5 diet plans explained
If you want to lose weight, you may have considered following a popular diet plan. But with so many options available, what do you need to think about when deciding on the best way to safely lose weight?
These days, there seems to be a new diet trend every few months: from the paleo diet to the Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. It’s also important to bear in mind that any changes you make to your diet should be healthy and sustainable in the long run.
What should you consider before going on a diet?
Cheryl Lythgoe, Society Matron of Benenden Health, offers her advice on what to consider before starting a new diet.
What’s your life stage?
Now you’ve decided to take steps to lose weight, you need to consider your stage in life and what you could gain from losing weight:
If you’re young, fit and healthy, losing weight (if needed) is a great way to future proof your health
If you’re in midlife, losing weight will help to improve both the quality and quantity of your life. Consider other things: for example, if you are menopausal, it’s not a good idea to be lactose-free as your bones need calcium
If you’re older, losing weight is much more about improving the quality of your life
What resources are available to you?
Think about what resources are available to you – environmental, financial, mental or physical. If you live somewhere very rural, think about how easily you can buy ingredients, or if you’re feeling stressed, it might not be a good idea to try a highly restrictive diet.
Do your research
It isn’t healthy to lose weight quickly – don’t be lured in by promises of rapid weight loss
Find out about the health benefits behind the diet
If a diet is asking you to avoid a major food group, check it’s right for you. Avoiding refined carbs is fine, but if you have an active lifestyle such as a busy parent or doing manual work, you need to maintain your energy levels
Check with the experts
If you have any concerns before starting a specific diet, it’s good to chat with your GP, especially if you have a medical condition such as high cholesterol, diabetes etc
If you’re one of our members, Benenden Health’s 24/7 GP Helpline is on hand to give general medical advice
If you consult with a nutritionist, make sure their qualifications are from a trusted source
Be kind to yourself
Distract your mind during the first few days/weeks of the diet with activities such as exercise, crafting, and going for a walk. Also drink lots of water
My mantra is “everything in moderation”. Cake is always a treat, so if you have a slice or two, make sure you try to eat healthily for the day’s other meals
It’s much healthier to make subtle changes, rather than dramatically change your diet, and these will be easier to sustain in the long term
5 popular diet plans
To help you, here is a brief overview of some of the most popular diets right now. Remember, do your research and bear in mind your medical history:
1. 16:8 fasting
This diet limits food and calorific drinks to a set window of 8 hours a day, while abstaining for the remaining 16 hours.
Pick your 8-hour window. Many people choose to eat between noon and 8pm which means you fast overnight and skip breakfast
Eat nutritious food during the 8-hour period and supplement with water or unsweetened tea or coffee while fasting to help control your appetite and stay hydrated
Easy to follow, it achieves results (losing weight, burning fat) with minimal effort
It can improve your blood sugar levels
Overeating or eating the wrong type of food during your ‘window’ can cause more harm than good
Check with your GP if you have any underlying health conditions, as intermittent fasting may not be right for you, for example if you are trying to get pregnant
2. Paleo diet
The paleo diet is based on food our ancestors might have eaten in the Stone Age through hunting and gathering. The reasoning behind the diet is that the human body is not genetically designed for the modern diet that emerged with farming practices.
Focus on foods such as lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds
Exclude foods that became common with farming methods such as dairy, legumes (such as chickpeas, peanuts, peas), and grains. So, butter, milk, bread, pasta, and any processed foods are out!
It’s a ‘clean’ diet without additives, preservatives or chemicals
It helps you lose weight due to its restrictiveness
Eating more protein and healthy fats will leave you feeling more satisfied between meals
It’s a high protein, low carb diet so watch your energy levels
It can be time-consuming – it helps to pre-plan meals in advance as breakfast will be no longer about grabbing a slice of toast!
It avoids whole grains and legumes which are good sources of fibre and vitamins. It’s also eliminates dairy products, which are good sources of protein and calcium
Combining ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian, the diet is based on the concept that you don’t need to cut out meat completely to enjoy the health benefits associated with vegetarianism.
Stick to a vegetarian diet most of the time but can still enjoy a burger or a Sunday roast on occasion. Start by aiming for 1-2 meat free days a week
It’s a great way to increase the variety of healthy foods you eat
Eating more plant-based food and less red or processed meat can help you lose weight and improve your overall health
Offers flexibility - if you have a special meal out planned, for example
Involves more home cooking
Planning meals can take more time when you can’t rely on meat and two veg!
4. Mediterranean diet
This diet is a plant-based healthy eating plan based on the traditional cuisines of Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy.
Whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices are the heroes
Eat less fish, seafood, dairy and poultry, while red meat and desserts should be limited
Food is cooked with olive oil
Numerous studies since the 1950s have revealed the diet helps to prevent heart disease and strokes
It encourages ‘good’ fats such as those found in olive oil, nuts and seeds, while offer eating fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon give you an Omega-3 boost
It’s more a healthy eating diet than a weight loss diet as eating more fat (from olive oil and nuts) could lead to weight gain
Consuming less red meat means you should watch your iron levels
5. Keto diet
The ketogenic (keto) diet is a low carb, high fat diet – similar to Atkins and low carb diets. By drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, your body is put into a metabolic state called ketosis. This means your body become very efficient at burning fat for energy.
Avoid any food high in carbohydrates e.g. sugars, rice, potatoes, grains, legumes, sweets, juice, and most fruits
Plan meals around meat, fatty fish, eggs, butter and cream, cheese, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, and avocados
Low-carb veggies are allowed such as greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers
It’s an effective way to lose weight and lower disease risk factors
You are less likely to be feel hungry
It is a more challenging diet and takes a lot of planning
You may experience ‘keto flu’ as your body adapts
It is important that you consult with your doctor if you have any underlying health conditions before starting the keto diet . For example, it is not suitable for those who have kidney damage, are at risk for heart disease, are pregnant or nursing, have Type 1 diabetes, or any conditions involving their pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder
Finally, remember that losing weight is a very personal thing so don’t ever feel pressure to try a diet plan that doesn’t feel right for you. If you don’t feel you have the time to commit to a particular diet, a good start might be to pick and choose a few healthier habits that work for you such as eating less red meat, cutting out processed food or trying to incorporate more vegetables into your everyday meals.
Whatever path you choose, weight loss success is not about a quick fix. It’s about making healthy changes to look after your body and your health which you can sustain over the long term. If you have any concerns, you should always check with your GP or specialist nutritionist.
About our healthcare
Benenden Health provides affordable private healthcare for everyone, giving you access to services such as our 24/7 GP Helpline and Mental Health Helpline straight away. Once you’ve been a member for six months you can request access to diagnostic consultations and tests, and if needed, treatment and surgery.
You'll also have access to a wealth of health and wellbeing articles, videos and advice on a range of health issues.