Getting healthy isn’t exactly an easy journey, and yes, even though the benefits are worth the work, we don’t have to lie about the fact that it can be complicated and frustrating sometimes.
For me, this is especially true when it comes to diets. Any internet search about some of the more popular diets will likely give you results like this:
“Eat carbs! Wait, don’t eat carbs! Well, some carbs are okay but not too many!”
“Gluten is bad! Gluten is fine! Gluten is only bad if you’re allergic!”
“Eat more protein! But also eat more veggies! And don’t forget to eat more healthy fats!”
Seriously, it’s enough to make me rage-eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s out of spite and irritation.
An internet search of popular diets will likely give you such mixed results, it’s enough to make me rage-eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s out of spite and irritation.
Today, I’m going to try to make navigating the land of popular diets a little easier. Which one you choose will depend on your goals and needs, and I’m always an advocate for talking to your doctor or an expert before you make any huge changes!
Also, before we start, I’m going to mention that it’s helpful to download a food logging app like MyFitnessPal to help you track your eating patterns and see macronutrient breakdowns for any diet you’re trying.
Keto is having a serious moment right now. You can find tons of prepackaged, “keto-friendly” options at the store, and we all have at least three social media friends who are constantly posting about their #lowcarblife.
“Keto” is short for “ketosis,” which is a specific state that can be triggered in our bodies.
So, our bodies are lazy. They prefer to use carbs for energy because they’re a quick and easy fuel source. This is why you often crave sugar and carbs when you’re tired. However, when the body doesn’t have access to enough carbs, it turns to fat stores and burns those for fuel instead. This is the basic concept of ketosis.
Keto focuses on minimizing carb intake, maximizing intake of healthy fats, and consuming a moderate amount of protein to force a constant state of ketosis.
For most people, the nutrient breakdown would be something like:
– 5-10 percent carbs (this is usually 10-50 grams)
– 15-20 percent protein
– 75 percent fats
This is similar to the Atkins diet, with the only real difference being how carb intake is handled. It can be hard to maintain a keto lifestyle though, so it’s important to be honest with yourself about whether or not you can give up most carbs.
Keto is great for people who can commit to it. It definitely delivers weight loss and supports muscle development.
Keto is great for people who can commit to it though! It definitely delivers weight loss and supports muscle development, and it’s helpful for people who need to manage their blood sugar.
Low-carb is a little more relaxed than keto, but the concept of trying to get your body to use up fat stores for energy is the same. The idea here is to still restrict the amount of carbs you eat, but rather than a strict “less than 10% carbs” rule, you try to keep your carbs under 50-150 grams, which is about 10-30 percent of your calories.
The main difference here is that it’s important to supplement your diet with more veggies and lean protein (like nuts, jerky, chicken, or fish) and not as much fat because your body will have more carbs to burn!
I have done low-carb before, and it is so much less stressful than keto. I like that low-carb is flexible enough that I don’t feel overly restricted, but it also gives me enough structure that I stay mindful of what I’m eating.
I don’t personally care for paleo eating, but some people love it! The basic idea is to only eat the foods that our ancestors would have eaten pre-agriculture. This essentially means no grains, no dairy, no “crop” foods like corn, beans, or potatoes, and nothing processed.
There’s a big emphasis on “whole foods,” and the majority of the diet consists of fruits, veggies, nuts, and lean meats.
With paleo, weight loss is common because you cut out most of the sugar, carbs, and processed foods from your diet. It can also help to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but make sure that you talk to your doctor before you make such a big diet change! Because paleo doesn’t allow for consumption of foods like dairy, legumes, whole grains, and starches, you could unknowingly become deficient in certain nutrients, and that could hinder your healthy eating efforts.
4. Intermittent Fasting
This is another crazy popular diet that you’ve probably seen friends on social media talk about.
Instead of restricting what you eat, intermittent fasting restricts when you eat. The idea is to cycle through phases of fasting and eating in order to keep your metabolism working more efficiently. It also helps with calorie restriction because you have a short, specific window in which you eat your meals.
There are lots of ways to do this, but here are the most common ones:
– The 5/2 Method: For this, you only eat 500 calories 2 days a week, and then you eat normally for the remaining five days. The intent is to “shock” your system and keep your metabolism from plateauing.
– The 16/8 Method: Here, you choose an 8-hour window every day in which to eat, and then you fast for the remaining 16 hours. So, for example, your 8-hour window could be from 12pm-8pm, and then you don’t consume any more calories until noon the next day.
– Total Fasting: Once or twice per week, you completely fast for 24 hours, and then you eat normally for the remaining days.
This style of eating is something that you can combine with other diets if you wish, and it’s also something that you’ll have to track pretty meticulously for several weeks to know if it’s going to work for you or not.
Instead of restricting what you eat, you restrict when you eat. The idea is to cycle through phases of fasting and eating to keep your metabolism working more efficiently.
If you have any kind of health problems, are pregnant, or struggle with nutrient deficiencies, this is not the diet for you. It’s important to only start this diet if you’re a generally healthy person!
Do What Works For You
There are tons of other diets and eating styles that I haven’t covered here, so don’t hesitate to ask in the comments if you have questions about something I didn’t mention!
To me, when it comes to dieting, the most important factor is finding something that you can consistently stick to and that doesn’t cause you anxiety or stress. Remember that having a healthy relationship with food is more important than following a popular trendy diet!