Low Fat Diets
When people begin to watch their weight, they typically start buying things marked "low fat" believing that they're going to watch the pounds start melting away. While it is true that you should consume less fat, it's not true that things marked "low fat" are necessarily any better for you. In fact, many manufacturers will put more sugar, sodium, etc into the product in order to replace the taste they feel is missing by reducing the fat content. So you have to watch the calorie content as well as the sugar and sodium content when buying food.
Bottom line: Good idea in theory, but doesn't actually work unless you're counting everything else as well.
No/Low Carb Diets
Cutting carbs is a good way to drop weight quickly, or jumpstart your diet, and/or get over that hurdle if you've plateaued. But if you cut out carbs altogether (for a long period of time), your ketone level can rise exponentially, causing a potentially fatal case of ketoacidosis. Studies have also shown that remaining on the no carb diet for extended periods of time can damage your heart. It can also cause constipation, diarrhea, halitosis (bad breath), headaches, and fatigue, which are relatively minor symptoms in comparison.
When Monkey was 2, her doctor sent her to the nutritionist, convinced that I wasn't feeding her enough because she was slightly underweight. There's a whole story to this, but in an attempt to make a log story short: she's always been a small child, but after a series of bad ear infections that landed her in the OR to have tubes placed twice, she lost a bit of weight and had trouble putting it back on. Anyway. The nutritionist had me give a list of the foods she ate as well as portion size. He determined that the referring physician was "an idiot" and asked me if I wanted to talk about anything else. I asked him about a food plan for me, since I was having problems dropping weight despite exercising and eating right. He recommended a low carb diet. For meals, I could have 45 carbs. For each gram of fiber I ate in the meal, I was allowed to subtract a carb, thereby giving myself a higher amount of carbs per meal if I loaded up on the fiber. For snacks, I was allowed 30 carbs. It may not seem like a lot, but believe me, it is. When you're eating that much fiber, you feel full. While following this diet, I did manage to drop 20 pounds. But I'm not sure it's a diet I could follow forever.
The NuLean diet that I was on over Thanksgiving? It's a different version of the Atkins diet. They give you a ton of vitamins and a protein shake to keep you going, but you're not allowed to be on it any longer than a month at a time. I lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks and dropped like 5 inches, which was great, but I felt like I was starving all the time. Probably because I didn't know that I was allowed more than just lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, but still. Even eating all that fiber, I was hungry. Why? Because I got bored of eating the same foods all the time and my stomach got upset at the mere thought of shoveling more cabbage into my mouth. 2 weeks is the limit for me, and honestly I'd only do it if I was having trouble getting over the plateau again.
Low Cal Diets
The average person burns 2000 calories a day. This person, of course, gets up and moves around occasionally and doesn't just sit on the couch or in bed all day, but you get the point. The law of calorie burning goes like this: if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Sounds easy, right? Well, it kinda is...
With the invention of the cellphone/computer app, counting calories has become the easiest diet I've ever been on. Even easier than counting carbs, which I've yet to find an app for. You have to set a realistic calorie per day goal (anything less than 1000 per day is bad for you and can seriously harm your body if done long term) and follow it. When I first started working out with my trainer, he put me on a diet of 1950 calories a day, then reduced it slowly while my body got used to taking in fewer calories. I try to eat about 1650 now, but I've been a bad girl and blaming it on the holidays, so I've been going over that. *shameface*
It's a lifestyle change -- not a diet!
Dieting has become kind of a bad word these days. "I can't eat that. I'm on a diet." Actually, your diet is what your food intake consists of, not what you're eating (example: when Tom Hanks was stranded on that island in Castaway, his diet consisted primarily of fish and crab). Eating a cookie every now and then won't kill you. In fact, if you don't give into temptation now and then, you're far more likely to eat the entire bag of cookies, rather than the 1 or 2 you would've eaten otherwise. So what should you eat? Here's a handy-dandy list that my trainer gave me, with a few of my own comments thrown in (cause I have something to say about everything, don't I? lol)
Meats - you want to stick to lean proteins. Chicken, turkey, fish... some pork. Occasionally. Red meat? Once a week. Maybe. Eating too much red meat clogs your arteries and makes you a walking heart attack waiting to happen. Substitute the ground beef for ground turkey when you want a burger. Only have a steak once in a while. There are thousands of recipes out there to make chicken, fish, turkey, and pork new and interesting while still being healthy. Try them. Oh, and the fish? Salmon is a great source of Omega-3s, but they're also a fatty fish. So no more than once a week. It's a good idea to stick to the white fish like tilapia.
Fruits - Bananas, no more than once a day. They're a good source of potassium, but like salmon, they're fatty. Apples are great, as long as you only eat one at a time. Eating 2 apples is like eating a Hershey's chocolate bar with the amount of sugar contained in them. Yes, it's a natural sugar, but it's still sugar. Everything in proportion. Fruits are good for you, as long as you don't go overboard.
Veggies - You know how your mom always told you to eat your greens? She was right. Green veggies are fantastic for you. They're high in fiber, low in calories and carbs, and give you energy. There are other colors in the vegetable spectrum, of course (purple eggplant, green zucchini, yellow squash...) and you should eat those as well, but be like Popeye and gobble your spinach down so you can grow up big and strong (though not with those weird arms).
Dairy - You need it! But instead of reaching for the whole milk, try cutting it down to 2%. You might not like it initially, but it cuts out quite a bit of milk fat and calories. Cheese is good for you, but don't eat too much of it or you'll stop yourself up. Yogurt is good for your figure as well, not to mention the added benefit of what it can do for your digestive system and your girly parts.
Breads & pasta - Contrary to popular belief, they are not the devil! You just need to stay away from the bleached and enriched versions. You want whole grain wheat bread and pasta. The bread that says "# grain"? (ours is 7) Grab it. Learn to love it. Just don't go overboard cause 1 slice can be 100+ calories. Whole wheat pasta does take some time to get used to, I'll admit. It's a different texture. But it's so much better for you. I've been eating it for about 4 years, and now any time I have regular pasta, I get a stomachache.
Nuts - Raw almonds (ones that haven't been toasted, salted, honey roasted, etc) are good for you. But they're high in fat, so you should stick to a handful at most. They're a good snack in between meals because they're high in protein and fiber, which makes you feel full.
Remember the Food Pyramid? Turns out the guys knew what they were talking about when they created it. Go figure.
I know this was a long post, and thanks for sticking around for it. Next time it won't be as long, I promise!
What kind of "diet" are you following? What are your favorite healthy (and non-healthy) foods?