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Choosing the Right Diet for You

Updated on May 29, 2012

Among the biggest health problems we face today in North America are obesity and inactivity, particularly in our children. Overweight is the newest pandemic. There are so many choices available to us - calorie counting plans, meal replacement plans, low carbohydrate eating plans, low fat eating plans - each one with its adherents and detractors, each one guaranteeing we will lose weight. How we know which one is right for us?

Strangely, and confusingly enough, all these plans can and will work. They do not work equally well for every person who tries them, though. A person's metabolism has something to do with that, as does their medical history and life-style. A person with a sedentary life-style can lose weight by restricting their calories, and controlling portion size, but they will not lose the same amount of weight as a more active person on the same regimen. What is the golden key that will unlock the mystery for us?

photo credit:
photo credit:
Fab fresh veggies - photo credit:
Fab fresh veggies - photo credit:

Counting Calories

The great-granddaddy of all weight loss plans, counting calories requires the most devotion and care. It requires the greatest investment of time, thought, effort, and the desire to succeed. It also requires a great deal more strength than most of us would care to put into effect in sticking to the plan for the long-haul.

Counting calories encourages restricting the intake of certain food groups, such as fats and oils, and increasing the intake of other food groups, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. It does this by requiring that you "do the math", clearly demonstrating how a small quantity of high calorie foods can be replaced by a much larger quantity of low calorie foods.

Let's see - you can have a very small quantity of potato chips (about 10 or 12), or you can have a very large plate full of fresh, deliciously seasoned steamed vegetables, with a pat of butter melting over the top.

You could have a delectable filet of red snapper, lightly sauteed in garlic, with a a generous side of wild-mushroom laden rice, and as much fresh tossed green salad as you can stuff down, or you could have half a Big Mac. Now, I ask you, whoever eats half a Big Mac.

That's a much tougher sell than you might think, though, because those high calorie foods taste so good. Adding modest amounts of good fats, such as certain nuts, extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, all high in omega threes, will increases feelings of satiety while adding essential nutrients to the calorie restricted diet.

One of the draw-backs of restricting calories to lose weight is that it can seem quite punitive, as so many treats must be carefully controlled, and some, avoided altogether for at least a time. Restricting calories requires a shift in thinking to be truly successful, and a strong commitment to a major change in lifestyle.

As calorie restriction tends to works best with an increase in exercise levels, this also necessitate a change in lifestyle, and for some, the habitually sedentary, a serious commitment to that make change, and to stick with it.

Luscious fresh fruit - photo credit:
Luscious fresh fruit - photo credit:

Meal Replacement Plans

There are more famous people promoting this type of diet plan than any other right now. These plans really are a great example of "Diets For Dummies".

No weighing or measuring is required. The meals are delivered straight to your door, and all you have to do is unwrap them, pop them in the microwave oven, and serve your carefully proportioned meal.

The advantages to such a system are clear. No mess, no fuss, no bother. You don't have to understand anything about nutrition or healthy food choices.Your meal sizes are carefully controlled with no effort on your part.

The time savings offered by such a plan make it most attractive to busy folk. After a long, hard, busy, or worse, boring day at work, most of us are at our most vulnerable just before eating. The temptation to just "grab something quick" can be almost overwhelming.

This is one of the quickest ways to derail healthy eating nd weight loss, as so few of us have the consistency and will-power (or "won't" power) to choose a piece of fruit or some veggies ot munch on while we prepare dinner..

Many meal replacement plans even provide counsellors to help you stay on track, stay motivated, and overcome any cravings that might get in the way of your weight loss.

These plans are generally quite expensive, though, and well out of the range of more modest budgets. Most require a subscription and have a not inconsiderable cost-per-meal price depending on the menu plans you choose. As well, you must still provide your own fresh salad ingredients and beverages, for an added cost.

Consider your options carefully. These plans work well, but require a hefty monetary commitment. If you stick with the plan, you will eventually learn with the correct portion sizes to maintain a healthy weight, If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out the information in the links capsule on the right.

Low-Carbohydrate Diets vs Low-Fat Diets

Low carbohydrate diets are another popular way to lose weight. The great draw of these programs is the fast weight loss promised, and indeed, delivered by low-carb eating.

One of the best known of these is the Atkins Diet Plan. Introduced in the late 1970s, the plan swept the country, and Dr. Atkins and his proponents became the darlings of the talk-show circuit, promoting his new way of eating.

To be fair, the Atkins Diet Plan does work, as will any low-carb diet plan. The initial weight loss can be quite dramatic, a major factor in this high interest in this type of plan.

One of the problems with the original plan was the over-use of fats to provide satiety and keep the dieters "on plan". Eventually, this will slow down the weight loss, though, and can lead to other health complications.

Losing weight can be fast and pleasurable on a low-carb plan, at least the first time around, but keeping the weight off can be much more problematic for long-term dieters, as going off a low-carb plan will lead to rebound weight gain. Often, the gain will exceed the original loss, and, with each return to the low-carb plan the weight loss is slower and more difficult to achieve.

The revised low-carb plan that the Atkins Group introduced some twenty years later relied more heavily on fruits (almost outlawed in the original) and wider use of whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Low-fat diet plans can be almost as restrictive as their low-carb brethren. One famous version, the Scarsdale Diet was revolutionary for its time. As long as you didn't mind eating fruit salad for lunch for weeks on end, you could and did lose weight fairly quickly.

One of the biggest draw-backs of this program was the almost total lack of fats. Far healthier in the long run than te original low-carb program, it was also much harder to stick to because of the radical shift in eating habits required to lose the weight and keep it off.

Plans that have come along in recent years have attempted to combine the best elements of both these plans. They include the South Beach Diet, and a wide variety of plans that rely on the glycemic index of foods around which to build menus.

Some Helpful Tips

1. Diet, whatever diet plan works best for you, combined with exercise is the best way to achieve permanent results. Exercise - even a modest amount will help raise your metabolic rate, increasing your body's ability to shed unwanted pounds.

2.  Add more fresh fruits and vegetable to our diet. Eating fresh foods rather than pre-packaged, processed foods is better for your health. Our bodies were not meant to be fueled by chemicals and food additives. We need the nutrients provided by real, fresh foods to maintain our vital systems in proper working order.

3. Choose water before fruit juices or soda. Milk and milk products are sources of calcium, but other good sources are available - yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese. Limit caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea - they can slow weight loss and some argue they can be hard on your heart.

4. Looking for fast results will lead to disappointment. Seeking a slower, steadier loss will allow your body to adjust to the loss, and help avoid potential plateaus which can be frustrating, and may damage your resolve to stick with your diet plan.

5. Be prepared to change what and how you eat in the long-term. If you have had a weight problem for some time, be resigned that it will take some time to correct this state. You didn't become overweight overnight, and you won't lose the excess weight overnight either.

A fun poll...

What kind of diet have you tried?

See results

© 2010, Text by Imelleda


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    • Imelleda profile image

      Imelleda 7 years ago from East of the Sun, West of the Moon

      Glemoh101 40 hours ago

      The best diet is fat burning foods

      Thanks for commenting, glemoh101 - I have included them above without your link ;)

    • Imelleda profile image

      Imelleda 7 years ago from East of the Sun, West of the Moon

      Thanks, elayne, it was great fun doing all the research.

      Hey, Sage. Isn't it the way of things. They've been telling us for years that's the way to go.

      Money Glitch - thank you very much. I am very pleased to have been selected.

      Thanks so much, sandyspider. Glad you liked it.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Congratulations on your nomination. Great hub.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for sharing and congrats on being selected as a contender in the 2nd week's best hub contest with two hubs, Wow! :)

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 7 years ago

      The good old calorie counting. After all the new fad diets sometimes it just best to get back to the good ole calorie counting. That's exactly where I am at right now and it's working.

      Very well written an very informative. Rated up! Good Luck!


    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Very informative and interesting hub on weight loss. Thanks for all your thoughts and effort.