When it comes to diets, losing weight, and the “health” food industry, there are several routes you can take. So many in fact it can be daunting. Do you try Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem? But there's also Atkins, Paleo Diets, Ketogenic, Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw Foods, Gluten Free, Detoxes, and so the list keeps going. How do you know which one to do, or which one is right for you? More importantly, will you keep the weight off?
There may be a ton of different diets out there, but in reality, most diets fall in one of two foces: the quality of foods and the quantity of foods. With the quantity, it's all about calorie counting and portion control. Weight Watchers is probably the most notorious for using this model with their points system, though Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem follow similar lines. The idea with this dieting philosophy is to eat what you want, but once you reach the limit, you're done.
The pros to this diet is simple enough to see: you do not need abstain from any food, even cheesecake. The cons however, is that you'll find yourself many times already at your quota halfway through the day. It's really more of a gimmick of advertising to say you can eat what you want with these diets. Sure you can have that Baconator with supersize fries, but that's it … for the next 3 days! I may have exaggerated just a little right there, but I've seen friends on these diets do almost that.
Let's look at the other dieting philosophy-Quality Foods. The big focus here is not so much on how much you eat, but what you eat. With Atkins and Ketogenic diets, the focus is high protein with low amounts of carbs. The Paleo diet also does something similar, but the real focus is to stay away from agricultural products, like grains (which is similar to Gluten-free diets). Then you got the other end of the spectrum with Vegetarians and Vegans with meat and animal products avoided. Finally, you have probably the most extreme with the Raw Foods diet / lifestyle, that follows the philosophy, “if you have to cook it, do not eat it.”
Pros: with all these different focuses, a common thread is on the quality of the foods you're putting in your body. Many of these diets focus on whole foods more than processed artificial foods. While some Quality focused diets, like Atkins in particular, should not be done as a lifestyle, a lot of them, like Paleo and Vegan, can be. What's more, choosing one of these diets as a lifestyle can lead to long term health benefits and slow aging.
The cons to these diets are that, if unrestricted, they are not a complete system for healthy change.
The truth is, if you want to lose weight and, more importantly, live a healthy life, you really need a mix of both dieting philosophies. Sticking to good, quality, whole foods is, I believe, the first and most important step. Whether you go ketogenic or Paleo or Vegan does not matter as much as the central idea to eat non-processed foods. The problem with foods that are recommended in Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem, is that many of them are highly processed and can affect long term health. But their focus on how much you should eat should not be discounted (at least the idea, not necessarily the specifics).
By watching your calories and ratios of carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals and pairing that with whole-foods, you will not only see results, but ones that will stay with you into your 90's and beyond. Do not diet, eat healthy as a lifestyle.