Top 5 Most Popular Diets for Weight Loss: Which is right for you?

You – “I want to lose weight but there are SOOO many diets out there to choose from! Which ones REALLY work?”

Us – “Pretty much all of them…”

It’s true. There are countless weight loss programs out there with plenty of success stories to back them up. It’s NOT about deciding which one works, it’s about which one will work for you.

Top 5 Most Popular Diets for Weight Loss: Which is right for you?

The BIG question we need to ask ourselves is “What can I sustain for the rest of my life”. Sure, losing 20lbs in 20 days would be awesome, if only the weight stayed off. But what’s the point in that? Unless you’re competing in a physique competition in a month or prepping for a UFC fight, quick fixes aren’t the answer.

According to webmd.com, “By some estimates, 80% of people who successfully lose at least 10% of their body weight will gradually regain it to end up as large or even larger than they were before they went on a diet.”

We have all seen incredible transformations in our friends through social media or even with ourselves, just to see all the weight come back.

Forget about the quick fixes and start thinking long term. You’ll thank yourself in 10 years when you’re still thin and loving life.

So today we break down the 5 most popular diets for weight loss and help you decide which is right for you. Which program will not only help you feel great about how you look, but stay that way for good? Let’s dig in!

 

Keto

Overview:

This high protein, low carb diet has picked up A LOT of popularity over the last few years. For good reason too! People are not only using it for weight loss and shredded abs but to fight against chronic disease and aching joints.

In short, Keto is a diet mostly consisting of proteins and fats with VERY little carbs. In fact, most Keto followers suggest eating only 5-10% of total daily calories from carbohydrates.

ketogenic diet macros pyramid food diagram, low carbs, high healthy fat

Say goodbye to pasta, sweet treats and soda! Bring on the bacon!

After a short time of low carb and high fat consumption your body goes into a metabolic state called Ketosis. Basically, this means your body is SUPER efficient at processing fats for energy. So instead of relying on the sugar rush from your soda at lunch, your body will break down and use stored or consumed fat to give you a boost.

There are several different types of Keto diets. To read more about them, click here.

Pros

  • You don’t need to count anything! No calorie tracking is necessary. Just avoid most, if not ALL foods containing carbs.
  • You get to eat fat! The idea that “fat is bad for you” is outdated. Ignore the labels that say “low fat” and enjoy your favorite fatty foods.
  • Reduced inflammation in the joints helping those aches and pains go away.
  • Studies have shown that eating a keto diet can help fight against type 2 diabetes and even stop medication all together!! Read the study here.

Cons

  • You don’t get to eat cookies or brownies or cookies or brownies… COOKIES!!! Okay obviously I love cookies. Just thinking of giving them up makes me want to throw something. Say goodbye to delicious sweets and desert.
  • Many people end up eating too many unhealthy fats. Excess amount of animal fats can cause A LOT of health issues. If doing Keto, try including lots of fish and make your meat choices organic as often as possible. You should also consider a fish oil supplement.
  • Social outings might get weird. While everyone is enjoying cake at John’s birthday party, you might be eating a bag of almonds instead.

Who is it for?

We have coached hundreds of clients and many of them thrive with Keto. But it takes a certain kind of person that can be successful with this restrictive diet, long term.

If you do NOT have a sweet tooth, hate counting calories and flourish on elimination type diets, Keto may be right for you. This isn’t to say you can never have sweets again, just not very many, very often.

 

Intermittent Fasting

Overview:

Growing up, fasting was always something my family did on the first Sunday of each month for church. I remember how hard it was for me as a kid to stay away from food for a few meals but I believe it taught me discipline. Now, cyclical fasting has become one of the most popular forms of dieting out there.

Intermittent FastingIt’s an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting (not eating) and eating. The nice thing is that intermittent fasting doesn’t specify the types of foods you should eat, just when to eat them.

There are many different types of intermittent fasting methods. Each of which have been proven to work. It’s a matter of finding an eating schedule that works for you. Some require more discipline than others.

  • 16/8 Method: You’ll basically skip one meal a day. 16 hour fast with 8 hour eating window.
  • Warrior Method: 20 Hour fast with 4 hour eating window.
  • 5/2 Method: Twice a week, fast between 16-24 hours.

There have been many claimed health benefits to intermittent fasting but the most popular is weight loss. The idea is that by restricting our eating window, we are able to reduce our daily average calorie intake. This is assuming we don’t overdo it during our spurts of eating to the point our calorie intake is as high or higher than an unrestricted day of eating.

Most intermittent fasting protocols will recommend eating mostly whole foods with an emphasis on protein. You can try eating whatever you want, but if you don’t see great results, consider cleaning up your food choices and increasing the protein.

Above is just a brief overview. If you really think this diet might work for you, check out this article to give you a complete guide.

Pros:

  • No need to stress about what or how much you eat. Of course, if you don’t see the results you want after a couple weeks, consider changing the fasting window and/or eat more whole foods.
  • It’s simple. Routine is everything on this diet. Simply don’t eat and then eat!
  • Studies have observed increases in brain functionality while practicing cyclical fasting. See one study here.

Cons:

  • With most protocols not emphasizing quality foods, you may be limited in essential nutrients that promote good health.
  • Hangry is a real thing. Many of us become very irritable when we go too long without eating.
  • Interfere with social life. This can be said about most diet regimens but maybe with intermittent fasting more than any. You’re at John’s birthday party again and everyone is eating cake… Unfortunately, it’s during your fasting window. NO CAKE FOR YOU!

Who is it for?

If you don’t mind skipping a meal or two and love a scheduled routine, intermittent fasting might be for you.

If you are one of those people who get hangry if lunch comes 15 minutes later than expected, maybe intermittent fasting isn’t right for you.

Also, on a serious note: if you have a medical condition, consult your doctor before giving this a shot. Intermittent fasting may not be appropriate for those with type 2 diabetes because they need glucose throughout the day and going without may have some serious side effects.

 

Weight Watchers

Overview:

Weight Watchers (WW) is one of the most popular weight loss programs in the world. I had no idea it has been around so long until I saw Don Draper’s wife (Betty) from Mad Men attended a WW meeting in season 5. It was first founded in 1963 by Jean Nidetch. Anything that’s been around this long and is still popular has some serious credibility.

Weight Watchers program is centered around a point system which assigns point values to foods based on calories, fat, protein and sugar content.

Foods that are considered healthier are given lower points while unhealthy foods are designated higher point values.

At the beginning of the program, each member is given a customized set of daily points based on age, weight, height and weight loss goals.

What’s nice about this program is that no foods are OFF LIMITS. Instead, members must stay at or below their daily point allowance in order to reach their weight loss goals.

Unlike the majority of the programs on this list, WW is something you actually sign-up for so you don’t have to figure it out on your own. The biggest perk might be the weekly meetings held by WW groups around the world.

My Mother in-law and Grandma in-law (is that what people call that?) have both done WW before and the weekly meetings seemed to be their favorite part. I think they went there to hang out with friends more than anything.

Pros:

  • The point system is simple. Measuring and weighing food can be tedious and kind of annoying. But WW’s point system keeps it simple enough that anyone can follow along.
  • No foods are off limits. If it fits your points, GO FOR IT!
  • Community support from other members in your area at weekly Weight Watcher meetings is probably one of the biggest perks.
  • You have to pay to play. I almost listed this as a con but in our experience, if you are financially invested you are more likely to commit. Money well spent.

Cons:

  • The point system is simple but it’s still a point system. Weighing and measuring may be a turn-off to some of you.
  • Compared to other programs WW is pretty lenient. With an emphasis on portions over quality, members may lack nutrients required for many health benefits.
  • Weekly weigh-ins are required. For some dieters, this requirement is uncomfortable and may discourage if progress isn’t made from the last weigh in.

Who is it for?

If you like the idea of points to keep you accountable and a supportive community, Weight Watchers may just be the program for you.

However, if you’re looking for something more precise with less of a focus on the scale, WW may not be a great fit.

 

Macros

Overview:

If you belong to a gym or know someone obsessed with fitness, you have probably heard the term ‘counting macros’ thrown around.

Counting Macros refers to the VERY precise daily measurement of 3 macronutrients; Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats.

Main food groups - macronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins

Keeping track of grams consumed for each macronutrient via apps like myfitnesspal allows you to have COMPLETE control over your diet.

It’s much more in depth than just counting calories. Depending on your body type, activity and fitness goals, your macronutrient “prescription” may be different.

What most ‘Macro Counters’ love about this way of dieting is the freedom they have to eat whatever they want as long as it “fits your macros”.

This is also one of the biggest draw backs. With an emphasis on quantity over quality many who follow this method may lack micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) required for a healthy body.

However, this isn’t always the case. There are many online sources that emphasize proper water intake and eating mostly whole foods while following their macro protocol.

Pros:

  • Take out all the guess work. Counting macros is about as precise as it gets when measuring amount of daily intake.
  • “If it fits your macros”: Basically, no foods are off limits. Your crushing this diet as long as you hit your daily protein, carb and fat goals.
  • This is not a one size fits all prescription. Your macro breakdown is customizable to your body type, age, activity level and goals.

Cons:

  • Keeping track of your daily intake can be tedious and time consuming. Like anything, you’ll get faster over time but tracking E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G you eat may be too much for some people.
  • With no emphasis on eating quality (whole) foods, many people who count macros may lack micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) which are essential for healthy living.
  • It can be stressful. You most likely won’t hit your macros every day and even if you do, sometimes it comes at a cost of your sanity. You may find yourself tearing through your pantry to find those Swedish Fish to help reach your carb goal for the day.

Who is it for?

If you love to be in control of everything and don’t like loose ends, counting macros may be for you. With precise tracking of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, it’s very hard to not see success.

Doing macros on your own will take some research and some trial and error. Check out this article to get you started. Otherwise, we recommend reaching out to a professional to help you along the way. Check out Stay Fit Mom or Healthy Eater.

However, if logging EVERY food you eat sounds stressful, macros is probably not a good choice.

 

Whole 30

Overview:

I would describe Whole 30 as a diet reboot or cleanse more than anything. This approach is completely opposite to methods like macros with an emphasis on quantity of foods and focuses solely on whole foods.

This 30-day challenge requires participants to eat ONLY from their approved food list with NO DEVIATION. Having a single food off the list is a big No, No. If you do this, you must start the program over on day #1.

whole foods“Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.” – Whole 30

By eating only foods from their approved list, the idea is to get away from sugar, grains, dairy and legumes which could have a negative impact on your health.

Within 30 days many participants claim they’ve lost weight, increased their energy and have less aches and pains which may have been caused by the excess sugar in their previous diet.

Pros:

  • Eliminating certain food groups can help you identify which ones might be making you feel crummy. Milk, sugar and grains can all be causes of many common discomforts.
  • Eat as much as you want… As long as it’s on the list. Sometimes restricting the amount of food we eat can be stressful. Whole 30 doesn’t care about amount, just that it’s unprocessed.
  • You might become more comfortable in the kitchen. Well you almost have to during this program. It’s hard to find unprocessed foods in a drive through, so you’ll likely be spending more time in the kitchen.

Cons:

  • It’s a VERY restrictive diet. If you plan on doing this long term, say goodbye to grains, sugar, beans and dairy, FOREVER.
  • Socially it can be weird. Like most diets, social outings might be uncomfortable or hard to attend when you can’t eat or drink the same things as everyone else.
  • You have to spend more time in the kitchen. This is both a pro and a con. Sure, you get more comfortable cooking but it also takes A LOT more time to cook than it does to hit McDonald’s on your way home from work.

Who is it for?

Again, the goal is to find something you can do long term. This challenge is meant to last only 30 days. But even for the truly dedicated, 30 days is a long time on this restrictive diet.

However, if you don’t feel like you can moderate yourself with processed foods and you have the discipline to eliminate foods, no matter the occasion, Whole 30 can totally work for you.

 

Habitap

(honorable mention)

mom and sonOur 10-week Habitap Challenge isn’t one of the 5 most popular weight loss programs… Yet. We are pretty new to the scene and don’t really consider ourselves a weight loss program anyways. Most of our clients have lost a great deal of weight but what we are REALLY trying to achieve is overall health and wellness.

We have coached hundreds of clients using many different methods/programs including the ones mentioned above. We created Habitap by taking the best parts of each and combined them with our knowledge and experience.

Of course, this is our program and I am a little biased but here is my 100-foot view of the Habitap Challenge.

Overview:

Habitap prides itself on creating lasting success by building lifestyle habits one at a time over a 2-week period.

  • Weeks 1 & 2 – Nutrition (Quality Foods)
  • Weeks 3 & 4 – Portions (Protein & Vegetables)
  • Weeks 5 & 6 – Sleep & Water
  • Weeks 7 & 8 – Exercise
  • Weeks 9 & 10 – De-stress

The Habitap Challenge asks you to eat from an approved food list and separates foods into 1 of 3 categories: Approved, Eat In Moderation and Not Approved. You start off the day with 5 points and take away a point for every item consumed on the Not Approved list.

The portion weeks focus on eating 4 servings of protein and vegetables for men and 3 servings for ladies. Portions are measured by using your hands as a reference: Palm = Protein Serving, Fist = Vegetable Serving.

Additional goals are set for sleep, water, exercise and de-stress to help create an overall healthy lifestyle.

Habitap DashboardEach habits adherence is tracked with a simple point system via your online profile. Easy to follow stats show how consistent you are with each habit and where you might need some work. On your profile you’ll also receive short daily lessons with tips and tricks to help make your current habit a part of your routine.

A constant theme during the challenge is “Progression, NOT Perfection”. We as humans aren’t perfect and can’t expect ourselves to follow a program that’s super restrictive and time consuming and still plan to hold on long term.

Pros:

  • The food list is NOT super restrictive. Whole grains, beans and some dairy products are approved but in moderation.
  • One habit at a time. We’ve all heard slow and steady wins the race. Habitap takes it to heart. By working on each habit for 2 weeks at a time, you can get comfortable with it before adding something new.
  • It’s more than a weight loss program. Habitap builds 6 essential lifestyle habits.

Cons:

  • It’s only one habit at a time. When starting something new most people are eager to take it all on at once. Here you’re required to hold back a bit.
  • Neither the food list nor portions are as strict as other programs like Whole 30 or Macros. This may lead to slower progress comparatively… But that’s our intention J
  • Currently it’s only a 10-week program. After completing the challenge you’re expected to either repeat the 10-weeks or try to sustain your new habits on your own… We’ll be introducing a continued support option soon.

Who is it for?

If you’ve tried other programs in the past with short term success but found yourself gaining all the weight back shortly after, maybe the 10-Week Habitap Challenge is for you.

Or… Maybe you’re trying to create an all around healthy lifestyle. If this is the case, you should definitely give Habitap a try.

However, if any of the other programs/methods above really resonated with you, GO FOR IT! We support you. Each of us is unique and may require a different approach. Find what works for you, long term and stick with it.

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Chad

Hi there! I'm Chad, one half of the Habitap team! Together, my mom and I run this website. We believe in creating a healthy lifestyle by building habits one at a time. In short, we believe LASTING success comes from improving little by little, day by day.

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