Do The Most Popular Diets Work? - THE FIT MUM FORMULA

Do The Most Popular Diets Work?

Fads and trends come and go, usually accompanied by celebrity endorsements and a wonderful array of marketing tactics, but do today’s popular diets actually work?

It’s a sorry fact that today more people in developed countries are either overweight and/or dieting than those who aren’t. Being on a diet is so common that we are actually surprised when we meet someone who ‘just eats normally’!

Where does it all go wrong?

There’s thought that if diets worked, none of us would ever need to be on a diet. So maybe that’s the problem – it’s not the diet itself that’s holding us back but our ability to stick with them.

What makes a good diet long term?

Well as well as keeping you feeling, looking and performing at your best, whatever that means to you, it has to fit to your lifestyle in a convenient and not too disruptive way. You have to enjoy it.

And it has to have enough room for manoeuvre to adapt to whatever is going on in your life and wherever you are.

But many people resort to temporary diets to kickstart their weight loss, which is fine if it is indeed temporary, which means knowing how to continue eating healthily once you reach you goal weight or come to end of the ‘plan’.

Unfortunately that’s where short term diets fall down – they don’t teach long term habits and strategies for health.

In Part 1 of the article I explain what makes a good (or bad) diet, and examine Low Carb and Paleo diet plans.

low carb popular diets

Here five of the most popular diets and why they may or may not work for you.


Low carb

Reduced consumption of starchy carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and pasta, as well as often dairy and fruit which also contain carbohydrates.

Going really low carb also means restricting the amount of higher carb vegetables consumes such as beetroot, carrots and squash, and sticking to mostly lean proteins and green vegetables.

It’s thought that reducing carbohydrates helps to balance blood sugar and therefore energy levels, as well as keeping hunger to a minimum (protein and veg are really filling).


Very filling without over consuming calories. Restricted food choices make meal planning easier – the guidelines and options are clear and simple; just cut out the starchy part.


Going too low carb doesn’t work for everyone, and some people don’t feel great without enough carbs to suit their own physiology. Though you can make and buy low carb treats, traditional sugary snacks are off limits which can in some people lead to binges later down the line when they feel too restricted.



Eating ‘ancestrally’ is not meant in the literal sense, in that many of the meat and vegetables around thousands of years ago don’t even exist anymore, and in addition it’s still ‘Paleo’ to eat modern foods created from paleo ingredients, like nut based cookies or avocado ‘cheesecake’.

All grains and dairy are cut out, as well as legumes, alcohol, and of course processed foods of any sort, including most sugars except a honey or other similar natural sugars.


No processed foods and only whole, natural, nutrient dense foods makes this an extremely nutritious way of eating that will almost certainly be providing you with all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need to feel and perform at your best.

Cutting out dairy and gluten in particular (two of the most ‘problematic’ foods) can also increase energy and decrease digestive and other problems in many people.


Whilst most Paleo followers eat relatively low carb, this isn’t an essential requisite, nor is calorie counting, and so whilst the types of food eaten are restricted (and very nutritious), overall quantity and proportions of fat, carbohydrate and protein guidelines are vague and means you won’t necessarily be getting the right balance of macronutrients for you.


It’s also very easy to over under eat if you’re not being mindful of energy intake. There are health benefits to all of the banned foods so if you don’t have an issue digesting these, you may be cutting them out unnecessarily.

And in Part 2 I discuss the pros and cons of The 5:2 Diet, using Meal Replacements, and a Vegan lifestyle.

Or read on below:

We’ve seen so many diet fads emerging in recent years, The Military Diet, the HMR diet, cleanses…but do any of them actually work? 

In Part 1 above, I took on the low carb and Paleo diet, here I continue to review the most popular tried and failed diet fads…


5:2 Diet

A form of intermittent fasting, on two days a week only 500-600 calories (for women or men respectively) are consumed, while a ‘normal’ diet of 2000-2400 calories are eaten on the other five days.

This results in an overall calorie deficit over the week and therefore weight loss, as well as other purported health benefits such as improved blood pressure and cholesterol profile, and improved insulin sensitivity leading to improvements in diabetes or reduced chances of developing the disease.


Learning to go for longer without eating and being able to sit with hunger are skills that in the long run will mean you feel less inclined to snack at the first tummy rumble.

Cutting calories drastically will result in an overall reduction in calories over the week as long as you don’t make up for it by over consuming on non-fast days, so weight loss is a likely outcome. May improve insulin sensitivity in some people.


500 calories in a day is not very much at all and many people will struggle with hunger, low energy and poor concentration.

Women tend to fare worse with intermittent fasting as our hormones stay better balanced when we don’t go too long without eating, and not everyone has improved insulin sensitivity and are better off sticking to a more consistent eating pattern.


Meal Replacement Plans

Slim Fast, Lighter Life, Cambridge… you don’t have to have cooking skills, or indeed any nutritional knowledge at all when your meals consist of ready-made bars, shakes, soups… sometimes microwave meals too!

All products are calorie restricted, which means that if you stick to the plan and eat only the products provided almost everyone will lose weight simply because they’re consuming fewer calories than they’re burning.

are the popular diets effective_2Pros

Convenient, time saving, and no cooking/preparing/calorie counting required. Available at most supermarkets as well as some health food stores and chemists.


Pre-made foods will never match up nutritionally to fresh, whole, natural foods, especially when many of these products use cheap ingredients and bulking agents.

Adding vitamin and minerals to the ingredients will make no difference if the added nutrients are not of the highest quality (which would make the end product much more expensive than they are) as our bodies just don’t absorb these synthetic nutrients well.

Taste is obviously subjective.

However, sticking to the same products day in day out may result in flavour fatigue where you get so sick and bored of eating the same things you are more likely to go off track and not stick to the plan.



There’s only one rule on a vegan diet, and that’s that nothing consumed can be of animal origin.

Meals comprise of vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, but as well as not meat or fish, eggs and dairy are also not allowed, and even gelatine used in commercial sweets and puddings.

Most people who eat a vegan diet do so for health rather than weightloss, and with no parameters for macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) or calorie intake, health and weight outcomes are very much dependent on an individual’s food intake.

Vegans tend to be health conscious by nature and often consume lots of whole, natural foods, with lots of vegetables and fruit, though this isn’t a requisite of a vegan diet.


If tonnes of vegetables, fruit, and high fibre legumes and some grains are consumed then this way of eating can be very nutritious.

Vitamin and fibre intake is undoubtably high, and it’s likely that no or minimal processed foods are consumed as most processed foods contain animal products of some sort.


It’s very hard to get all the nutrients you need without consuming meat and fish, or eggs and dairy. The same nutrients that are in these foods, such as calcium, iron, and omega-3 fats, just aren’t absorbed as well from plant sources.

Vitamin B12 which is needed for energy is only found in animal foods, so all vegans should be supplementing with this vitamin at the very least.


So are popular diets worth the hype? Do they work?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Any diet will ‘work’ if you follow it in the right way for your goals for long enough. Ultimately though you need be asking yourself, is this way of eating contributing to my health? Or taking away from it?

What popular diets have you tried? Did you get the same great results as people before you or were you left feeling disappointed and demotivated? Let me know in the comments boxes.

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