What is the Best Diet for Weight Loss?
Put the words “best diet for weight loss” into any search engine and you will be inundated with options, opinions, websites, books, programs, courses, coaching, apps, and more.
There are High Fat-Low Carb diets, Low Fat-moderate carb diets, The Ketogenic Diet, The Atkins, Diet, The Paleo Diet, The Zone Diet, Whole 30, The Cabbage Soup Diet, IFYM (It Fits Your Macros), the list goes on and on.
So which diet is the BEST diet? Well first, we need to establish what your goals are.
What is the Best Diet for You?
Typically, when people “go on a diet” it’s because they want to lose weight, so for the sake of brevity; that will be our focus today.
If your overall goal is weight loss (important to differentiate from fat loss but we’ll get into that in a later article), then any one of these diets could work for you.
Ultimately, the BEST diet is the diet that is going to be the most sustainable for you long term…and that may take a bit of self-evaluation and experimentation.
The Best Diet is Sustainable
For instance, if I love eating whole eggs, avocado, salmon, and olive oil, I’m probably not going to want to go for a low-fat diet which would require me giving up many of my favorite foods.
That is probably not going to be very sustainable or enjoyable for me. Besides, healthy fats are amazing for our brains and bodies.
The Best Diet – How Does it Make You Feel?
While keeping a food log/journal of what you consume on a daily basis, it’s also very important to note how specific foods make you feel.
Do you feel energized after eating certain carbohydrates…or do you crash? What about fats? Do you have mental clarity…or are you experiencing brain fog? How is your digestion after eating certain foods? Are you getting gassy, feeling bloated, or heavy?
Simply paying attention to how different foods make us feel is so incredibly helpful and important. Every person and everyone's body is different.
So, let’s say we’ve chosen a diet we feel best suits our taste and gives us consistent energy throughout the day. We are eating the foods we enjoy, living an active life, and feeling good…but we aren’t losing any weight. What gives?
The Best Diet – Understanding the Caloric Deficit
This brings us to the most important, and key component to diet and weight loss…and that is the caloric deficit.
“A caloric deficit is any shortage in the amount of calories consumed relative to the amount of calories required for maintenance of current body weight. A deficit can be created by reducing input/calories consumed. A deficit can also be created by increasing output without a corresponding increase in input.”
So what does all of that mean? Well in simple terms, it means that in order to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories or by increasing the number of calories you burn through exercise or both. So how do we do that?
Well, we first need to figure out our maintenance number of calories.
The Best Diet – Maintenance Calories
Our maintenance calories are the number of calories we require daily to keep our weight and/or body composition exactly the same-no weight gain or weight loss.
A general rule is that if you track your food and exercise in an app like My Fitness Pal and you haven’t lost or gained any weight over the course of a week or two, those are most likely your maintenance calories.
There are, of course, other factors involved in gaining or losing a few pounds here and there; such as hormonal changes, water retention, stress, lack of sleep etc., but in general this is a good rule of thumb.
A daily deficit of 500 calories (or 500 calories less than our maintenance number of calories- achieved by consuming less and /or burning more) equates to a calorie deficit of 3500 for one week…or one pound of fat.
The Best Diet – Realistic Goals
A pound per week is a very good goal for weight loss. Some weeks it may be slightly less and some slightly more. This process is not linear, and again, there are many factors that can cause weight fluctuations…but ultimately that is a healthy and achievable goal for the majority.
Many of these apps like My Fitness Pal and others will take a lot of the guesswork out of this for you. You create a profile, give basic information like your age, height, weight, activity level, and fitness goals and the programs will calculate your calories for you. The bottom line is it’s incredibly useful to know your maintenance calories and how to calculate them.
The Best Diet - Basal Metabolic Rate
It’s also very important to know your BMR (basal metabolic rate.) This is the number of calories you need to simply lay in bed and sustain basic functions. We always want to be cognizant of the fact that calories are energy or fuel and we need to have enough fuel for our brains and bodies to properly function.
Dieting for weight loss doesn’t have to be a complex or miserable experience. The key to weight loss in general really is as simple as “calories in vs calories out” so pick a diet or “style of eating” rather that is actually sustainable for you and go for it.
There are no magic foods. People aren’t having successful long-term weight loss because of any one food or food group that is included in or excluded from a specific diet plan- it’s completely dependent on whether or not you are in a caloric deficit.
The Best Diet - Conclusion
You can gain or lose weight on any of the “diets” I listed at the beginning of the article which is why I emphasize choosing a diet, or ultimately a lifestyle change in eating habits, that includes the foods you love and that make you feel good because that is ultimately going to be the diet that is sustainable long term. It also helps psychologically speaking when we know we CAN have some of the foods we love. If we say we “can’t have something” it’s human nature that we are going to want it that much more.If you believe you need additional help/motivation with dieting you may decide to look for a diet or weight loss coach to assist you.
So the original question was/is one that is/has no easy answer. There is no one BEST diet for everyone. Give yourself time, be consistent, and you will most certainly see results with whichever diet you choose.
PS: I understand that this article is a fairly broad overview but truly, the fitness industry in general although well-meaning in many ways, tends to over complicate the subject of weight loss. Certainly, when we have more specific fitness or physique goals we are going to want to tailor our nutrition and training accordingly. Gut for the general purpose of weight loss, for the majority of the population, typically if you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.