The Pro’s & Cons Of Different Approaches To Dieting

There are so many different diets that use a huge variety of different ways and rules and restrictions to help you all achieve one common goal – fat loss. But as soon as you give a dieting system a name you create rules, and rules breed rigidity.

By only looking at the name, and the ‘prescribed rules’ we risk taking a diet too far, and risk suffering for the sake of adhering to arbitrary restrictions laid down by whoever wrote the first book. Any diet with a name was not created for YOU, it was created for the creator because it worked for the creator. This all well and good for them, what about you.  You are going to need your own UNIQUE set of rules and guidelines to follow because you need something that is going to work for YOU.

This means that you may need to investigate what different diets can offer and how we may be able to combine each of their positives and aspects you personally prefer, to create our own UNIQUE diet with its own UNIQUE set of guidelines and rules, of which is created to guide only YOU towards your goal.

Let’s take a look at 3 popular dieting approaches and see what we can take from them, starting with the diet in vogue at the moment:

 

PALEO

 

spit-1-1326586

WHAT IS IT?

The overarching theme of the Paleo diet is that we only eat foods which were around 10,000 years ago, before agriculture. This means it places a lot of emphasis on food quality (as described by the above rule and a few others, including organic and local in some circles) but not on quantity.

WHAT ARE THE PROS?

The focus is on whole foods, and there is a strong emphasis on a high protein intake and eating a amount of vegetables. This helps to reduce intake of added sugars, highly refined grains and sweetened beverages. Improving the quality of your nutrient intake and also reduces the risk of over-eating by a significant amount.

WHAT ARE THE CONS?

The Paleo diet, in it’s strictest form, advocates the removal of many foods which can in fact be beneficial, such as whole grains, legumes and dairy. It also pays little or no attention to calories and therefore will only ‘work’ in terms of weight loss for those who happen to be able to control their eating and portion sizes effectively. Finally, it’s highly restrictive and will make it very difficult to take part in numerous social situations.

 

WHAT SHOULD WE TAKE FROM PALEO?

A whole foods approach should generally be the foundation of your nutrition in general, and protein, vegetables and fats should be the main things you pay close attention to with your overall food intake, adding carbohydrates after that according to lifestyle and athletic requirements. This will improve your health, energy levels and athletic progress.

 

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

what-s-on-your-plate-1307607

 

WHAT IS IT?

Essentially IIFYM controls how much you eat, but not what and when. So long as your macronutrient needs are met by the end of the day, you can pretty much eat what you want.

What are the proposed benefits?

This dieting strategy promises guaranteed results with no restrictions on food choices. Lose fat while eating burgers basically.

 

WHAT ARE THE PROS?

Simply, it works. If you hit your numbers, your body composition will more than likely make predictable changes. There are also no restrictions on foods or timings, meaning that you should theoretically fit this way of eating into any lifestyle.

 

WHAT ARE THE CONS?

With IIFYM, even though you could potentially live on protein bars, protein powder and jelly babies if you wanted to, and likely meet your physique goals. Other aspects such as energy levels, nutrient deficiencies and dental health would likely suffer. Furthermore, this approach can lead to people obsessing about hitting their numbers and, consequently, living a life which is no longer flexible because if a food cannot be weighed, it cannot accurately be tracked.

 

WHAT SHOULD WE TAKE FROM IIFYM?

Calorie and macronutrient control matters if you want to optimise body composition, and we cannot rely simply on hoping for the best when it comes to energy balance. Furthermore, there really aren’t any foods which must be universally avoided in order to maintain optimal health. Healthy eating involves including more variety, rather than excluding ‘bad things’.

 

INTERMITTENT FASTING

clock-1418836

 

WHAT IS IT?

Simply, Intermittent Fasting is where you would go through a period of ‘not eating’ for a certain amount of time. This often ranges from 24-36 hour full day fasting, to 16 hour daily fasts which amount, more or less, to skipping breakfast. Other pseudo fasting protocols exist, too, which involve eating 500-600 calories for 1-2 days per week.

 

WHAT ARE THE PROS?

Intermittent fasting is basically just another way of calorie restriction. By not eating for a prolonged period of time, you will generally reduce your calorie intake without thinking. The claims made about hunger are true, too, because the feelings of hunger you get initially will go away after a short while as your body gets used to your new way of life.

This also makes life a whole lot easier. If you are safe in the knowledge that you can get up and just work until 1-2pm without having to break for food, you get a lot more done.

Additionally, Intermittent Fasting can be an extremely useful tool for those who are obese or very overweight for one reason in particular – Intermittent Fasting helps you understand hunger. Many people go through life avoiding hunger at all costs: we have snacks in the car, at our desks and in our pockets so that, should hunger ‘strike’, we can strike it down straight away. Foods are promoted as filling, and as a great way to live a life without hunger, but the fact is:

Hunger isn’t a bad thing, and if you are going to lose fat, you are going to be a little bit hungry some or a lot of the time.

Allowing people to experience hunger is a good thing, as it helps you to understand the way it comes and goes in waves rather than increasing over time, and it helps you realise that just because you are hungry, nothing particularly bad will happen. This sounds like a small thing, but it can be critical for fat loss success.

 

WHAT ARE THE CONS?

It may sound all good so far, but Intermittent Fasting isn’t all roses. First of all, we need to think of meeting all of our nutrient requirements. If you are eating 1-2 meals per day it can be difficult to consume the same wide range of micronutrients (i.e. vitamins, minerals, etc) as you would eating 3-5 times. This can lead to issues down the road, and potential nutrient deficiencies.

Finally, most Intermittent Fasting protocols don’t control for calories and this can lead to binge-like behaviour. Some people simply don’t deal well with hunger and once they start eating, they struggle to stop. This means that if you give someone a 4 hour eating window, this can be more than enough time to offset 20 hours of fasting, and of course a full day fast can be knocked out during normal days because the dieter may think they can eat whatever they like.

 

WHAT CAN WE TAKE FROM THIS APPROACH?

Intermittent Fasting teaches us that skipping meals isn’t the end of the world. It also shows that hunger isn’t the devil and if we get hungry nothing bad actually happens. Also, other intermittent fasting approaches like 5:2 can be very useful for sedentary populations who would struggle to reduce calories enough to lose weight given their already rock-bottom maintenance intakes, and of course the cons of Intermittent Fasting teach us that, once again, calories do count – regardless of what you do.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Your nutrition needs to be ever evolving, and if we view these array of dieting approaches as a set of tools then we can look and see what works and what we don’t need. There are lessons we can take from everything: Herbalife teaches us that people like easy, the cabbage soup diet tells us that even the most stupid thing you can think of will ‘work’ in the short term and not kill anyone, veganism teaches us that you can build muscle eating beans, and Slimming World teaches us the value of accountability and community.

Use what is useful, discard the rest, add what is yours.