There are as many diet plans on the market today as there are reasons to lose weight. It isn’t just a question of cutting calories when the reason to lose weight may be to look fitter or be healthier. There are all kinds of approaches to dieting that take into account weight loss for health reasons, for fitness, for lifestyle choices, for image, and even for budget concerns. In order to understand which diet plan might be good for you, you have to ask yourself what your primary reason to lose weight is. You also need to be well-versed on different diet plans to make an informed choice.
Body Types and Diets For Different Body Types
We all know some people who eat anything and never gain weight. Scientific evidence points to a difference in metabolism and body type to account for the difference in how fast people gain weight and muscle. There are three distinct body types (somatotypes) which are ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. However, some diet plans have designated as many as 25 different body types. In reality, most people’s bodies are unique combinations of the three body types.
The Ectomorph (thin)
This body type is characterized by a naturally skinny appearance. The frame is slender with low body fat and small muscle mass. The shoulders, hips, chest and abdomen are all narrow. The metabolism is ultra fast, which allows ectomorphs to eat a lot and rarely gain weight. However, if they tried to gain muscle, it would require tremendous amounts of food to add bulk to their body frame. This is the body type that has become popular with models and teenagers.
The Mesomorph (muscular)
This body type has a strong, athletic build with a wedge-shaped body. The waist is small and the shoulders are broad. People with this body type have a low body fat ratio while being able to gain muscle easily. This is considered to be the ideal body type as it doesn’t have to work hard to look fit but may not necessarily look skinny. The metabolism works efficiently and can adjust to new conditions quickly.
The Endomorph (round)
This body type is characterized by a round body and stocky build. They typically have a thick upper body and wide hips with shorter limbs This body type has more muscle but it often contains more fat. They have a tendency to store body fat in their belly, waist, hips and thighs. As their metabolism is the slowest of the three body types, they are more susceptible to weight gain and often have difficulty in losing weight.
How Body Type Affects Diet and Fitness
It is important to note about the body types is that each body type gains and loses weight differently. They respond differently to different diets and fitness programs. Body type can also change over time depending on the diet and fitness programs a person follows. It’s not as simple as looking in the mirror to ascertain what body type you have, as most people have a combination of different body types in their make-up. However, if your family has a predominant body type and you had that body type as a child, this is most likely the body type you have now.
As metabolism and body type determine how easily one loses weight or gains muscle, knowing the body type you have can help you determine what type of diet and exercise programs would be best for you. As a side note, metabolic rate is the number of calories your body burns in a given amount of time to keep functioning which ultimately determines whether you maintain, gain, or lose weight.
In order to gain muscle and put on weight, ectomorphs have to load up on carbohydrates. The best diet for an ectomorph trying to gain muscle and improve fitness is one with high carbohydrates and a moderate amount of fat. They should also eat more frequently if they are dieting for fitness. This body type doesn’t have to diet to lose weight as their problem is to keep muscle on. Instead of dieting, they should increase physical exercise to lose weight while becoming more toned. Slow cardiovascular exercises are good for this body type.
They are the most flexible of dieters and fitness users as their metabolism adjusts quickly to changes in diet and exercise. As such, they tend to gain and lose weight easily. Since mesomorphs have more muscle mass, they require more calories to fuel those muscles. They respond better to diets with higher protein and fat content with moderate amount of carbohydrates making up the rest. Mesomorphs should vary their carbohydrate choices to include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fats to have a more balanced diet.
Endomorphs who are trying to lose weight need to follow a stricter diet plan than the others and take great care with carbohydrate intake. They also hold water very well and can gain weight easily. They respond well to low-carbohydrate and high protein diets or diets that cycle through alternative low carbohydrates, protein and low fat ratios. High-intensity cardio exercises are a good way to lose weight for this body type and should be done in short intervals – anywhere from 10 to 25 minute exercises per session.
Customized Diet Programs
The study and science of diet is vast and can easily overwhelm a diet enthusiast with information overload. Even when you start a diet program, you still might be a bit confused about what a good portion size is, how many times to exercise during the week, or what foods to eat and when. That’s why there are a variety of customized programs available to help people meet their weight loss goals while being guided every step of the way.
Weight Watchers (WW International)
Weight Watchers originally started as a discussion group that met to discuss different methods of weight loss. Now it is a global company that offers diet plans, diet products, and support for people trying to lose weight.
Weight Watchers’ Flex program includes a diet and fitness module with the diet plan consisting of a positive point value system for calories and the fitness plan being given negative points. They do not restrict any foods on the Flex program. Rather, the progress is tracked by how well one keeps to the daily number of points assigned to an individual by summing up the diet and exercise points. Foods are sold in pre-packaged portions with the point count indicated on the labels. Guidance and support are offered by group members and leaders to help dieters keep to the program and effectively lose weight. Weight Watchers has also introduced other diet programs that restrict certain foods similar to other popular diets.
This type of diet plan appeals to people who want a program that is customized and micromanaged by experts. Dieters can be reasonably assured that their weight loss goals can be met if they stick to the plan. However, some people find it invasive and don’t like meeting with others to discuss their weight issues. The cost of special Weight Watcher foods can also add up quickly. Online programs are also available for those who dislike the face-to-face interaction with others.
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet was developed and popularized by Dr. Robert Atkins in the early 1970’s. He was a cardiologist and physician as well as the author of the bestselling diet book in history “Dr Atkins’ New Diet” which sold about 12 million copies.
The Atkins Diet was very popular when it was first introduced and consisted of a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet to lose weight. The key to diet was to restrict foods that were high in carbohydrates and refined sugars. Dr. Atkins advocated exercise along with the diet but many people chose to do the diet alone and found that it helped them to lose weight.
The Atkins Diet works to induce a state of ketosis where weight loss can be significant due to an increase in metabolism. Ketosis happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, your body burns fat and produces substances called ketone bodies which it can use for fuel. Carbohydrates are then reintroduced in the diet and increased over the next phases but are still somewhat restricted to attain weight loss goals.
In the new Atkins Diet, there are four phases. Each phase can be implemented several times depending on your goals and how much weight you want to lose.
- Phase 1 – Induction: You start eating high-fat, high-protein foods with low-carb vegetables to jump start your weight loss.
- Phase 2 – Ongoing Weight Loss: You begin to gradually add nuts, low-carb vegetables and small amounts of fruit to your diet.
- Phase 3 – Pre-Maintenance: When you’re very close to your target weight, you continue to add good carbs to your diet until your weight loss stabilizes.
- Phase 4 – Maintenance: In the last phase, you are allowed to consume as many healthy carbs as your body can handle without regaining weight until you establish a long-term healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Atkins also founded a company to produce and distribute food products under his brand name. Many of these products are low-carbohydrate versions of popular high-carbohydrate foods. The Atkins food products are generally much higher in price than regular carbohydrate foods sold on the market.
The Atkins Diet has been modified several times over the years. The original version of the Atkins Diet was criticized for putting too much emphasis on high-fat foods, which have been linked to all kinds of diseases including heart problems and cancer. However, the new Atkins diet attempts to focus on healthier foods with less saturated fat.
The South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet is a popular weight-loss diet developed by the famous cardiologist Arthur Agatston and was first introduced in his best-selling book, “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss” in 2003.
The aim of the South Beach Diet is to encourage weight loss and a healthy lifestyle by changing the overall balance of foods a person consumes. The South Beach diet is low in carbohydrates and high in protein and healthy fats. It is similar to the Atkins Diet in that it doesn’t limit portions or count calories, and its main aim is to lose weight. However, it goes a step further and makes a distinction between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates instead of avoiding all carbohydrates. In addition, fats are also taken into account in the diet and “bad” fats that contribute to cardiovascular diseases are limited.
The South Beach Diet works in phases, and each phase has a different structure and purpose:
- Phase 1: The first phase of the diet is two weeks long and limits fruits, grains, dairy products and other higher-carb foods in order to suppress hunger and reduce cravings for foods to trigger weight loss. You are allowed to eat three meals a day composed of lean protein (beef, poultry, seafood), high-fiber vegetables and foods with unsaturated fats such as avocados, nuts.
- Phase 2: This phase can last as long as it takes to achieve your target weight goal. You gradually start reintroducing healthy carbs into your diet that were not allowed in Phase 1, such as whole-grains, whole-wheat pasta, fruits and more vegetables.
- Phase 3: Once you achieve your desired weight, you can advance to Phase 3. This phase is all about maintaining your weight for a healthy lifestyle. You are allowed to eat all types of foods in moderation. If you overindulge in eating and start re-gaining weight, you can always return to Phase 1 or Phase 2 to get on track before returning to Phase 3.
The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet was developed by Dr. Barry Sears, an American biochemist, and was popularized by his best-selling book “The Zone” published in 1995.
The Zone Diet is a way to promote health rather than being a diet program to lose weight. The concept of the Zone Diet is to regulate hormone levels through a diet program which adheres to specific rations of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. This process produces natural anti-inflammatories that help promote health. Anti-inflammatory is a drug or substance that reduces inflammation such as redness, swelling, and pain by blocking certain substances present in the body that cause inflammation.
The Zone Diet claims to reduce the inflammation in the body where the inflammation causes people to gain weight, become sick and age faster. Once you reduce inflammation, you start losing fat, slow down aging, and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
The diet does not restrict calories even though many people use it for heart-healthy weight loss purposes. The diet can be a little harder to follow than other diets. There are also all kinds of food products and supplements being sold for the Zone Diet on their website.
Even though Dr. Barry Sears designed the diet for heart health, the American Heart Association does not endorse it and considers it to lack proper nutrition while being too high in protein. Also, there is little scientific evidence to support the claims made by Zone the diet.
The Body for Life Diet
The Body for Life Diet was created by Bill Phillips, a former bodybuilder, who was also the founder of EAS, a dietary supplement manufacturer. The Body for Life program became popular with the release of his best-selling publication “Body For Life: 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength” in 1999. In Body For Life, he incorporated the principles of bodybuilding into a motivational program in an easy to understand fashion for the general public.
The Body For Life Diet is a 12-week nutrition and exercise program. The dietary module of the program advocates eating small portions of lean protein and healthy carbohydrates up to six times during the day. Foods are categorized and restricted by approved carbohydrates, proteins, and vegetables.
The exercise module of the program involves alternating 45 minutes of weight training three days a week with 20 minutes of aerobic exercises three days a week. On the seventh day of the weekly routine, you are allowed to eat whatever you want and take a break from physical exercises.
While the Body for Life Diet has helped thousands of people adopt a healthier lifestyle, however, it was also criticized for promoting the intake of too much protein but not enough fruits and vegetables.
Adopting a vegetarian lifestyle has become increasingly popular across the globe. Vegetarian refers to those people who exclude consumption of animal products for ethical, environmental, religious, or health reasons but consume a variety of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains or dairy products for living. There are also different types of vegetarians with different dietary preferences:
- Vegan: They are considered “total vegetarians” and refrain from consuming all kinds of animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, butter or eggs. Also, they don’t use products that are obtained from animals such as silk, wool or leather.
- Lacto vegetarian: They don’t consume certain animal products such as meat, poultry, fish or eggs but use dairy products such milk and milk products like yogurt and cheese.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: This is the most common type of vegetarian in the world. They do not consume meat, poultry or fish but allow dairy products and eggs.
- Ovo vegetarian: They don’t consume meat, poultry, fish and dairy products but eat eggs.
- Pescatarian: They are also called “pesco-vegetarian.” They exclude meat and poultry but allow seafood.
Ethics, lifestyle and environment
Many people choose to follow a vegetarian diet out of concerns for animal welfare, the environment, or personal preference, or just to make a social statement by eliminating or restricting particular foods from their diet. They believe that it takes far more resources to produce a pound of steak than it does to produce a pound of grain. In addition, the violence with which animals are slaughtered for consumption can be too much for some people who value life. Whether you agree or not with these views, being a vegetarian is a great way to lose weight too.
People who are vegetarians are less likely to become obese than individuals who are non-vegetarians. Given that obesity is found to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer, a vegetarian diet reduces the risks of getting such diseases and as a result may prolong the life expectancy of vegetarian people.
Vegetarian diets affect nutrition and have to be carefully planned to ensure that they contain enough proteins and essential nutrients to support good health and avoid health issues. A vegetarian diet is naturally low in fats and high in fiber. A poorly planned vegetarian diet can lack vital nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, zinc and protein. While these nutrients can be obtained from plant-based foods, you can also add dietary supplements to your diet to make sure that you are getting the right amount of essential nutrients.
Vegetarians are less likely to become obese than non-vegetarians due to higher intake of foods that are lower in calorie and fat such as fruits and vegetables.
A vegetarian diet is less expensive than a traditional diet with meat, poultry or seafood unless the fruits and vegetables are organic. You can adopt a lifestyle that not only keeps the pounds off but saves you money too.
Diets That Restrict Quantity or Types Of Foods
Another way to approach diets is to limit the intake of specific foods or change portion size. These diets concentrate on losing weight or achieving a desired health goal but don’t do much for fitness. There are several diet programs that categorize and limit certain types of foods according to some dietary principles. For instance, people on diabetic diets often restrict foods with a high Gylcemic Index for medical reasons. These foods also tend to be high in calories and cause weight gain too.
Some people can also be sensitive to particular elements in the diet that can cause all kinds of fitness problems and weight gain. These diets typically focus on excluding foods like wheat gluten, dairy and/or sugar. It’s believed that by excluding foods that are difficult to digest, a person’s body becomes more efficient, and it gets easier to maintain an optimum weight.
Other diets are based solely on the idea that some foods have a higher caloric value than others. Some foods are high in fat and others are not. By understanding which foods have a higher potential to contribute to weight gain, you can avoid those foods. If limiting those foods is too difficult to manage, some diet plans come with pre-packed portions to make sure that you don’t take in too many calories.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a value-assigned ranking system of carbohydrate-containing foods according to how they affect blood sugar levels. You can easily find healthy food choices by looking up the GI value in the Glycemic Index.
There are also diets that increase nutritional intake for health and muscle building purposes. Most diets on the market today are a combination of calorie restriction and nutrition management. It’s important to lose weight but not at the expense of important vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain good health. So, many diets take into account the fact that proper nutrition is essential for people, particularly for people who may be suffering from a medical condition or whose age requirements dictate specific nutritional guidelines.
Nutrition and Health
If you are suffering from a medical condition or noticing signs of poor nutrition like hair loss, brittle nails, or bad skin tone, then you must make sure the diet you are on is providing the proper nutrition. People with heart problems, for instance, would want to avoid high-protein diets which would raise their cholesterol to dangerous levels. People with diabetes in the family might be better off with less high-sugar fruits in their diet, even though they are nutritious for most people. If you have problems with irregular bowel movements, you need to make sure that you get enough fiber while reducing food intake. If you have specific medical or genetic weaknesses that can be aggravated by diet, you need to know what they are and make sure that the nutrition your diet provides can support your overall health in the long run.
Nutrition and Age
Our culture has been producing more and more obese children, but putting them on a diet can be unhealthy. Children have specific dietary needs like calcium for growing bones that can’t be limited without affecting the growth process. Anytime you think of putting your children on a diet, you should check with a nutritionist to make sure that the diet you choose will provide the necessary nutrition they need to grow healthy while limiting caloric intake.
On the other end of the spectrum, people who are in their senior years also require customized nutrition plans. If you are trying to lose weight, you have to be certain that how you choose to lose weight won’t affect your overall health. The same way children need calcium for growing bones, older people need it to maintain bone density and avoid osteoporosis.
Diets To Improve Fitness
Some diets are set up to improve fitness instead of decreasing weight. This type of diet concentrates on increasing muscle mass rather than just restricting caloric intake. Sometimes, as in the case of an ectomorph, calories are actually increased to reach the desired level of fitness.
Diets that improve fitness are typically designed to include an exercise program such as strength and endurance training necessary to build muscle mass. The foods you eat need to be selected to work with the diet program and should have additional elements to help build muscle. To that aim, people trying to increase muscle mass will also have to increase protein and carbohydrates in their diet significantly.
People who are trying to build muscle will often have to eat significant portions of lean meat as they contain high quality proteins. However, fat is still limited in the diet. Since exercise is a regular part of the diet plan for fitness, it is necessary to increase the intake of some foods to help have energy to build muscle.
Diet Pills and Supplements
Today there are all kinds of pills and supplements on the market that are sold as diet aids. There are prescription and non-prescription diet pills. There are natural diet supplements. They all work by various mechanisms:
- Appetite suppression
- Increasing metabolism
- Inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb nutrients
- Providing enhanced nutrients
There is a great deal of controversy over whether diet pills and supplements are safe or even effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate most of them. Since such aids boost the metabolism in some cases, they can have negative side effects on the nervous system. Some people claim that they produces an addictive sensation like a stimulant. Some of the ingredients in diet pills and supplements, like ephedrine, have been linked to heart attacks, seizures and strokes. For the most part, health professionals do not think that diet pills and supplements are the best route to losing weight. However, there are many prescription pills available that can be taken under a doctor’s supervision.
Diet Fads, Risky Diets
Diets come and go, and depending on your goals they may or may not be good for you. In order to choose a suitable diet program for yourself, you really need to decide what your primary goal is so the progress you make can inspire you to continue with the diet. If your primary goal is to lose weight, the Body For Life Diet might be discouraging when you gain weight due to muscle growth. Similarly, if you want to maintain heart health, the Atkins Diet may not work for you.
As new research emerges on the way the body loses weight, new diets appear on the market. If you know what your goals are, you can easily decide whether it’s a diet you are interested in or think you can implement it. Just be careful not to fall into any diet fads that put your health at risk or cause you undue stress.
Trying to lose weight is an admirable goal if you are not already underweight to begin with. However, with the incidence of eating disorders being diagnosed more and more in our society, it’s important to keep good health at the forefront of any diet restrictions. Anytime a diet recommends using concepts that are ultimately bad for your health in return for a temporary reduction in weight, you can rest assured that it is a risky diet fad which at times can turn deadly.
Laxatives are substances designed to loosen stool and increase bowel movement to treat and prevent constipation. However, some people try to lose weight by using laxatives. Some herbal pills work like laxatives but are sold as weight loss pills. Laxative abuse can result in serious problems which can interrupt bowel movement and imbalance the electrolytes in your system. These can result in malnutrition at best and kidney failure at worst. Laxatives are not designed to be used as a valid weight loss product in any way.
Diuretics, also called water pills, are substances that are designed to increase the amount of water and salt excreted from the body as urine. The abuse of diuretics to induce water loss and salt to lose weight can have unwanted consequences. They are powerful drugs that are meant to treat high blood pressure. However, when abused, they can lead to increased levels of uric acid in the blood. This can cause health problems ranging from dizziness and headaches to irregular heartbeat or muscle paralysis.
Fasting is quite popular among teenagers as a means to lose weight. Normally you will start losing weight when you lower your calorie intake. However, if taken to extremes, fasting can lead to a series of health problems, including malnutrition and muscle loss. The initial weight you lose on a fasting diet will be mainly fluid not fat. So when you stop fasting and start eating again, you will not only regain the weight you lost but also start gaining extra pounds because a slower metabolism induced by fasting makes it easier to gain weight. Also, the weight you gain is likely to be all fat not muscle. No well-balanced diet should include fasting for long periods of time as a method to lose weight.
Another eating disorder, called bulimia, can start as a way to control weight through self-induced vomiting or purging, which is a sign of severe eating disorder. In reality, purging is not an effective way of getting rid of calories to lose weight. At times this can be harder to spot as the person purging may remain within his or her normal weight range unlike people suffering from anorexia nervosa, which is also a serious eating disorder characterized by weight loss or difficulty maintaining a normal body weight. Left untreated, the repeated cycle of binging and purging can result in numerous health issues ranging from digestive problems to heart damage and infertility.
Many diets do require exercise as a part of their weight loss programs but they should be appropriate for the fitness level of the person dieting. Anytime someone is trying to lose weight through intense exercise without being supervised by a trained person, there is a potential risk of injury and heart problems. Exercise should be used to help achieve weight loss goals in moderate and healthy ways.
As a final word, if you believe that some folks close to you are jeopardizing their health with risky diets, you can make them aware of the health issues involved in implementing such diets. Do not criticize them for their weight problems. Simply talk to them about your concerns that they may be putting their health at risk. If the person is a teenager under your care, monitor her eating habits to see if she is losing weight quickly or developing an eating disorder as a result of following a risky diet. If she is, you need to get her appropriate counseling before the eating disorder gets out of hand and leads to serious health issues.
“The Ultimate Guide To Healthy Dieting”
- What Type Of Diet Should You Choose For Your Body Type To Lose Weight?
- Factors To Consider For A Healthy and Balanced Diet
- How To Develop Good Habits When You Are On A Diet
- The Best Methods To Measure Your Body Fat Percentage
- Keeping Track Of Your Diet and Fitness Progress
- Strategies To Help You Stay On Your Diet Plan