Losing weight is always a struggle. Realising you need to slim down, making a plan to lose weight and sticking to it are all challenging but rewarding choices. However, it can be particularly difficult for women to lose weight given societal pressures and expectations of how women should look and behave. The marketing of “health foods” targeted particularly at women is usually both effective and misleading. “Low fat” or “diet” products are normally highly processed and lack the essential nutrients needed for a sustainable healthy diet.
Moreover, media coverage of the latest celebrity health crazes can obscure the most effective weight loss methods. If everything you hear about people losing weight and looking great involves something exotic, expensive or ridiculous you might not believe that the most mundane solutions are the best. And believe me, they are! Sure, it’s interesting or entertaining that some starlet has consumed nothing but cabbage soup and green tea for two months, but it doesn’t mean you should too!
At the end of the day, the diet that can help you lose the most weight is the one you can stick to for the longest period of time. Keeping this in mind, a diet should be nutritionally balanced, varied and enjoyable in order for your weight loss to be sustainable in the long term. In this article I’m going to describe four different diets that are well researched and have been shown to be effective for people who want to lose weight and stay slim. The Mediterranean, Paleo, Gluten-free and Low Carb diets can all help you lose weight in the short term and sustain health in the long term.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is the name given to the collection of foods that are traditionally eaten by people living around the Mediterranean Sea in countries like Greece, Italy, France and Spain. Although there is a significant variation between the various countries around the sea, most local diets involve some of the same factors. In the 60s it was observed that people living in these areas were remarkably healthy compared to Americans. There has also been some good research concluding that a Mediterranean diet is effective for weight loss.
The major components of a Mediterranean diet are large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, legumes, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. The diet also involves moderate consumption of poultry, eggs and dairy, as well as occasional consumption of red meat and sweet treats. You can read more about the Mediterranean Diet and see a sample Mediterranean meal plan here.
Mediterranean lifestyle is a crucial component in the health of the people of Southern Europe. The long term health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet cannot be separated from the physical activity and social engagement that are integral to the Mediterranean lifestyle (not to mention regular but low alcohol consumption). Walking, cycling or dancing every day, as well as placing a high value on friendships and living in a supportive community can all bolster the weight loss effects of the Mediterranean Diet. You can take full advantage of what this diet has to offer by engaging in moderate daily exercise and making your friends and family part of your weight loss plan.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is incredibly popular as well as being very effective for weight loss. The diet is based on the idea that humans evolved before agriculture was common and so are better adapted to eating foods nutritionally similar to the wild foods eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The concept of the diet is that products of modern agriculture like grains, dairy, legumes and processed foods are convenient, but not the best choices for human health.
There has been plenty of interest in the effectiveness of the Paleo Diet for weight loss and general health. Most of the best quality research in the area shows that the Paleo Diet is very effective for weight loss over the short term, as well as significantly improving markers of general health. Even more interesting is that, even when calories are not restricted, people on a Paleo Diet term to consume fewer calories. The Paleo Diet can help you eat less without noticing! This is probably because of the nutrient density of the typical Paleo foods. Subjectively, 200 calories of steak is vastly more satisfying than the same amount of most other foods.
Practically speaking, the Paleo Diet consists predominantly of meat, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruit. Sources of protein should form the backbone of most meals accompanied by large amounts of a wide variety of vegetables. Fruit can be eaten in moderation, with preference given to berries because of their high antioxidant content. In reality, the Paleo Diet is more of a template on how to base your diet and there are many different approaches that can be effective for weight loss. There is plenty of information on Paleo meal plans online, here’s one good example.
The Gluten Free Diet
I’ve written about the benefits of avoiding gluten before, but it’s such an important and beneficial point that it bears repeating. As well as improving how you feel day to day, following a gluten free diet is a great way to lose weight. Wheat, and other cereals that contain gluten, are very common in unhealthy processed foods. Because of that, restricting your consumption of gluten alone has a seriously beneficial effect on all aspects of your diet. Besides, eating gluten when you’re trying to lose weight might be sabotaging your efforts if you have undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. And even if you’re not particularly sensitive, removing gluten can clear up some things you might not even have associated with diet. Gluten free diets have been shown to help mental health and neurological disorders like schizophrenia and autism.
Obviously, the defining feature of a Gluten Free Diet is the exclusion of everything that contains gluten from wheat or other cereals. Bread, crackers, biscuits, cakes, pasta, breakfast cereals, dumplings and plenty of processed foods should all be avoided. However, in other respects a Gluten Free Diet is pretty similar to the other diets mentioned here. It is predominantly comprised of good quality whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes. There is a decent example of how to plan out a week’s Gluten Free Diet here.
Another good point to remember is that just because something is labelled as “gluten free” doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy or suitable for a weight loss diet. Refined sugar, honey, butter and white rice are all gluten free but could sabotage weight loss if consumed to excess. Portion size and energy content are all as important as food choices when eating for weight loss.
Low Carb, Whole Food Based Diet
As the name suggests, a Low Carb, Whole Food Based Diet is an eating regime that minimises the amount of carbohydrates consumed and is comprised of good quality foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed. The focus of the diet is on avoiding refined sugar, grains containing gluten, industrial vegetable or seed oils and processed foods in general. If was made in a factory and not a kitchen, don’t eat it.
This diet has produced dramatic weight loss results. It is recognised as being a great way of efficiently losing weight without experiencing unpleasant feelings of hunger. The proteins and fats that form the majority of the diet are so nutritious and satisfying, that even small portions are enough to satisfy. See a weekly menu for the Low Carb, Whole Food Based Diet here
This diet has the most impressive weight loss results when all carb sources are cut back. So even though I would normally say potatoes are a perfectly healthy food it might be better to exclude all tubers, legumes and gluten free grains while you are trying to lose weight. However, once you reach your desired weight you can start gradually reintroducing tubers, legumes, like lentils, peas and beans, and gluten free grains (in that order).
At the end of the day, the best diet to help you lose weight is the one you can sustain for the longest period. With this in mind, if you’re thinking about trying to lose weight you should pick a diet that will give you all the nutrition you need to be healthy in the long run. It’s also really important that you enjoy your food, both for your adherence to any weight loss diet and for your enjoyment of life and mental health. Dark chocolate is a great way to bring a healthy treat into any diet. Plus, it’s so packed with antioxidants that it can definitely be considered a superfood. Just don’t eat the whole bar like I used to do!
There are four good approaches to healthy and sustainable weight loss here. Any one of the four could form the blueprint of your transformation.
If you’ve been successful with any of these approaches in the past please share your experience in the comments. Feel free to share this article with anyone you know who’s looking for a way to lose weight in the long run.