Each year a new diet makes headlines for its purported ability to help you drop 20+ pounds in a very-short time-frame with virtually no effort. And as marketers have become savvier, and company’s smarter, wordy claims and sciency sentences have made these fad diets more believable.
Unfortunately, too many people fall victim to buying a combination of meal replacement shakes, supplements, books, videos, and fancy kitchen equipment to help them follow this new obesity-be-gone quick-fix diet.
A few months later, however, most people are left out a few hundred dollars and up a few pounds…
…from their pre-diet weight.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with a thorough overview as well as a list of pros and cons about four popular diets you’ll probably begin hearing more about as the new year approaches. I’ll discuss the following diets to provide you with the education and research necessary to help you make the best decision for your short- and long-term health, physique, and performance goals:
- The Whole30 Diet
- The Ketogenic Diet
- The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- The Blood Type Diet
Before you plan your 2018 New Year’s resolution, make sure you give this article a read and share it with those you know who are also contemplating a weight-loss resolution this upcoming year.
1. The Whole30 Diet
Whole30 is a 30-day clean-eating plan based on eating whole foods. The purported benefits of the Whole30 approach include improving skin conditions, allergies, gut disturbances, and whole-body inflammation that are thought to be related to eating processed foods and those marked as “off-limits” outlined below.
While following the Whole30 program, the following foods are “off-limits:”
- Any “fake” treats recreated from approved ingredients.1
The focus during this 30-day span is on eating meat, seafood, eggs, lots of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts, and seeds. There’s also an emphasis on foods with very few ingredients – each of which is pronounceable – and on foods without an ingredient list because they’re wholesome and unprocessed.
Pros: The focus on healthful, nutrient-dense foods is a clear standout to this approach. A unique advantage to this approach, however, is that it discourages stepping on the scale and measuring portions.
The former is a major pain point and emotional trigger for many, whereas the latter is part of many popular diets that are unsustainable. By eliminating both behaviors, it’s likely that a participant’s stress levels will be reduced, which may further enhance the way they feel as they continue to nourish their bodies with the appropriate foods.
Cons: The obvious downfall of this approach is that it doesn’t necessarily set you up for long-term success.
What do you do on day 31?
The creators of Whole30 suggest that you eat a “Whole30-ish” diet after completing your first 30 days and tell you to expect sugars, grains, dairy, and more to creep back into your diet. They state, “it’s okay that they do.”
Without proper education about how to develop sustainable eating habits, this approach doesn’t separate itself from any other 30-day challenges, despite its good intentions and popularity. Over 80 percent of people who lose weight regain it within 12 months – this approach is fueling this trend.
Psst…if you want to learn how to maintain your weight once and for all, join our uber supportive weight maintenance mastermind community!
2. The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a very high-fat, moderate-protein, very low-carbohydrate diet. A standard calorie distribution looks like this:
- 70 – 75 percent of calories from fat
- 15 – 20 percent of calories from protein
- 5 – 10 percent of calories from carbohydrates
The result of eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is a shift in your body’s primary fuel source from glucose to fatty acids and ketone bodies – this state is defined as ketosis and it’s determined by the concentration of ketone bodies in your blood.
Your body has a nearly limitless supply of stored fat in which fatty acids and ketone bodies can be created from; thus, you can tap into a virtually limitless fuel supply (which helps to shed the body fat covering your hard-earned muscles).
Pros: Ketosis (the result of successfully following a ketogenic diet) has been shown to elicit outstanding weight loss when followed appropriately and to have a positive effect on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.3
Cons: The most noteworthy downside to this approach is its sustainability.
Even eating a small portion of carbohydrates can knock you out of ketosis and put a giant “pause” on the weight loss, health, and cognitive benefits described above. Plus, if you do knock yourself out, it may take you 3 – 5 days to return to ketosis.
Furthermore, if you regularly engage in anaerobic exercises, such as resistance training or sprint training, you may lack sufficient fuel to perform at your best. Research examining the impact of a ketogenic diet on anaerobic exercise performance hasn’t been consistent; some studies have shown no improvement in performance while others have demonstrated impaired performance.2, 3 If your goal is improving rep PRs, 1RMs, or sprint times, this diet may not be for you.
Lastly, it may take 3 – 6 weeks (everyone is different) to get your body into ketosis. This means 3 – 6 weeks of feeling like absolute crap until your body finally makes the switch to running on fat as fuel.
Coming from personal experience, this transition period can be absolutely miserable…
3. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s a dietary approach that looks very similar to the Mediterranean diet, except for “a few extras, such as dark chocolate and green tea,” says Weil.4
The basis of Weil’s dietary approach can be traced to the fact that inflammation is the root cause of many serious diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s Disease. His dietary approach stresses consumption of phytochemicals, which have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties, antioxidants, and minimizing the consumption of toxins to optimize and maintain health.4
The best food sources of phytochemicals? Fruits and vegetables. These are the focal point of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
Weil’s approach allocates 2,000 – 3,000 calories per day – depending on age, gender, size, and activity level – and focuses on a macronutrient ratio that looks like this:
- 40 – 50 percent of calories carbohydrates
- 30 percent of calories from fat
- 20 – 30 percent of calories from protein
Note: He also recommends eating some of each macronutrient at each meal, which is slightly different than some formal bodybuilding and other dietary approaches.
Beyond this macronutrient ratio, Weil stresses:
- Consumption of fresh, wholesome foods (to reap the benefits of natural phytochemicals and their anti-inflammatory properties)
- A focus on high-fiber, satiating carbohydrates, such as oats, beans, fruits, and vegetables
- Cutting down on saturated fat and prioritizing unsaturated fats
- Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
- Omitting fast food and heavily processed foods altogether
Weil also makes it a point to prioritize consumption of antioxidants and to minimize the ingestion of toxins by:
- Drinking only purified water to avoid toxins such as chlorine and chloramine
- Choosing tea over coffee (particularly the white, green and oolong varieties)
- Consuming dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa content or more)
Pros: It’s hard to argue with any aspect of Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet foundation. The benefits of eating ample fruits and vegetables, focusing on high-fiber carbohydrates and unsaturated fats are well known.
Cons: There’s nothing inherently wrong with Weil’s recommendations. It’s a balanced dietary approach that includes recommendations supported by research. The only point of contention may be the fact that he has devoted significant time devising a proper way to eat wholesome foods and put a label on it as a unique dietary approach and then made it more complicated than it needs to be.
Now that you’ve read this article, you can likely follow his advice on your own without spending hundreds on his products.
4. Blood Type Diet
The Blood-Type Diet was popularized in 1996 when Dr. Peter D’Adamo published his book, “Eat Right For Your Type.” The blood type diet purports that your blood type – which may be as unique as your fingerprint – has a strong influence on your health, weight, and well-being.5,6
The four different blood types, A, B, AB, and O are so named for your body’s ability to control a specific set of antibodies, which work to identify foreign bacteria and viruses (antigens) within the body.5,6 Someone who is born with blood type A is able to recognize that specific protein A is not a foreign invader, but that protein B is an invader; thus, the body views B as a threat and mounts an attack against it.
What does this have to do with the foods you eat?
Dr. D’Adamo and his team discovered a sugar-binding protein molecule known as lectin that has a similar structure to antibodies found in various plants, grains, and animals. Rather than being viewed as a foreigner, their antibody-like structure allows them to enter the body relatively unscathed where they exert a sort of “stickiness” about them, which causes vast disruption, red blood cell clumping, and damage to your intestinal wall and cell lining.5-7 This disruption has been thought to increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and other disease states.
Conversely, eating foods that do agree with your blood type may unlock unknown energy, focus, and promote a healthy body and mind.
Pros: Each blood-type dietary approach is centered around eating wholesome, nutrient-dense foods in place of junk foods. It’s hard to argue against that and it’s no wonder many people report feeling better when eating this way.
Cons: Research into the efficacy of this dietary approach is young and in need of more supporting evidence. On paper, this seems like a sound dietary approach, but you and I both know nutrition isn’t that black and white. A study published in PLos One conducted a study in over 1,400 participants and concluded: “no evidence exists to support the blood type diet.”7
Most of Dr. D’Adamo’s claims are based on hundreds of anecdotes and his interpretation of the current research regarding good biochemistry and blood types. More research is warranted, especially before you consider paying the hefty price tag to get your blood type tested, to purchase his book, and to purchase all recommended and unsupported supplements.
The Best Diet
The best “diet” is the one that you can stick with…for life. It doesn’t have a name, rather, when someone notices how great you’re looking and asks you which diet you’re following, you simply say, “I’m fueling my body with what it needs while enjoying foods I love in moderation.”
And, of course, you say it with a big smile 🙂
If you’re interested in learning more about the foundational habits that have helped my clients lose weight successfully and keep it off, then you’ll love my eBook, “A Dietitian’s Dozen Fat-Loss Tips.” In this book, I outline 12 foundational habits that collectively work to make weight loss (and maintenance) easier and sustainable.
- The Whole30 Diet. Whole30. Accessed 17 February 2017. Retrieved from: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/.
- Paoli, A., Grimaldi, K., D’Agostino, D., Cenci, L., Moro, T., Bianco, A., & Palma, A. (2012). Ketogenic diet does not affect strength performance in elite artistic gymnasts. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 1.
- Langfort, J., Zarzeczny, R., Pilis, W., Nazar, K., & Kaciuba-Uścitko, H. (1997). The effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on performance, hormonal and metabolic responses to a 30-s bout of supramaximal exercise. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 76(2), 128-133.
- Weil, Andrew. Dr. Andrew Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Retrieved from: https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-diet-pyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflammatory-diet/. Accessed August 21, 2017.
- Kinney, Erin. (#). The Fad Diet That Just May Save Your Live. (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.dadamo.com/txt/index.pl?1021. Accessed August 24, 2017.
- (2017).The Blood-Type Diet: An Evidence-Based Review. Accessed from: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-blood-type-diet-review#section5. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
- Wang, J., García-Bailo, B., Nielsen, D. E., & El-Sohemy, A. (2014). ABO genotype,‘blood-type’diet and cardiometabolic risk factors. PloS one, 9(1), e84749.