In a short answer, no… diets do not work. The short term nature of a diet is, by definition, a short term change in eating habits.
Diets cannot be sustainable, the principle of banning certain foods or food groups from your weekly intake means that you will be lacking in some sort of nutrition. The key to losing weight by healthy eating is to moderate intake and ensure that intake is sufficient to fuel the body for the more important exercise.
I have read books, articles, followed different methods and debunked myths in search of the perfect diet. Certain systems, such as Weight Watchers, are good in that they promote a life long change in eating habits. Others, such as a banana or juice diet are clearly unsustainable.
A good meal plan rewards participants for exercise, and enables them to comfortably partake in this without causing adverse affects. Diets do promote weight loss, let me be clear. However, two weeks after the diet, when you have suddenly started eating solid food or have restarted carbohydrate intake, has your weight remained the same?
Another issue with yo-yo dieting is the issue with removing a food or food group from your diet. Anyone who has tried to “quit chocolate” for new year, or remove all sweet items from their diet has experienced the inevitable cravings, and more often than not, the failure of being unable to maintain a drastic change to the diet.
One other important recognition is that people do slip, and even with the best of intentions, a slip is to be expected. However, the difference between successes and failures is determined by the actions after the slip. If you step straight back on the wagon and shrug off the slip, well done. However, it is easy to give it all up for a day, week or month just simply because of a dessert when out for a meal. Knowing how to recognise when you have slipped, and knowing how to kick back off with healthy eating is vital for long term success.
One diet worth mentioning is the Paleo Diet. While not strictly a diet, you are drastically affecting your diet by abolishing grains. For those who do not know, the Paleo system involves eating like a caveman – meat, fruit and vegetables. Grains and other carbohydrate rich foods are banned, as they are processed within the body to sugars. Certain foods within Paleo are limited depending on your targets (fruit is high in sugar so not great for weight loss), but on the whole, if a caveman ate it, so can you. I am torn on this diet. Generally I am against the unsustainable nature of removing certain foodstuffs from a diet. However, the variety which can be obtained by meat, fruit and vegetables is sufficiently high that I am unsure. Results are possible following this system, both in weight loss and general health. I may give it a go, to see how it pans out.
What are your thoughts on diets? Have you tried the Paleo and did it work? Let me know in the comments.