Nutritionist weighs in - Which weight loss diets work and which ones don’t?


One size does not fit all
Weight management is typically pursued for many reasons - from getting fit for a special event to improving one’s health indicators. Most often, regardless of the intent, weight loss programs are perceived as a process of adapting to diet and exercise for a short period before getting back to regular habits and life. It’s also seen as something that can be taken on independently, through trial and error and without the need for professional guidance.
By adopting this approach, the journey of getting fitter can quickly become frustrating for many. Mostly because short-term dieting can lead to frustration and discouragement as the weight may return after the dieting period has ended. The challenge with word-of-mouth and basic googling is that it’s easy to commit to a diet or change in lifestyle, which ends up being too difficult to sustain long enough to see results, and longer to maintain those results. It’s important to understand that people are fundamentally different, so what works for one person will not work for another.
Because of people’s upbringing, tastes, preferences, it’s hard to let go of staple foods like rice, roti and sweets, usually looked down upon when one is trying to lose weight. Additional factors like smoking, drinking, improper sleeping patterns, inadequate hydration, and day-to-day challenges like not having enough time or finances to invest in yourself or being in a high-stress environment can slow down your process significantly. Furthermore, a person’s eating disorders, insulin resistance, and other lifestyle conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes may also prove to be a barrier to losing weight.
Also, weight management is not just a physical process but also a mental journey of setting healthy goals, fixing one’s mind on them, continuing even if it takes longer than you had thought, and celebrating your progress, however little. And this journey is distinguished for everyone. A 
healthy weight loss
 regime requires a multidisciplinary effort. You need a lifestyle design that you can quickly adapt to give your preferences and constraints, get you in shape, manage any illnesses, motivate you, and lead you to a state of mind where every small victory sparks joy.
A deeper look at popular diets
When you say “weight loss” in a social setting, it’s usually followed by advice about taking up a specific type of diet. Some of the most popular diets today have pros and cons. But overwhelmingly, they’re not appropriately understood and don’t consider all of the factors mentioned above. We asked Alpa Momaya, Senior nutritionist, at HealthifyMe to weigh in on the different diets that have picked up many audiences in the last decade. Here’s what she said:
  • Keto - Ketogenic diet works by lowering your levels of insulin and shifting your primary fuel source from sugar to ketones - compounds made from fat. When one follows this diet, their body’s fat-burning system relies mainly on fat instead of sugar. Unlike any other low-carb diet, it doesn’t gradually increase the number of carbs; it is deficient from the beginning. The typical breakdown of macronutrients in a keto diet is - 75% of calories are from fat, 15-20% from protein, 5-10% from carbohydrates. While Keto gives instant results because carbs are cut to a minimum and works for people who want short term results, it is very rigid and difficult to follow for a long course. Drastic reduction in carbs intake shows side effects like nausea, headaches, often accompanied by brain fog. Also, because this diet involves a high intake of fat and minimum consumption of vegetables, it puts people at risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Furthermore, the lost weight bounces back with the reintroduction of carbohydrates.
  • LCHF (Low carb, high fat) - An umbrella term for plans involving low carbohydrate and high-fat foods, this diet, as the name suggests, is low in carbs and restricts grain like bread, pasta, rice, potato, roti, sugar, and processed foods. It includes eating lean meats - chicken, fish, eggs, and low carb veggies, nuts, seeds, and fruits. The difference between Keto and LCHF is that the former works on a defined macronutrient percentage but not the latter. LCHF is more of a lifestyle change where one eats a low-carb, high-fat and protein-moderate diet for life. The only rule is - a maximum of 100 gms of carbs are allowed. This diet plan may work for people with carb craving and binge eating habits because it reduces hunger pangs. It also claims it is suitable for diabetes and epilepsy. However, the side effects of carbs and grains being restricted translate into nausea, constipation, and gastrointestinal issues, which not many can tolerate. It is especially not a viable option for athletes, pregnant and lactating women, or teens who require a specific amount of calories or nutrients from a particular food group.
  • Intermittent Fasting - IF, also called the lean gains method, is an eating pattern that cycles between fasting and regular meals in a time-restricted window. It comes from the belief that fasting gives the body time to detox from the night before and aids weight loss. It uses principles of Circadian rhythms and minds the body clock. There are diff ways of practising IF - all of which involve splitting the day into eating and fasting periods. During the eating period, you eat fewer meals, and in the fasting window, you are only allowed to drink plain water, lemon water, and green tea; no food is permitted. Some people intermittently fast for 16 hours and eat all of their meals in the remaining 8 - 16:8 being the original idea behind IF. The other ways are - fast for 24 hours at a time twice in a week or 5:2 where one eats 500 calories for two days and average calories for the remaining five days of the week. The benefits of this diet include swift weight loss by eating fewer meals and automatic reduction in calories; it can modify one’s hormone levels to aid the weight loss process. It works well for busy schedules who do not want to cook and regulate their eating patterns with timed eating. It also controls calorie intake, which is a pain point for many people. However, the results of following Intermittent Fasting will solely depend on the food choices one makes in the eating window. Craving and overindulgence are significant pitfalls, and hunger pangs may lead people to abandon them altogether. If food is not appropriately chosen, sugar levels may go very low for people with diabetes.
  • GF (Gluten-free) - This diet involves avoiding any food item that contains gluten - a mixture of proteins found in grains. Most people can eat gluten without any side effects, but some have intolerance towards it. There are also people with celiac disease (gluten sensitivity) who suffer symptoms like diarrhoea, fatigue, bloating, nausea, constipation etc. A gluten-free diet can improve gastrointestinal symptoms for these people and is the only treatment for celiac disease. It can also improve symptoms for joint inflammation and Rheumatoid Arthritis. But, because grains are eliminated in this diet, it is low in fibre, causes nutritional deficiency, and keeps the body devoid of vitamins found in grain. GF foods are also expensive and don’t taste as good. So, manufacturers enrich them with fats and calories to make up for the taste. Eating out also becomes an issue because there are fewer options available on the menu.
  • Paleo Diet - Based on the diet structure that our ancestors used to follow, this plan includes eating meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, and roots. It conveniently avoids grains, legumes, oil, sugar, processed, salt, alcohol etc. Quick results can be achieved by following this diet because of calorie restriction. It also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes as it allows low amounts of carbs and sugar. However, sudden and drastic reduction in carbs can cause side effects like constipation, headache, muscle cramps etc. Following it for a longer duration may result in vitamin and mineral deficiency and gastrointestinal disturbances. The foundation of this diet ignores the fact that modern-day eating practices and lifestyles have changed our digestive system, so it may be an obsolete way of dieting.
Markers of a sustainable diet
  • It doesn’t take an “exotic foods” or “salads only” approach - It’s going to be tough for any Indian to give up the beloved “home-cooked food” and the occasional chaat or sweet. And salad can be a good accompaniment but not a replacement for staple foods.
  • Your diet preferences / medical conditions are considered - Based on your height, weight, age, activity levels, med cons, etc.
  • The markers of success go beyond the number on the scale. Not how much you weigh, but how you feel is a more significant derivative.
  • A sustainable diet guarantees practical outcomes and does not promise not too-good-to-be-true results.
The benefits of working with a professional team to get fit
People work with fitness trainers and coaches for many reasons. Whether you want to develop an individualized program to support weight loss goals, get in shape, or feel that you’d benefit from the additional accountability, a personal trainer can be a great resource. Wherever you are on your weight loss journey, a fitness coach can offer support, tips, and training as you work to reach your fitness and weight loss goals. You can rely on their power to educate and help you perfect your form; not only do they cater to your requirements but also help you set realistic long-term goals and keep you accountable to your new fitness routine. A great coach knows how to minimise time wasted, maximise results, and bolster a holistic weight loss plan with nutritional guidance.
They also make your mental well-being a priority and provide a support system that you can fully trust. A trusted professional team will help you get fit once and for all and reach your goals without compromising your health. One can learn about nutrition and fitness and feel empowered to take off independently when your program is over.
A trusted friend in this journey is the  HealthifyMe app that guides you through the weight loss journey with a holistic approach and snowball method. With 25+ million happy users who lost 5+ million kgs, with the help of 600+ coaches, this is the only health and fitness app you will ever need. From health tracking to personalized coaching, from offering diet and workout plans to assisting you online through an artificial intelligence coach - they do it all, and they do it well.
One of the best things about  HealthifyMe is their sensitivity towards their users’ mental health through the weight loss journey, and they take care of it through HealthifySense. It is their emotional wellness offering where you can consult a psychologist to tackle issues like disordered eating, disrupted sleep cycles, relationship issues, etc. That may cause stress and hinder your weight loss progress. When you sign up for HealthifySense, you get the care you deserve with a Premiere Psychologist consultation who understands how you want to be understood. You will be assisted by expert and certified coaches who will recommend the best nutrition, fitness, and yoga plans per your body type and weight loss goals. You may consult them as many times as you want and get customized programs created to cater to your lifestyle and preferences. The app also allows you to connect with like-minded individuals with similar goals who celebrate your highs and inspire you through your lows.
Another great feature is the HealthifyMe meal trackers that can help you plan balanced meals and achieve calorie deficit with pre-calculated calorie and macronutrient requirements based on your body stats and demographics, and pre-existing medical conditions.
So, if you are looking to lose weight the smart way, download HealthifyMe, start small and allow your healthy habits to build from there. It’s time to stop thinking of dieting to make yourself miserable and start thinking of it as a way to train yourself to behave well now and in the future. 
Kickstart your fitness journey by downloading the HealthifyMe app here."
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