Popular Diets That Could Be Bad for You

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Your friend lost weight on the Paleo diet. Your mom slimmed down on the Military Diet. Your sister is reaching her weight loss goals with the Wheat Belly diet. Now it's your turn. Should you follow in the footsteps of your friends and family? Or try the Medifast diet or some other plan? No, not necessarily. Those popular programs could be turn out to be a disaster for you, since results can be different for everyone.

Why Some Popular Diets Fail

Just because a weight loss plan is popular doesn't mean that it will work for everyone all the time. In fact, most diets fail eventually. Up to 80% of people regain the weight that they lose. Many return to their previous eating habits and the pounds come back. In some cases, they put on more than they lost.

Given this fact, it is essential that you choose an eating plan that fits your personal needs and lifestyle over the long haul. You need to be realistic about your eating habits and about what you can and cannot give up before you invest any time or money into a weight loss program. For example, here are some popular diets and the reasons why they may not work for you.

Popular Diets That May Not Work

  • The Wheat Belly Diet. Millions of copies of this book have been sold. Many people swear by the recommendations of author William Davis, MD. He encourages his followers to eliminate wheat in order to improve overall health and slim down. But is it right for you? If your favorite food is bread, then the answer is no. If you love the foods that Wheat Belly plan eliminates from your diet, you're better off limiting the intake of those foods rather than removing them from your diet altogether. A more reasonable approach is often safer than an "all or nothing" tactic. You could easily gain weight if you fall off the wagon and overindulge.
  • The Paleo Diet. This diet, also called the caveman diet, is popular among intense exercisers, especially those who participate in popular CrossFit programs. People on the Paleo plan eat grass-fed meats, certain cuts of fish that contain healthy fats, fresh produce, eggs, nuts, and seeds. They avoid a wide range of foods including anything processed, dairy products, cereal grains, potatoes, and salt. While the foods allowed on the diet are decent healthy foods, some people may struggle to maintain this fairly restrictive plan.
  • The Military Diet. People who want to lose weight fast often go on the Military Diet. This popular 3-day program (that has no connection to the military) advertises that you can lose 10 pounds in the first week and 30 pounds in the first month as long as you follow the program exactly. But you'll be eating primarily saltines, tuna, hot dogs, and grapefruit. On your four "off" days you need to restrict your intake to 1,200-1,500 calories of lean protein, fruits, and veggies. The plan is not reasonable or nutritionally sound for the long term.
  • Gluten-Free Diet. People with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease follow a gluten-free diet for better health. But many others are choosing a gluten-free diet for weight loss. Can it work for you if you're trying to lose weight? Probably not, since gluten is not linked to weight gain and especially if gluten-containing foods make up a large portion of your diet. Going cold turkey on cereal, bread products, crackers, and other gluten-containing products may not be realistic. In addition, whole grains like wheat can be an important part of a healthy diet. Of course, many companies are now making gluten-free varieties of popular snacks and treats. But many of them are full of sugar, starch, and calories and are not necessarily healthy replacements for gluten.
  • Juicing/Smoothies/Liquid Diets. Eliminating whole food altogether sounds like such a simple idea, which is why juicing, smoothies, and other liquid meal replacements are appealing. But even though these weight loss plans are simple, there are significant downsides to juicing and so-called "healthy" smoothies aren't good for your diet in some situations. If you are a person who enjoys cooking, tasting, and eating food, then liquid diets may not be the best solution for you.
  • Packaged Food Diets. Programs that offer packaged foods, like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, are popular among people who need a convenient eating program. But some of the meals on these programs are high in sodium, making them poor choices for people with high blood pressure. Portion sizes also tend to be very small. If you like to eat a lot of food, or if you have special health concerns, you might want to chat with a registered dietitian before investing in one of these plans.

Why Some Popular Diets Work

So why do these diets work for some people? In some cases, the programs align with their particular health needs and lifestyle. But in many cases, the plans are just creative ways to restrict calories. Weight loss can only occur if you change your energy balance. For example, someone who starts a paleo diet might lose 5 pounds because they ate less food overall, not necessarily because they ate less gluten.

In addition, when someone chooses to go on a diet, the simple act of focusing on their daily food intake often causes them to eat less. The success of the program, therefore,​ has less to do with the specific program and more to do with a choice to make healthy eating a priority.

If you have made the decision to lose weight, invest some time into researching the best diet for you.

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