out the excuse of ‘I was hungry and had to go through the drive-thru,’” she said. “There are a million things out there that are portable that if you plan ahead, you’re never going to get stuck where your only option is the quick, unhealthy option.”