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Healthy weight loss in the New Year

Heathy eating

The holiday season is behind us and New Year’s resolutions are underway. Many people are focused on healthy eating habits and weight loss. The top resolutions year after year often include eating healthier, losing weight and exercising more. With over 40% of Americans with obesity, weight loss diets can be helpful; however, it can be confusing to understand which diet is best for you! 

You may have seen someone on TikTok raving about how the keto diet has worked wonders for them, or that intermittent fasting is the way to go. What’s all the hype about the Mediterranean diet? Which diet is the “best” to follow for weight loss? 

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. We are unique and have different needs, preferences, lifestyles and medical histories. The bottom line: To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit or, put another way, eat less than what your body needs. Without a calorie deficit, weight loss will not happen, no matter what diet you follow! 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Ketogenic Diet 

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and extremely low-carbohydrate diet. It eliminates almost all sources of carbohydrates from the diet, except those found in non-starchy vegetables. With fewer carbohydrates going in, the body burns stored fat for fuel. 

The keto diet was traditionally used for seizure control in patients with epilepsy as it denies the brain of carbohydrates, the preferred fuel source. There is some research highlighting the benefits for individuals with diabetes; however, the research is not conclusive and more long-term studies are needed. 

Pros:

  • Followers typically see rapid weight loss. 
  • Some with diabetes may experience improved blood sugar management. 

Cons:

  • Followers experience rapid weight regain after the diet is discontinued. 
  • Diet is low in fiber and other nutrients. 
  • Diet is potentially high in saturated and trans fat, which can raise cholesterol and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. 
  • Diet is difficult to sustain long-term. 
Intermittent Fasting

Time-restricted feeding, or intermittent fasting, involves eating all meals and snacks within a specified “eating window.” Variations include: 

  • Alternate-day fasting - Eat normally one day and either completely fast or consume less than 500 calories the next day. 
  • 5:2 fasting - Eat normally for five days of the week and fast for the other two. 
  • Daily time-restricted fasting - Eat within a specified timeframe each day, between noon and 8 p.m., for example.

Pros:

  • Diet does not restrict the types of foods consumed.
  • It’s relatively easy to follow and doesn’t involve counting calories or tracking food.
  • Diet may improve heart, brain and overall health. 

Cons:

  • Diet may not be suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, those with certain medical conditions or having difficulty regulating blood sugar, elderly individuals, or anyone with a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating.
  • Followers have the potential for unpleasant side effects (hunger, nausea, fatigue, low blood sugar, headaches and increased cravings).
  • Some individuals may overeat (and gain weight!), viewing the eating window as a “free-for-all” to eat whatever they desire.
  • Opportunities to consume adequate vitamins and minerals are limited, especially if only eating one large meal daily.
Mediterranean Diet

Touted as one of the healthiest diets and ranked the No. 1 Best Diet Overall by U.S. News & World Report, the Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods and consists of high amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and heart-healthy olive oil. Fish and seafood are also consumed; however, lean red meat, chicken, dairy and eggs are limited. Red wine is consumed in moderation. The diet is low in sodium (salt), as foods are commonly seasoned with herbs and spices.

The regions around the Mediterranean Sea that follow this diet pattern typically have the lowest rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Research has shown benefits for blood pressure, glycemic control, weight management, heart health and mental health as well.

Pros:

  • Diet is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fats, antioxidants and fiber and low in inflammatory foods (processed foods, added sugars, saturated and trans fat).
  • The diet is associated with low rates of obesity and nutrition-related chronic diseases.
  • It is a high-quality diet that is sustainable long-term and not overly restrictive.
  • Research has shown benefits for heart, brain, mental and metabolic health.
  • A reasonable diet for weight loss provided a calorie deficit is maintained. 

Cons:

  • Diet may fall short on some nutrients (iron, calcium).
  • It is possibly cost-prohibitive for those on a strict budget. 
Message to take home

Ultimately, the best diet to follow for weight loss is one that:

  • You can stick to.
  • Is sustainable long-term.
  • Is not overly restrictive.
  • Does not eliminate major food groups.
  • Includes a calorie deficit.

With all of the various diets out there, it can be a challenge to choose the right diet to support your health and weight loss goals. Take the recommendations from well-meaning friends and family and social media “experts” with a grain of salt. Instead, seek guidance from a registered dietitian in choosing the best diet for you or your individual caloric needs.

Happy healthy eating in the New Year and beyond!

Resources:

  1. "19 Surprising New Year’s Resolution Statistics (2024 Updated)," Insideout Mastery, accessed January 10, 2024, https://insideoutmastery.com/new-years-resolution-statistics.
  2. "Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss," Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, accessed January 10, 2024, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/.
  3. "Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?," Johns Hopkins Medicine, accessed January 10, 2024, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work.
  4. "Mediterranean Diet," Cleveland Clinic, accessed January 10, 2024, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16037-mediterranean-diet.
  5. Tahreem, A., Rakha, A., Rabail, R., Nazir, A., Socol, C. T., Maerescu, C. M., & Aadil, R. M. "Fad Diets: Facts and Fiction." Frontiers in Nutrition 9 (2022): 960922. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.960922. PMCID: PMC9294402.
  6. Freire, R. "Scientific evidence of diets for weight loss: Different macronutrient composition, intermittent fasting, and popular diets." Nutrition 69 (2020): 110549. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2019.07.001. Epub 2019 Jul 4. PMID: 31525701.

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Featured Provider

Dashia Antunes, MS, RD, LD  picture

Dashia Antunes, MS, RD, LD

Specialties: Nutrition

Dashia Antunes is a clinical registered dietitian with Northside Hospital.

In her role with Northside's outpatient nutrition services, Mrs. Antunes fulfills her passion of helping patients reach their health and wellness goals, prevent and manage nutrition-related chronic diseases, and improve their quality of life.

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