The search for the best diets to lose weight has been going on since the invention of the mirror.
But it seems like we never find a definitive answer.
I have spent countless hours researching this subject, and have even tried many of the latest diet fads myself (some of which were less than fun).
That’s why I know that there is no one definitive answer to this question. There are too many variables. It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. What works for you may not work for me.
It’s not just about the food, but you have to also consider the person eating that food. One thing that this past year has taught us is that we are all different!
Our genetics, lifestyles, and our bodies all set us apart. Meaning our bodies don’t all react to food in the same way.
So when people ask “What is the best diet to lose weight?”, what they really need to ask is “what is the best diet to lose weight for me?”
There are plenty of diet options out there. And some have worked wonders for some people, and not really worked out for others. Below is a list of some of the most popular diets for losing weight.
Buckle up as we tell you the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly truth about each of these popular weight loss diets.
The Keto Diet
The Keto Diet is a diet in which you drastically cut the amount of carbs and increase the amount of fats in your diet. The goal of keto is to get your body into a state of ketosis, which shifts your body’s energy source to primarily fats. Your body breaks down fats into ketones and uses them for energy instead of using glucose, which is a carbohydrate.
The Good: Why Keto Works For Weight Loss
The keto diet definitely works to lose weight. Once you get into a state of ketosis your body is burning fat very efficiently.
Another good thing about eating more fats is that they are very filling. You’re actually staying full and limiting calories because you just don’t want to keep stuffing your face!
Another big benefit of the keto diet is the tasty food. I mean, who doesn’t like bacon, right? Now you’re not necessarily going to be stuffing your face with greasy, unhealthy fatty foods. But even the healthy fatty foods tend to be quite tasty.
The Bad: Why Keto Doesn’t Work
The keto diet does not work for many because they simply can’t sustain it. It is an extreme diet, and it’s not the easiest one to stick to. And it’s one of those things where one mixup knocks you out of ketosis. And there are so many hidden carbs in foods that you can kick yourself out of ketosis without really realizing you’re doing it.
The Ugly: The Keto Flu
Many people have a hard time transitioning into a state of ketosis and suffer from some nasty side effects. This is most commonly referred to as the Keto Flu. The symptoms of the keto flu typically last a day or two and can be a little extreme for some including brain fog, irritability, nausea, and GI discomfort.
The Mediterranean diet is based on people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. These folks tend to have a longer life expectancy due to their active lifestyle and a diet that is high in fresh produce, nuts, fish, and healthy fats and low in red meat, sugars, and most saturated fats.
The Mediterranean Diet is more of an eating pattern instead of a structured diet plan. It’s not a one-size-fits-all diet…but more of a guideline. For instance, people from Greece generally have a different diet than people living in Italy, yet both countries border the Mediterranean Sea.
There is actually a good food pyramid made for the Mediterranean Diet made by Oldways.
The Good: The Mediterranean Diet Is Balanced Nutrition
Unlike many of the popular weight loss diets, the Mediterranean diet does not ask you to exclude entire food groups. This is a major contributing factor to why it is considered one of the more nutritionally balanced diet plans.
Another big benefit to the Mediterranean Diet is the vast choices you are given. There is a plethora of food options on this diet plan so there should be no reason to be bored and complacent on this diet.
The Bad: Get Your Chef Hat On!
You better know your way around the kitchen if you are going to partake in the Mediterranean Diet. These are not meals that you are going to pop in the oven or throw in the microwave to thaw out. You are going to need a little culinary skill to pull this diet plan off.
And since you are not really using any kind of processed foods, this is one of those diets that can get a little hefty on the shopping bill.
Note: Isn’t it lovely how people are incentivized by price to eat an unhealthy diet?
The Ugly: Nothing to Really See Here
There is really nothing to complain about with the Mediterranean Diet unless you are a complete failure in the kitchen. In which case, you may want to look elsewhere.
While the Mediterranean Diet is ranked middle-of-the-pack for sheer weight loss diets, it is the #1 ranked overall diet, and #1 in almost all other categories in a study done on 39 of the most popular diets out there today. This is the main reason we added it to this list.
Plant-based diets are increasingly popular these days. There are three main plant-based diets that we are thinking about when writing about this category:
Vegetarian: no meat, fish, poultry
Vegan: No animal products at all. This includes eggs, dairy, or anything else that is derived from animal products.
Flexitarian: being a vegetarian most of the time. This term, and diet, was coined by registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner in her 2009 book, “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life”
All plant-based diets emphasize eating fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and legumes.
The Good: Plants Are Nutritious (Duh!)
Due to the high fiber content of many of the foods you consume on a plant-based diet, people tend to feel satiated and not like they are starving themselves into weight loss.
And if you are considering going plant-based purely for nutritional reasons and not because you feel some sort of way about the animals (not judging!) then the Flexitarian option allows for you to indulge in a little bit of carnivorous activity every now and again.
Research has shown that vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories and have a lower average BMI than carnivorous folks.
The Bad: Dreaded Broccoli Gags!
You are going to be missing out on key nutrients on a plant-based diet such as iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The other thing that may cause a little hitch in your giddyup is that not everyone likes all of the fruits and veggies in the produce section. Let’s face it, some people never really grew out of the “broccoli makes me gag” stage.
Plant-based diets can also be a little bit of work in the kitchen as well. It can sometimes be a little mundane unless you have the culinary chops to spice things up with your vegetarian dishes.
The Ugly: Supplementation Is A Must
You really should be supplementing the nutrients you are missing out on from a more balanced diet if you are choosing to go plant-based. While supplements are tremendous, they are not absorbed as well as getting nutrients via real food sources. And they can get a little costly.
WW – Formerly Weight Watchers
The WW diet is an easy-to-follow diet that is based on points. Each food is assigned a point value. You get a certain amount of points per day. As long as you can do simple math, you can do the WW Diet.
The Good: WW Diet Plan Allows for Indulgences
One of the best aspects of the WW Diet Plan is the freedom it provides. You can literally eat anything as long as you stay within your allotted points. This means that you don’t necessarily have to debrief yourself of the occasional indulgences. You get a ton of flexibility, as long as you can handle it (more on this later).
Another benefit of the WW Diet is how easy it is to follow. It’s not like you have to sit at the store and read nutrition labels of ingredients that look like they are written in latin to figure out whether you are allowed to have a certain item. As long as you can do simple math (or have a smart phone) you can easily do the WW Diet Plan.
The WW Diet plan is also renowned for its accountability and sense of community. Depending on the package you are going with, you have various levels of accountability. This is something that many people who are in a position to need a solid weight loss diet needs.
The Bad: How Much Does the WW Diet Cost?
There is always a catch, isn’t there? While the accountability and sense of community that come with the WW Diet are definitely benefits, they aren’t free. (It never it, is it?).
There are various levels of memberships. The more personalized coaching, the loftier the price. And while these don’t necessarily break the bank, you are still paying extra, which is something that turns people off from even attempting the WW diet to begin with.
The Ugly: Some People Should Not Be Trusted
Listen, we’re all friends here. By now you’ve read enough to know that the last thing I want to do is be dishonest. The fact of the matter is that some people (especially those in the market for a good weight loss diet) should not be trusted to make sensible choices when given the freedom to do so.
The first thing I did when researching the WW diet is look up the point value for a Snickers bar (13 points). Then the point value for a Five Guys Cheeseburger and Fries (29 and 30 respectively). The points go anywhere from 26 per day to 71. So if you think about it, you can make eating the way that got you into needing a weight loss diet in the first place work.
But is that a good thing? I’m thinking no.
The Paleo Diet was all the rave a few years ago. It is based on the premise of eating like a caveman. If it’s not something that a caveman could have readily eaten, then it’s not something you should be consuming either. This is on the premise that when humans were in that hunter and gatherer stage of our evolution, our diets were much more nutritious.
In other words, the technological growth that has advanced our species in so many beneficial ways has also turned us into fat, lazy slobs who can get a meal out of a box instead of consuming natural sources of nutrition.
With the Paleo Diet you eat nothing processed. Everything you put into your piehole is natural. This means no grains, no dairy, no refined sugars, and no legumes. You only eat meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and veggies.
The Good: Carnivorous Deliciousness
If you are a primal carnivore, then the Paleo Diet might be the one for you. With such an emphasis on protein, many find that the meat options are right up their alley. This helps many people lose weight as high protein diets often help reduce your appetite.
The Bad: I Miss My Bread and Cheese!
As we’ve discussed in previous weight loss diet options, completely removing entire food groups just plain stinks. Especially when the food groups you are taking out happen to include some of the most delicious options!
By relying on all-natural food sources and staying in the produce and meat sections of the grocery store, you are going to jack up your grocery bill. As with all of the other options that promote eating all-natural food options, these tend to cost more and add up pretty quickly.
The Ugly: Cavemen Had It Rough!
The Paleo Diet is very restrictive and this is why many people find it hard to be able to sustain it. It’s just not fun to not be able to have any bread and cheese (can you tell I like my bread and cheese yet?). Most people who ultimately fail with the Paleo Diet blame the level of restriction as the main culprit.
Read more about the Paleo Diet here.
The Whole30 Diet is not really a diet. It’s more of a plan designed to get you off of the foods that might be causing you any issues and “reset” your body in 30 days by removing inflammatory foods such as sugars, dairy, grains, alcohol, and legumes.
The Good: The Whole30 Reset Can Be a Good Thing
This is not a calorie counting diet where you have to do a ton of math, weighing your food and counting your macros. There is simply a list of foods you can have and a list of foods that you can’t.
Another benefit of the Whole30 program is that it has a ton of support and information online to help with every aspect of adhering to the plan.
The basic premise of the plan is to “Reset” your body by getting rid of all the inflammatory foods so when you start to reintroduce certain foods again, you will know which foods affect your body in a negative way.
The Bad: You Should Be Committed (double entendre??)
You better be a committed person to stick to the Whole30 Program. This is not for the faint of heart. The entire mantra is that it’s only 30 days and that you can do anything for 30 days. Well as we’ve discussed in the previous sections, completely removing food groups is not fun.
Much like the Paleo Diet, this is extremely restrictive. This means that you better plan things out. Everything from meal prep, to grocery shopping, to cooking, to how long the fresh produce will last in the fridge (personal experience).
You need to be on top of your game to stick to Whole30.
The Ugly: The “Best” Options Will Break The Bank
When you are given the food list for the Whole30 Program, you have Good, Better, and Best options. The options that are labeled to be the “best” are all organic, grass-fed, free-range, etc. If you’ve ever gone with these options you know how much more expensive they are.
Read more about the Whole30 Program here.
Carb cycling is not a diet, per se, but more a method of strategically manipulating how much carbs you eat, changing it up daily between high carb days and low carb days.
The reason you do this is to get your body the fuel it needs when you are working out hard, and having your body fuel itself with fat when you’re not. You want to have high carb days on the days you work out. Lifting weights will burn through most of the glycogen you get on your high carb days, allowing your body to constantly use fat for fuel.
The Good: A Very Effective Way To Lose Weight
If you can pull it off, carb cycling is one of the most effective ways to lose weight. The key is in the planning. You don’t want to just wing it with this. You want to have a plan of attack. But once you get in the groove, there are not many other methods that have had results quite like this.
Many celebrity trainers that do the extreme weight loss shows employ carb cycling in their clients’ diets. One of the reasons is that it’s extremely easy to follow. Many people give up on plans that are too complicated and ask too much. This is relatively simple and straightforward.
One of the coolest things about carb cycling is that it is not set in stone, meaning there isn’t only one way to do it. You can adjust it to work for you. You can do 350 grams of carbs one day and 125 the next. OR you can do 300, 200, 100. It’s really up to you and your lifestyle.
Another reason that people find success and can stick with carb cycling is that it doesn’t restrict entire food groups, so you’re not depriving your body of anything.
The Bad: Get Out Your Measuring Utensils!
One of the bummers about carb cycling is the amount of measuring you have to do. You constantly have to measure how many carbs you are taking in and adjust accordingly. This can be a little bit of a buzzkill until you get used to it. A food scale will be your friend here. And apps like MyFitnessPal will certainly help.
The Ugly: Nothing Ugly About It!
There’s really nothing ugly about carb cycling. It is one of the most effective ways that people have found to lose weight consistently.
This is my personal favorite method to lose weight.
One of the keys to managing weight is to control your insulin and blood sugar levels. That is why diets like the keto diet or Atkins are so popular and effective. They get the body to fuel itself with fat instead of glucose.
There is no better way to lower insulin and blood sugar levels than not eating at all. This does not mean starve yourself, because that usually leads to a binge, which leads to a very high spike in blood sugar and insulin…storing any kind of fat you might have lost in the process, if not more.
There are several ways to fast to lose weight. Most people turn to intermittent fasting, which gives you a “window” of time where you are allowed to eat. Some of the popular Intermittent Fasting methods are:
- 16 hour fast, 8-hour feeding window.
- 20 hour fast, 4-hour feeding window. Typically referred to as The Warrior Diet.
- OMAD (One Meal a Day): Fast for the entire day, eat one meal, then do a longer duration (2-7 day) fast.
Others have found prolonged fasting works very well. There are really no rules to it. It’s just not taking in calories. This allows your body to burn fat extremely fast.
The Good: It Just Plain Works!
While it is not recommended for beginners, fasting for longer duration is scientifically proven to be the most effective way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels while simultaneously increasing glucagon levels.
After your body has depleted the glycogen stores, your body has to fuel itself with stored energy in the form of fat.
The Bad: You Have To Break Through Your Own Doubts
Some people can’t get through the mental block of not eating. They think that they need to eat 3 meals a day and that skipping meals or even days will do harm to their bodies. That fact is, there are so many benefits to fasting, beyond just weight loss. But so many people refuse to believe it and they never want to start in the first place.
The other knock is that some people don’t have the self-discipline to not binge during their feeding window. Just because you’re coming off of a nice fast doesn’t mean you can down a whole pizza and a 2 liter of soda.
The Ugly: It Works
The ugly truth about fasting is that it works better than anything I’ve ever seen, tested, studied, or tried. It just works. If you are disciplined enough to let it work.
Read more about Fasting here.
NOTE: The thing with it is that you do want to supplement yourself with electrolytes, especially if you are doing prolonged fasts. There are plenty of zero calorie electrolyte powders that taste tremendous. And even some salt pills that have a ton of electrolytes. If you are doing any type of prolonged fasting, you want to be sure you include these in the mix throughout the day.
We have established that there is no one diet to rule them all. There are so many factors that go into whether a diet will work for you. Genetics, lifestyle, and your innards all play a role into what foods affect you. A diet that might work great for you may be a neverending hamster wheel for me. It all depends on you, your level of commitment, your lifestyle, and your goals.
The key is finding a diet that works specifically for you that you can stick to. Anyone can do a diet for a few weeks. But you don’t want to do the yo-yo dieting thing. Find something that isn’t going to be a burden on your life and go after it.
If you can fast, I would highly recommend that. It is so effective and has so many benefits besides weight loss.