The CV Fitness Diet Guide

Diets are confusing. I know it and you know it. Amazon currently lists over 50,000 diet books! Just on the first page alone you can get books that promise you solutions in 30 days, 17 days, 14 days, 7 days and 20 days! It’s no wonder everyone is so confused!!

Well, I’m here to help sort a few things out. Today I’m going to break down a few of the diets that seem to be getting a lot of attention these days. I’m going to let you know the positives and negatives and I’m going to talk about the things you need to understand to get the most out of each diet.

Here’s the first thing you need to know. All of these diets work. Every one of them.

Yes. That’s right. All of the books that tell you that their diet is the best one are simultaneously right and wrong. The truth is that it very well may be the best diet for you. It might contain the foods you like. Whatever meal timing it promotes might fit perfectly into your schedule. The preparation for the meals might be easy for you. It might fit into your life in a very workable and sustainable way.

On the other hand, the opposite of all those things may be true.

Here are some very important facts to know.

  1. Weight loss diets work because they cause a calorie defecit. That’s it. They may cause the defecit in a number of different ways but that is why they work. Not because of insulin, not because of hormonal reactions to their specific combination of foods. Not because of blood types. Because they cause a calorie defecit.
  2. There have been a number of studies that show that over time there is virtually no difference between any type of diet.
  3. Those same studies have shown that the most important aspect of a diet is that a person will stick with it.
  4. The ability to stick with a diet is a very individual thing and takes many different forms.

I’m going to break things in a bit of a general way but I think I’ll be able to get the point across.

OK. Let’s talk diets.

Low-Carb Diets

Common diets: Atkins, Ketogenic, Paleo

What is it? Low carb diets are diets that contain a minimal amount of carbohydrates. That can run from as little as 20 grams per day to as many as 150 grams depending on the exact diet. These diets focus mainly on lean protein and varying amounts of healthy fats, again, depending on the exact diet.

How it works: Since carbohydrates, particularly processed ones, can contain lots of calories for the amount of food they contain, cutting them out may be a relatively easy way to get in a calorie defecit.

The Good:

  • There’s not much to think about. Other than vegetables and a little fruit just don’t eat any carbs.
  • These diets can also be a good way to change some general meal planning habits from starch-based (noodles and bread) meals to protein-based (lean meats or eggs).
  • It can bring some good initial weight loss (even though most of the initial weight is going to be due to less water and glycogen in your body, not fat loss).
  • This diet can lower systemic inflammation in some people although that may be the case mostly in people that tend to eat a lot of the processed carbs this diet eliminates, not due to any magical food combinations. In other words, if you stop eating the junk the inflammation goes down no matter what diet you’re on.

The Bad:

  • The adjustment to this kind of diet can be extremely hard for people. It can cause headaches, a lack of energy, general mental fatigue, and like any extreme diet it forces someone to make very big changes all at once. Because of these and some other factors,
  • ]most studies have shown that this diet is just not sustainable for most people.
  • Over time the lack of carbs can lead to some vitamin and mineral defiencies in some people.
  • It may cause a real lack of energy. Particularly among those that exercise on a regular basis.

Who is the diet good for?

  • Someone who is OK with the initial adjustment period. It can effect some people more than others.
  • Someone who is not emotional about food.
  • Someone who doesn’t mind eating pretty much the same food on a daily basis.

Who is the diet not good for?

  • Some people seemingly have a tougher time converting fat to energy. This diet would be problematic for them.
  • People who tend to emotional or stress eat usually eat the kinds of foods this diet prohibits. While this may sound good initially, the reality is that this diet sets up a feeling of denial which will inevitably lead to someone falling off the diet and usually in a very dramatic way. Again, for most people this diet is just not sustainable.

Intermittent Fasting

Common Diets: Eat Stop Eat, Warrior Diet

What is it? Intermittent Fasting diets alternate long periods of not eating with shorter periods of eating. Common fasting periods can range from as long as 23 hours (dinner from one night until dinner the next) down to 16 hours (this usually takes the form of either skipping breakfast or dinner each day)

How it works. It’s pretty simple, really. If you restrict when you eat, and not go crazy when you do eat, it can be easy to cut calories.

The Good:

  • It’s very simple. Just skip the meals you are supposed to skip and eat sensibly to rest of the time.
  • Many people find that not having to worry about certain meals can relieve stress.
  • Many people find that this diet allows them to realize that they’re just not as hungry as much as they think.

The Bad:

  • This kind of diet may lead to overcompensation during your eating periods, which can eliminate any caloric deficit, or even cause a caloric surplus.
  • Similar to the last point, this diet could lead could lead to the “if not eating for a little bit is good, then not eating for long time is better!” type mindset. That is NOT a good thing and could easily pave the way for problems.

Who is this diet good for?

  • People looking for an easy way to cut calories without a lot of prep work.
  • People who don’t mind feeling a little hungry.
  • People who don’t mind skipping breakfast.

Who is this diet not good for?

  • People who have difficulty when they feel a little hungry.
  • People who tend towards disordered eating patterns.

Calorie Counting Diets

Common Diets: Pretty much any diet that tells you eat specific amounts of food. Zone, South Beach, If It Fits Your Macros and a million others.

What is it? Any diet that gives you specific quantities or recipes to eat that require you to weigh out your food.

How it works: By weighing and measuring what you eat it can be easy to figure out where your calories need to be to get the desired results and make the necessary adjustments.

The Good:

  • It can be pretty easy to make adjustments on this diet as long as your are accurate with your measurements.
  • There’s not any guess work here.
  • Seeing what an accurately weighed out serving size really is can be pretty enlightening. I’m looking at you peanut butter!!!

The Bad:

  • Requires a lot of time to get used to weighing everything.
  • Raise your hand if you enjoy weighing out all your food. I didn’t think so.
  • Requires a lot of prep time, especially at the beginning.
  • If you are not accurate with your weighing (many people are not) these diets will simply not work.
  • These types of diets may not give the dieter an internal sense of what they should or shouldn’t be eating, which can crucial for long term success

Who is the diet good for?

  • Someone who is very disciplined about their eating and doesn’t mind doing the prep work.
  • Physique competitors.
  • Someone who already has a pretty good idea about their diet but wants to take things up another step.
  • People who don’t mind eating the same foods most days.

Who is the diet not good for?

  • Beginning dieters often think this is the approach they need but quickly find out that it simply requires too much change, too soon.
  • Busy, stressed people may find that the prep these diets require is a big problem.
  • People who need variety in their diet.
  • Emotional and stress eaters.

Habit Based Diets

Common diets: Precision Nutrition, this is our approach at CV Fitness

What is it? Diets that focus on specific habits and skills based around eating as opposed to specific meal planning. These diets are meant to establish good long-term habits to change or replace problematic ones. The idea being, that for sustained results a behavioral approach is more effective for the long term.

How it works: The dieter is to focus on one thing to work on. An common example would be taking 5 more minutes than usual to eat a meal. The idea is that we all have good habits and bad ones when it comes to eating. By working on good ones we can replace the bad ones.  Also, much research on behavior change has shown that a “one habit at a time” approach has shown a much greater long-term success rate than an approach where many things must be worked on at once.

The Good:

  • These diets tend to be dieter-driven. Meaning that the dieter themselves has more of a say in the approach than just doing what someone else says. This can lead to a greater feeling of autonomy and greater adherence.
  • Can start to really get to the issues around food that are the real root of the problem.
  • These diets take a gentler approach, for the most part, which can eliminate the intimidation factor that many people feel when starting a diet.

The Bad:

  • The dieter must be patient. These are not 20 pounds lost in two weeks kind of diets.
  • The dieter must be OK with trying to figure out what their real issues around food are.

Who is the diet good for?

  • People that may have tried to diet many times without success.
  • People who are good with a long-term approach to things.
  • People who want to be a part of the process as opposed to just being told what to do.

What is the diet not good for?

  • People who want dramatic fast results.
  • People who just want to be told what to do.
  • People who may have trouble being honest about what their issues around food really are.

Well, that’s all I have for today. I just wanted to give you a relatively quick rundown of some of these common and popular diets. You may have more questions now than you did before you started reading and if you do, please shoot me an email and let me know what they are.

I just wanted to touch on the very basics of these different approaches. Obviously there is much more to learn.

Please keep in mind what I said at the beginning of the post. All of these diets can work but what is most important is how they work for you! We all have different lives so it’s very important to understand that just because something works for someone else does not mean it will work for you.

That being said, let me leave you with this short list of things (in no particular order) to look for and think about when you start on a diet.

  • Is this sustainable for me?
  • What are the changes I have to make to do this?
  • Am I able to make these changes?
  • Am I willing to make these changes?
  • Do I need any additional support to do this?
  • How will this fit into my life?
  • What are my goals and why are they important to me?

There are, of course, many other questions you can and should ask and those will be individual to you. At times it can also be a huge help to have someone to talk through these things with you, as well. If you need that, please drop me a line and we will set up a time to do it.

Thanks for reading this fairly long post. I hope I was able to clear a few things up for you. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way
510-755-9191
mitch@CastroValleyFitness.com