How to Choose a Diet That Suits You

Four Parts:Exploring Restriction DietsExploring Dieting PatternsExploring Crash DietsEnsuring Dieting Success

There are dozens of diets out there, ranging from ones that make perfect sense and are often effective to ones that seem concocted out of thin air and are a complete joke. We'll deconstruct 17 of the most popular ones, talking about restriction diets (restricting calories or food groups), pattern diets (where you change when and how you eat), and crash diets (where the goal is to lose a lot of weight quickly). Having all the knowledge necessary will equip you to decide which diet is best for you.

Part 1
Exploring Restriction Diets

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    Start a low-calorie diet. This is one of the simplest, easiest diets to follow. On a low-calorie diet, you simply decrease the amount of calories you're consuming – the fewer you take in, the quicker you lose weight (the fewer you take in, the more dangerous this diet is, as well). The belief here is that fewer calories correlates directly to weight loss, point blank.
    • The pros: No foods are off limits, they just must be eaten in controlled portions. Every package by law now has to have a nutritional label, and many restaurants cater to low-calorie diets, making going out easy.
    • The cons: It involves math and constant diligence in keeping track of every food you eat (and what you drink, too), though technology has made this easier. On severely restricted diets, you won't feel full and can even become nauseated or dizzy. It also is hard to keep the weight off once you resume your normal caloric intake.
    • Who should follow this? If you're feeling determined and don't mind carrying around a pencil and paper (or using an app on your phone for every meal), this diet could work for you. It's good for those on a strict budget and those who stay pretty busy. It is not great for those who tend to snack a lot and those who want to avoid incessant tracking of their intake.
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    Try a no-carb diet. This diet can result in rapid weight loss, though it is not for everyone. With this diet your intake consists of high levels of protein and fat (fat is good for you, or so Atkins proponents argue). A no-carb dieter eats plenty of meat, cheeses, eggs, vegetables, and nuts – and just about nothing else. The belief behind this diet is that when your body doesn't have carbs to burn, it enters a state of ketosis, where it goes straight to burning fat (hence why fat intake is so important).[1]
    • The pros: It is fairly easy to follow, and allows you to eat many delicious, often fatty foods (meat, cheese, etc.) that other diets restrict. There is no calorie restriction, so, if done right, you'll rarely feel hungry.
    • The cons: During the initial period (2 weeks), people often feel ill. This is called "induction flu" and soon passes, after which people feel more energetic and enjoy improved health and weight loss. What's more, plenty of foods are off limits, which can be incredibly difficult to maintain. It also can be easy to get bored, especially if you're not a whiz in the kitchen.
    • Who should follow this? If you're a great cook (or great with a grill), this diet will be a lot easier. Alternatively, if you don't mind eating the same things day in and day out, this diet is good, too. If you have a raging sweet tooth and aren't much of a meat eater, this diet will be very difficult to maintain, and that's an understatement.
      • Similar to the Atkins, or no-carb diet, is the South Beach diet. It restricts certain carbs and saturated fat. Because of its specifics, it's a little less straightforward, but some may find it more manageable (since some carbs, especially in phase two, are allowed).
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    Experiment with a low-fat diet. With this diet you are not focusing on calories or carbohydrates, but fat. Low fat diets can be dangerous, because there are essential fatty acids that the body requires to function. The only fats that are bad for you are trans fats. The belief of this diet is that is higher in calories than protein or carbs and therefore with restricted fat intake, you're restricting your caloric intake to boot.
    • The pros: It's fairly easy to maintain and involves eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. "Low-fat" is listed on a lot of labels and much of it is common sense (avoid sweets, cakes, cheese, red meat, etc.).
    • The cons: The main con of this diet is that just because a food is low-fat does not mean that it's low-sugar or low salt, which is just as bad, if not worse. Some fats are good for you, and your body may end up craving empty carbohydrates to fill in the void.
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet if it's easy for you to load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats naturally. Do not try this diet if you are a meat-and-cheese lover, want a diligence-free diet, or are looking for rapid weight loss.
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    Go vegan or vegetarian. A vegetarian diet involves eating no meat; a vegan diet involves eating no animal products whatsoever (eggs, milk, etc.) That being said, there are many varieties of vegetarianism, from "flexitarians" who eat meat once in a great while, to pescatarians who only eat fish, to ovo-vegetarians who do eat eggs. In general, this diet is low-calorie, low-fat, and full of many nutrients.
    • The pros: This kind of diet can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.[2] Most vegetarians/vegans load up on fruits and vegetables, which are great for you. There's no counting involved, and sweets are not off limits to vegetarians. What's more, it's animal friendly.
    • The cons: It has to be done right – your body needs proteins that plants often just don't have. Even if you're vegan, you're not necessarily healthy. What's more, it may not lead to weight loss (a box of Twinkies for every meal is technically vegetarian).
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet if you don't much care for meat, anyway, if you're a decent cook (you'll have to modify recipes for yourself to meet your dieting needs), and if you aren't on a restricted budget (fresh produce can be expensive). Avoid this diet if you're a meat-eater by nature and want going out and cooking (cooking for others or cooking that others do for you) to be simple.
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    Try the glycemic index diet. The glycemic index is a scientifically-based system that identifies which foods cause spikes in blood sugar levels and to what degree. The higher the number (1-100), the worse the food is for you. The GI diet avoids foods that spike your blood sugar, believing that those spikes promote fat storage, increase appetite, and lead to weight gain.[3] The diet is comprised of mainly complex, whole grain carbs, and certain fruits and vegetables.
    • The pros: It can reduce your chances of diabetes and stroke. You still get all your food groups, too. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want, so long as it's GI number is low.
    • The cons: It's not logical – for example, some fruits are okay and others aren't (what's more, a ripe banana has a higher number than an unripened banana). Therefore, it can be a bit hard to follow. In addition, your responses to foods change every day, so efficacy can be hard to track.
    • Who should follow this? Turn to this diet if you're looking for slow, continual weight-loss and an eating regimen that you want to maintain for a very long time. Do not do this diet if you're looking for fast results and want something that's easy to keep track of.
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    Explore the Mediterranean diet. This diet is all about eating simple and fresh. It's based on the diet of the people of Southern Italy and Greece who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, unmodified dairy products, nuts, and very little red meat. The people of this region display remarkable low levels of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity – just to name a few.[4]
    • The pros: It doesn't outright restrict any food group, though there is little room for processed junk foods. It does include complex carbs like oats (a win for most people) and even the occasional glass of red wine. It has shown wonders for overall health and is fairly easy to maintain as long as you're conscious of your decisions.
    • The cons: Weight loss won't be rapid and the effects may be more internal that anything. And since it's so broad, it's easy to assume something is okay when it's not. In addition, a handful of nuts is great, but a whole jar isn't. The line can sometimes be difficult to draw.
    • Who should follow this? Try out this diet if you're looking to improve your overall health (instead of rapid weight loss) and love the idea of only eating unprocessed, clean foods. Do not turn to this diet if you're looking for a quick fix, aren't much of a cook (very few frozen dinners are Mediterranean friendly), and are on a tight budget.
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    Go paleo. A recent diet trend has been the "paleo" diet, where you only eat what ancient man had available – lean meat, fish, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts and eggs, mainly. This diet totally cuts out dairy and processed foods, not to mention starchy vegetables like potatoes. It can greatly reduce blood sugar levels, which can be wonderful for your health.
    • The pros: It may lead to significant weight loss, if done correctly. It gets back to how humans are "supposed" to eat, leading to you feeling healthier overall.[5] There's no counting involved, either!
    • The cons: Did we mention no potatoes and no dairy? Some foods that are largely considered healthy (like milk) are cut. What's more, because such basic foods are cut, it can be very difficult to eat out or have food prepared for you. It can also be easy to overeat on something that's good for you, but only in moderation.
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet out if you're big on "clean eating" and love a challenge in the kitchen. Do not turn to this diet if you don't have the time or energy to learn new cooking tactics or wrestle with restaurant menus. This diet is also not good for those who can't imagine life without dessert.
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    Go Asian. Known as the mother of all modern-day diets, the Traditional Asian Diet (TAD) has a history of nearly 5,000 years and is practiced by billions of people around the world today. It advocates a natural, healthy and balanced diet containing fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with moderate amounts of eggs, lean meat and fish. Followers of the diet also have lower risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke.
    • The pros: It is all-natural, completely backed up by scientific evidence and 100% safe. The diet is balanced so all your nutritional needs are met. No counting is required, although you certainly can if you want to.
    • The cons: You need to learn to cook a few Asian dishes. However, most of them are very easy. You need to give up almost all processed food and junk food.
    • Who should follow this? This is the perfect diet for those who love healthy and clean eating, learning about other cultures and exploring new cooking recipes in the kitchen.
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    Consider weight loss programs. Consider Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, or other similar programs. There are a plethora of dieting programs available out there that come packaged for you with meals, meetings, and even pamphlets for you to read to stay fired up. Most are low-calorie, though some dabble in low-fat foods as well.
    • The pros: Everything is done for you. Some programs will even have meals delivered to your door. If you stick to it, there's no way you can mess it up. In addition, you'll have a network of people at your disposal to use as a support.
    • The cons: You're only eating food prescribed by the program, largely. This does not include Weight Watchers, where you have to keep track of your points (which can get difficult, especially at restaurants). Each one also has fees included.
    • Who should follow this? Try out a program if you want everything pretty cut-and-dry, with no options to make it easy and keep it simple. This is also good for people that get energized by others and who would take advantage of meetings and support groups. If you want to do your own cooking and want plenty of options, sticking to a program is likely not the best dieting idea for you.
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    Consider eating for your blood-type. The blood-type diet argues that people should eat the foods that are good for their specific body, as determined by their blood type. Type A people should emphasize soy, grains, and vegetables, while restricting red meat. Type B people should restrict corn, wheat, lentils, tomatoes, and peanuts, while eating plenty of dairy and meat. Type AB individuals should load up on tofu, seafood, dairy, and most produce. Type O should concentrate on protein, like from seafood and meat.
    • The pros: If it actually works for you, it's catered to you and your body. What's more, there's no counting involved – just a conscious effort to focus on certain foods. There's no caloric restriction, which means you'll never go hungry.
    • The cons: It doesn't seem to work for everyone, and with no caloric restriction that means that there won't necessarily be subsequent weight loss.[6] It also encourages exercise, which is a little off-topic, so to speak.
    • Who should follow this? Well, if you know your blood type, why not give it a shot? As far as diets go, this one is pretty safe and easy to maintain. So long as you're not looking for rapid weight loss, it could be good for you. Just know that not everyone experiences results.

Part 2
Exploring Dieting Patterns

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    Try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting, or IF, is where you only eat during certain times of day, or fast for a certain amount of hours. Some people go a full 24 hours without eating, while others only eat, say, between noon and 6 PM. The belief is that when your body doesn't have a meal to feast off of, it goes straight to your fat stores, resulting in weight loss.[7]
    • The pros: IF will result in weight loss, if not partly because you just eat less. It's super cheap (not eating = $0), and results can be pretty stark, especially if you're overweight or obese to begin with.
    • The cons: This is very unhealthy if done wrong – your body needs food to survive. You will, at least initially, feel tired, irritable, and maybe even nauseated. What's more, it takes the willpower of a machine to stick to.
    • Who should follow this? If you're looking for rapid weight loss and don't mind keeping track of when you should and should not eat, you may want to give this a try. However, if you're rather social and like to stick to a routine, this diet is not for you.
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    Do calorie-cycling. Recent science has supported the idea of calorie cycling: in any given week, you have a few low-calorie days, a couple of regular days, and a high-calorie day.[8] It keeps the body from knowing what to expect, therefore keeping it on high gear at all times.
    • The pros: No food groups are down and out restricted with this diet, and there is that one day where you get to "healthily binge." There are no set times; you just need to remember what day it is!
    • The cons: You have to count your calories, for starters, which can be a bit of a drag. You also can't take too many liberties – just because it's your high-calorie day does not mean you can eat 30 brownies (if you want results, that is).
    • Who should follow this? Most research seems to say that this is healthy enough, if done right. If you want to see results, just make sure you're getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean means, and whole grains every day, regardless of what kind of day it is. If you're diligent and interested in how the body works, this could be for you. But know your weaknesses – this diet can be easy to abuse and does take effort in counting calories and staying on plan.
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    Consider the 3-hour diet. This is a diet that says you should eat every 3 hours to keep your metabolism up – if you don't, your body automatically reaches starvation mode. You eat light meals regularly, and then 100-calorie snacks in between. However, you don't eat 3 hours before bed. There are pre-prepared meals you can buy on this plan if you're interested.
    • The pros: You can eat anything (even buckets of fried chicken), if you control your portion sizes. It also keeps you feeling full, since you're eating all day. It also encourages a healthy balance of all the food groups.
    • The cons: This diet is easy to do wrong. The freedom makes it easy to abuse. In addition, there's not a ton of science to back up the idea that eating often is what you should do.[9]
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet out if you're looking for an interesting twist on dieting and find yourself snacking away, anyway. Do not try this diet if you're looking for surefire weight loss or are lacking in the willpower department.
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    Experiment with the New Beverly Hills diet. The idea behind this diet is that it's not about what foods you eat, it's about when you eat them and what you eat them with. The right combination leads to better digestion, and your body getting rid of it instead of turning it to fat. It claims that you'll see up to a 15 pound weight loss during the diet's 35-day initiation phase.[10]
    • The pros: There's no calorie or food-group restriction and no portion control, believe it or not. You don't have to count a thing, except for the time. It also encourages fruits and vegetables, which are good for the body.
    • The cons: Well, for starter it's not scientifically backed up, and in the beginning it requires only eating fruit, which is not healthy. The rules are a little convoluted and difficult to follow (only eat protein once you've eaten protein; once you eat a type of fruit, be done with it and switch to a different type of fruit, etc.).
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet if you've tried everything else and it doesn't seem to be working. Maybe your body will respond to timing changes. Also try this diet if you're not into portion control or food restriction. There is a book, tapes, and meal plans you can purchase for a fee, if you're willing to spend money. Do not try this diet if you're not diligent and serious – this diet is easy to not lose weight on.

Part 3
Exploring Crash Diets

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    Do a master cleanse. This diet is sometimes known as the "Lemon Detox Diet" or the "Maple Syrup Diet." It is a liquid diet and nothing else. The Lemonade Diet is the middle phase, sandwiched between the ease-in and ease-out phases. The two outside phases are 3 days each of drinking only fruit and vegetable juices and broth. During the main phase, you only drink filtered water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and a bit of cayenne pepper.
    • The pros: At the end, you may feel fresher and more energetic, in addition to having lost a noticeable amount of weight. A cleaner liver also may metabolize food faster, and set up your body to lose weight in the long term. It's also cheap and can be made at home.
    • The cons: You will feel irritable, hungry, tired, and dizzy. You have to take a laxative at night to encourage bowel movements. Quite clearly, no aspect of this diet is healthy. It is not backed by science and exercising while on this cleanse is not recommended.[11] This "diet" is only about rapid weight loss at any cost.
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet only if you absolutely must lose a noticeable amount of weight in a very short period of time. Otherwise, just about any other diet is better and will produce longer-lasting results.
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    Consider juicing. This is a diet where you subsist on the juices from fruits and vegetables and that's it – it's another completely liquid diet, though arguably healthier than the Master Cleanse outlined above. A few studies (though not all) have shown that those who juice have lower rates of Alzheimer's, cancer, and heart disease.[12] However, the debate still rages as to the validity of this diet.
    • The pros: Most people don't get enough fruits and vegetables, and this is certainly one way to do it. Because of the calorie restriction, you will lose weight.
    • The cons: For starters, you need a juicer and plenty of fresh produce, which can add up to a pretty penny. It's highly restrictive, boring, and you may get very hungry and irritable. What's more, you'd probably be better off eating the whole fruit as it's argued that produce loses its nutrients once they hit air.[13] It also restricts too many food groups to be healthy.
    • Who should follow this? Only try this diet, again, if you're looking for a quick, temporary fix. It's expensive and takes time to prepare, so keep that in mind. Juices also should be consumed immediately as they acquire bacteria over time.
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    Try the cabbage soup diet. The cabbage soup diet is a 7-day diet where you start off only eating cabbage soup and slowly incorporate other foods. You start adding in a few fruits, then a few vegetables, then some meat, and then some grains, like brown rice. Its aim is for rapid weight loss; advocates claim you can lose 10 pounds in the one week you're on this diet.[14]
    • The pros: If you stick to it, you will lose weight (initially, at least). Apart from the fact that cabbage soup is cheap, that's about it.
    • The cons: This diet isn't exactly healthy and once you're done, you'll likely gain the weight back anyway. It's incredibly difficult to stick to – after about one or two bowls of cabbage soup on day 1, you'll have had your fill for the entire week. Unsurprisingly, it is not backed by science.
    • Who should follow this? Try this diet only if you've exhausted pretty much every other option (save the liquid diets). It's restrictive and hard to keep up, so you better be sure you're in it to win it if you start this diet up.
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    Start the chicken soup diet. The chicken soup diet is pretty simple: yogurt, orange juice, whole wheat bagels, ricotta cheese, prune juice, and/or skim milk for breakfast, and then chicken soup for the rest of the day for a whole week.[15] That's it. Hey, it's better than cabbage, right?
    • The pros: You can make your week's worth of meals in one go in your kitchen – just make a huge batch and save it for later. It'll also lead to large weight loss, especially if you don't inhale bagel after bagel every morning.
    • The cons: It's boring and highly restrictive. It's also not healthy as you're cutting out a bunch of necessary food groups. The weight will come back when you resume normal eating, too.
    • Who should follow this? Consider this diet if you're looking for a quick fix and happen to really love chicken soup (if you're a good cook, you may be able to fashion different variations to keep it exciting). Do not lean on this diet if you're looking for long-last effects and if your willpower isn't made of steel. A day or two on this diet and most dieters will have had enough.

Part 4
Ensuring Dieting Success

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    Do it with a buddy. Regardless of whatever type of diet you're doing, do it with a friend if you can. This goes double for any diet that is hard to stick to, like the Master Cleanse diet or the cabbage soup diet. Having someone is to keep you strong and hold you accountable may be just what you need to make it through.
    • This is why the programs, like Weight Watchers, are useful. But you often don't need a verified program to find support – talk to your friends and family because they may be going through the same thing!
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    Combine it with exercise. Almost any diet will be complemented by exercise, be it aerobic, weight-training, or both (both is generally best). Whether it's a walk in the park or a 4-mile run, it's a good idea. And your weight loss results will be even more noticeable, making the plan easier to stick to.
    • This only should be avoided if your caloric restriction is severe – if you exercise on a perpetually empty stomach, there could be health implications.
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    Go organic and whole grain. Again, regardless of the diet you're on, if you're eating food, choose organic when you can and whole grain when you can. The fewer processes your food has gone through, the more intact the nutrients are.
    • This is where dieting can get expensive. To make it cheaper, buy in bulk and shop at farmer's markets when you can. Try pot lucks, too, with friends who are also conscious of their eating.
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    Make sure it's flexible and enjoyable. No diet will stick if it's not two things:
    • Flexible. There will be days when you decide to be social and go out to restaurants. There will be days when you have nothing to eat in the house but ramen noodles. There will be days when you just don't feel up to it. A diet that's flexible, where you don't blame yourself if you mess up, is the easiest to stick to.
    • Enjoyable. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that only drinking lemon-maple water for a week isn't fun. If it were, it'd be easier to stick to. Make sure whatever kind of diet you choose has some foods that you enjoy. Love meat? Try the Atkins diet. Can't get enough olive oil? Go Mediterranean. You have options!
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    See your doctor for dieting advice. The only person who knows your body almost as well as you do and has an opinion you should trust is your doctor. Before you start any serious dieting regimen, it's important to consult him or her for advice. Every body is different, and some diets may not be suitable for yours.
    • This goes double if you're pregnant, a growing teen, a senior citizen, or if you have any health issues at all. The last thing you want is your diet to cause more health implications. Talk to your doctor about a couple of diets you're considering – he or she may have an even better idea!


  • Readers should be in sound health before going on a diet. If on medication they should check with their doctor.

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Categories: Maintaining Diets