Lets talk about diets, as every other week there is a news article talking about the “best” diet for weight loss. There is the high protein diet, the low carbohydrate ketogenic diet, there are experts who say dieting doesn’t work, bloggers spruiking the benefits of the intermittent fasting diet, Instagram influencers telling us the key to weight loss is exercise, and of course it wouldn’t be complete without the latest celebrity diet.
With all of this information it is hard to know who is right. In 2014 a meta analysis looked at a variety of diets to see how they compared against each other in relation to weight loss. They compared popular diets like the Atkins, Zone, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig diets in overweight and obese adults. After 12 months, they found no difference between the diets, with all diets resulting in weight loss.
What about the argument that a well balanced diet is the key? A meta analysis in 2014 compared obese and overweight adults with and without diabetes, who were assigned either a balance diet or a low carbohydrate diet. There were no differences in weight loss between the groups, nor any differences in blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins and high-density lipoproteins (bad and good fats).
How about exercise then, with the rise of social media there are plenty of “influencers” promoting their own weight loss exercise regimes, could it be they are right? Unfortunately not, the importance of exercise in weight loss is one of the greatest misconceptions. 100% of our energy intake comes from food, yet only 10-30% can be burned through physical activity. Physical activity is extremely important and is associated with a multitude of health benefits, however for weight loss it is only one piece of the puzzle.
About now the question becomes, “if there are no differences between diets and exercise doesn’t contribute greatly to weight loss, then what is the best way forward?” The key to losing weight is adherence. Adhering to a nutritional regime that can be stuck to long term. Low carbohydrate diets and low carbohydrate Mediterranean diets are great for weight loss, especially in obese diabetic individuals, however if it can’t be adhered to long term the weight will return. This behaviour pattern of short term weight loss followed by longer term weight gain is consistent with most weight loss diet research.
If your goal is to lose weight long term, forget the latest fads, ignore social media, and stick to the following key principles.