It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and many of us are considering changes to our diets. But what is the best and most sustainable approach? Following is a review of the highest rated diets and what we can expect in the near future of dieting.
Here we go again.
It’s a new year, and a time when people tend to focus on making changes to their health. Whether that means diet, exercise, mental health, or simply spending more time with family, there’s a lot of pressure on dear old January.
To my own personal dismay, as our established readers are aware, diets in particular aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. A recent Forbes poll indicated that about 34% of participants wanted to lose weight and 32% wanted to improve their diets.
The diet industry was valued at roughly $160 billion in 2023 and it banks on January. It loves January. It hopes we will fail at our New Year’s resolutions and that we will try and try again.
The more we believe we need the diet industry, the more we believe it’s our willpower that needs fixing, and that it’s a person’s individual responsibility to lose weight. In turn, they make more money.
If we succeed at dieting, their business fails. They have a vested interest in our failure. And we continue to feed right into this as these statistics indicate:
- 95% of dieters will regain their weight in 1-5 years
- 1/5th of obese people say they’ve tried and failed at dieting at least 20 times
- Dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain, with the risk being twice as high for teenagers.
Given this robust business, rest assured the diet industry is on top of trends. These days, they are marketing more towards overall improvements in health, rather than weight loss, and boasting less rigid meal plans.
This may be due to more awareness of HAES practices and body acceptance; or backlash to the weight loss medications that garnered headlines over the past year. But the industry is well aware that consumers are starting to be wary of the more traditional-sounding diets.
This is why it may seem the concept of dieting is shifting more towards a non-diet approach, or more focus on healthier lifestyles. But most often, these are just different marketing strategies to fit the trending times.
A diet is a diet is a diet.
What if I still want to lose weight?
There are plenty of people who will embark on a mission to lose weight this year for a variety of reasons. I understand that. And while I’m not shy about sharing the information above for consideration, part of my role here is to provide support for your unique nutrition journey.
Previously, I wrote about the best diets going into the new year, as judged by a panel of health experts, including nutritionists and specialists in diabetes, heart health, human behavior, and weight loss. At the time, the top 5 diets included (1) Mediterranean, (2) Flex, (3) DASH, (4) WW formerly Weight Watchers, and (5) Mayo Clinic.
New to the “Best Diets” List
The following two diets broke the top 5 this year.
#4 The MIND Diet
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and is a combination of DASH and Mediterranean diets, which remain at the top of the best diets list. The MIND Diet focuses specifically on brain health, while promoting a plant-based diet, specifically antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, fats, and whole grains.
However, there is minimal guidance and the “rules” are pretty flexible, so it’s not as appealing to those who crave more structure.
TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes and calls for eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, bread, cereals, and lean meats. It is specifically geared towards reducing cholesterol by limiting saturated fats in the diet.
Be aware, this diets includes a lot of restrictions on fats and calculating percentage of daily saturated fat intake, which make it difficult to follow long term. Not to mention, research on the impact of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat on serum cholesterol is not clear cut, so certain restrictions (such as full fat dairy for example) may not be necessary.
Diets gaining momentum
- The Galveston Diet is a weight loss plan targeted at women in all phases of menopause. It includes intermittent fasting, meal plans, and food tracking, and comes with supportive tools such as cookbooks, videos, and meal plans for a fee. There are many rules and restrictions, and little scientific evidence this diet will lead to long-term weight loss.
- 30-30-30 diet (or social media sensation?) refers to consuming 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking, followed by 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise. That’s it! There’s no scientific research on the diet, and this rule of thumb is rather random.
- Optavia (formerly known as Medifast) is a low-carbohydrate, reduced-calorie weight loss program that combines home-prepared and packaged meals as well as supplements. You are set up with 1:1 health coaches (the majority of whom are Optavia grads). In the short term, weight loss is likely because of calorie cutting, but there’s no evidence it’s sustainable long-term.
- The 5:2 is a style of intermittent fasting in which calories are highly restricted for two out of seven days each week. The other 5 days are free to eat however you like. There’s little evidence that intermittent fasting, in general, will improve overall health. And any weight loss achieved is dependent on this being sustainable, forever.
- 7 days 1,200 calorie diet is exactly what it means. Each day, you can eat whatever you like as long as it doesn’t exceed 1200 calories. This is extremely low and can cause more harm than good. This diet is also not sustainable long-term and does not take into account the types of foods which fuel our bodies best.
Other food & nutrition trends to watch?
Here are things I’m hearing people talking about, and what we have been writing about this year:
- Cutting back on caffeine − In an effort to focus more on quality sleep and managing anxiety, some people are thinking about caffeine intake.
- Adaptogens − A fancy term for plant substances thought to help with things like relieving the body of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. These include an increasingly popular array of mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane and Chaga, which are even used as a substitute for coffee grounds and ground into supplements.
- Thinking about sugar in all forms, such as added sugars, different types of carbohydrates, and sugar substitutes and how they all impact blood sugar and overall health.
- Foods and supplements for menopause and aging. As a woman in my 40’s I know how tempting a deep dive into this can be. However, there is little actual evidence that supplements or restrictive diets have much impact.
There’s some solid advice that remains consistent
Here are some reminders to keep us grounded:
- One meal, one day, one week won’t make or break you. The impact a diet has on our long term health is based on average intake over a lifetime.
- Eat a wide variety of foods. This way, all your eggs won’t be in one basket, and you avoid the pitfall of having too much or too little of something.
- Seek counseling and advice from a professional you trust. Check their background, education, and ability to meet your needs. This includes people you follow on social media.
How are you managing New Year’s health and wellness resolutions this year? We’d love to hear from you, so please comment below!
Interested in thinking about food and nutrition without the pressure of weight loss and dieting this year?
I offer adult counseling, both virtually and in-person for locals. This includes nutrition counseling as well as family meal planning needs for recipes, time management, nutrition language, and much much more.
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