What is the Best Diet to Lose Weight?

Are you looking for the best diet to lose weight? While there are no shortage of dieting plans out there, they each will differ in four important ways:

  1. Convenience
  2. Short-term weight loss
  3. Long-term weight loss
  4. Long-term health benefits and risks

In this article we will analyze the most common dieting plans to help you separate diets that work from diets that don’t and identify the best diet to lose weight for you. Here we will only include dieting plans that are sustainable, because the best way to lose weight and keep it off is a long term change in how you eat. Or to put it another way: the best weight loss diet is one you can stick to. Crash diets where you spend a week starving yourself aren’t sustainable or effective long-term.

Weight Loss Diet 1: The Paleo Diet

The Paleo weight loss diet is based on the idea that we should be eating foods similar to those that were eaten prior to western culture’s agricultural revolution, when people tended to acquire more of their food through hunting and gathering.

This weight loss diet seeks to decrease foods that came as a result of farming, and instead supports eating these foods as a part of this dietary philosophy:

  • Meat, seafood, and eggs
  • Vegetables (excluding starchy vegetables, like potatoes)
  • Fruits
  • Nuts

This dietary approach avoids processed foods, grains, legumes, dairy, starchy vegetables, cereals, and refined sugars.

Is Paleo the best diet to lose weight for you?

There’s limited research that this diet can work short-term. But, like most diets there are plenty of anecdotal reports of fast weight loss on the Paleo diet.

As with many diets, if you commit to a paleo style of eating and are able to continue following it indefinitely, you may be able to keep some weight off. However, as with any diet that works while you’re doing it, if you revert back to your old way of eating then the weight you lost will probably come back.

The main concern when it comes to following a paleo lifestyle indefinitely is that many of the restricted dieting foods have been shown to boost human health. Cutting out legumes, grains, and dairy long-term may lead to deficiencies in vital nutrients.

Weight Loss Diet 2: The Ketogenic Diet

This weight loss diet requires very strict adherence to high-fat, moderate-protein, and very low-carbohydrate foods. While this approach gained popularity in the 1980’s thanks to the Atkins diet, it was first used as a diet to help treat patients suffering from epilepsy.

When used properly, the Ketogenic Diet changes your body’s primary fuel source from using carbs to using fats. Once your body is using fats for energy, in the form of ketone bodies, you are said to be fat-adapted.

Is the Ketogenic Diet the best weight loss diet for you?

For many people, this may be the best diet to lose weight quickly. Users tend to experience very rapid weight loss in the first week that will slow substantially after that initial period. Unfortunately, much of the early weight loss is represented not by burning fat but by stored water weight that is flushed out when you give up carbs.

However, for many people this diet may not be the best diet to lose weight long-term because it is very difficult to stay within your allotted daily carb intake. If a person is unable to sustain a keto diet–which is fairly common– there is potential for rapid weight regain.

While many people may prefer the taste of the Keto’s dieting foods (bacon, cheese, meat, and oil), this can be one of the more dangerous dieting plans long-term. Some of the carbohydrates in our diets are crucial for providing plenty of fiber, for instance. Giving up the healthy carbohydrates can have a negative impact on your health, because you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For example, some studies have shown survival advantages for individuals who consume more legumes and whole grains. Many Keto dieters eat lots of unhealthy, high fat foods, and simply stop eating fruits and vegetables.

Is the Keto approach a diet that works? That depends a lot on your adherence and knowledge. Even though the Keto diet can be an effective short-term weight loss diet, it does introduce long-term health risks. This dieting plan can also be difficult to follow.

Weight Loss Diet 3: The Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

Vegetarians consume no meat, and vegans cut out animal products altogether (this includes dairy, eggs, and even honey). Evidence suggests that like other diets, this is a diet that works for losing weight and keeping it off if followed carefully. Additionally, this diet can be followed safely long-term. However, there are two struggles to be aware of here. One is long-term adherence. In order to be successful (just like any diet) you would need to make a long-term philosophical commitment. Two, just because you are vegan doesn’t mean that you are always making healthy dietary choices. Examples of vegan food choices that can still be damaging to your weight loss journey and should still be avoided include refined sugars, refined grains, and refined oils.

Is a vegetarian or vegan diet the best weight loss diet for you?

As far as dieting plans are concerned, the vegan diet is similar to the ketogenic diet in terms of generating quick weight loss, and being difficult to adhere to long term. And, it may also lead to dangerous deficiencies if you are not familiar with nutrition. When following any diet, a person needs to be very aware of any potential nutrient deficiencies. When following a vegan diet, you need to make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin B12 (a weekly supplement) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in chia and flax among other plant-based foods), which are important for brain health and longevity. You also need to make sure that you’re getting enough complete protein , assembling a complete complement of all essential amino acids; which can be done by consuming legumes and grains together in the same meal.

But if you can realistically give up meat (and other animal products) long-term, then this diet can help you to lose weight and keep it off–not to mention live healthier. Many studies have linked a vegan plant-based whole foods diet to lower risk of cancer, chronic disease, heart disease (and even a reversal of heart disease), and up to 11 years of increased life expectancy.

Again a special word of caution: As this diet trend becomes more popular, more and more unhealthy processed vegan options are popping up in supermarkets all over the country. If you want to lose weight while following a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is still important to concentrate on consuming whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains.

The Best Diet to Lose Weight Is…

There’s no one-size-fits-all best diet to lose weight. The vegan and vegetarian weight loss diets can be powerful, if you can commit to giving up animal products.

However, some people may not be in a position to say goodbye to meat and cheese for the rest of their lives. Even some who do make this commitment may not see the full reduction in weight that they were hoping to see.

As anyone who has tried to lose weight knows, even when following a healthy diet 100% of the time, not everyone is able to shed all of those extra pounds. Diets that work for some people may not be effective for everyone because there can be significant differences in metabolism, physiology, microbiome, and genetics from one person to the next.

Bariatric Surgery

If you are struggling with losing weight and keeping it off, and diet and exercise alone have not led to the weight loss that you need to lead a healthy life, then bariatric surgery may be a good option for you.

Genetics and human biology have a huge role to play when it comes to long-term weight loss. If you’re suffering from obesity, then your body may be hard-wired to not lose weight. If you have tried diet and exercise, but any weight you lose just comes back, understand that this may not be your fault. Science shows that even the best dieting plans are generally not enough to cure obesity for most people.

The simplistic idea of calories in versus calories out doesn’t describe every person’s biology. There are biological mechanisms at work that oppose weight loss, and can lead to regaining weight that has been lost.

Bariatric surgery is an option to consider for those who have tried and failed with the traditional weight loss approaches. It can help you to transform your life by helping you to lose weight fast and keep it off.*

If you would like to learn more about whether or not bariatric surgery is the right option for you, schedule a consultation with our friendly staff today.

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This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: November 8th, 2019

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*Please note that individual results can vary and are not guaranteed.