This paper will describe the effectiveness of the diets listed and how they work. (Atkins diet, South Beach diet, Paleo diet, Vegan lifestyle and Vegetarian lifestyle)
The Top Weight Loss Diets of 2014 and the effects they have on the body. Which one is for you?
Nutrition plays a critical role in human wellbeing. For overweight people, one of the best ways of achieving this wellbeing is through weight loss. Different people prefer different diets in efforts to attain their weight loss goals and to remain slim. Today, five major weight-loss diets have become very popular. They include the Atkins diet, vegetarian lifestyle, vegan lifestyle, South Beach Diet, and Paleo diet. It is important for people to understand the effectiveness of each of these weight-loss diets before determining which one is best for them.
The Atkin diet is based on the idea that a person should cut back on carbohydrates so that the body ends up using fat to produce energy. People who lead a vegetarian lifestyle must avoid eating meat, poultry, and fish. On the other hand, the vegan lifestyle is just like the vegetarian lifestyle only that in addition to being a vegetarian, the individual must not use all other animal products such as honey and milk. In the South Beach diet, people who want to lose weight are encouraged to learn to choose the right carbohydrates as well as the right fats. Lastly, the Paleo diet is widely considered the healthiest diet because it comprises of wholesome foods from a wide range of food groups that constitute an ancestral diet (Cordain, 2002). The aim of this paper is to describe the effectiveness of each of these diets and how they work.
The Atkins diet is based on the view that cutting back on carbohydrates in one’s diet is a sure way of succeeding in weight loss efforts (Astrup, Larsen & Harper, 2004). This diet is named after Dr. Robert Atkins, who first came up with the idea. Since its introduction more than four decades ago, newer versions of the Atkins diet have been recommended. Whichever the version one chosen, the diet emphasizes the need to reduce one’s intake of carbohydrates. The underlying argument is that when the body encounters a shortage of carbohydrates, it turns its fat reservoirs into sources of fuel. Consequently, the body starts relying on fat for energy, thereby leading to weight loss.
The Atkins diet works in two phases: induction and ongoing weight loss (Astrup, Larsen & Harper, 2004). In the induction phase, one has to adhere strictly to a number of rules. First, the person must not exceed an intake of 20 grams of carbohydrates daily. Secondly, protein and fat must come from red meat, fish, vegetable oils, and/or poultry. Thirdly, one must avoid bread, fruits, pasta, and vegetables rich in starch. Other food items to be avoided include alcohol, legumes, and caffeine.
In the ongoing weight loss phase, one should slowly start consuming more vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and low-carbohydrate alcohol. Afterward, one may start eating more carbohydrates. However, this decision must be pegged on the body’s needs as well as the progress being made as far as weight loss is concerned. In fact, newer versions of the Atkins diet focus more on how a person can make better food choices to achieve optimum weight loss outcomes.
An assessment of scholarly views regarding the effectiveness of the Atkins diet shows that no scientific evidence exists to show that it is the best choice for people who want to lose weight (Astrup, Larsen & Harper, 2004). However, this diet remains very popular, with many people claiming that they have successfully used it to stay slim. Indeed, the diet enables overweight people to lose weight in the short run. It is widely preferred because one does not need to go hungry to succeed in losing weight. Nevertheless, it is unclear what its long-term consequences are in terms of weight loss, individual wellbeing, health, and disease prevention.
It is impossible to guarantee the safety of the Atkins diet for patients. This is simply because such a patient might be in need of carbohydrates. Depriving such a patient of carbohydrates may complicate his health condition. However, this diet plan may be safe for people who want to lose weight on a short-term basis. Meanwhile, this diet should be discontinued if one fails to succeed in weight loss efforts. Scientifically, the most preferred weight-loss method is one that encourages people to permanently adopt a diet that is low in calories and fat and to augment it with physical exercise. Such a diet not only leads to weight reduction but also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. In a nutshell, it seems that the scientific basis of the Atkins diet is rather weak.
A vegetarian is a person who does not include meat, poultry, and fish in his diet. However, this definition is rather broad since variations tend to occur in terms of the animal foods that different vegetarians choose to eat. In many cases, the vegetarian lifestyle is associated with the Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet, whereby all animal foods are avoided with the exception of dairy products and/or eggs. It is worthwhile to note that some people who include fish and chicken may insist that they are vegetarians. The term “semi-vegetarian” is often used to refer to such people.
A major objective of leading a vegetarian lifestyle is to benefit from numerous health benefits associated with vegetarianism. Adult vegetarians tend to have a low risk of hypertension and heart disease. They are also less susceptible to type 2 diabetes. Vegetarian diets facilitate the realization of these health benefits because they lower in cholesterol. They also tend to be richer in potassium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin E. vegetarians tend to be at a lower risk of suffering from cancer.
The vegetarian lifestyle continues to be popular in many western countries including the United States. In such countries, numerous publications tend to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of changing one’s diet and becoming a vegetarian. They tend to find encouragement in the adoption of this diet is the fact that it prevents the occurrence of many chronic diseases. This resulting popularity has led to a situation where vegetarianism is not just a weight loss diet but a movement. Although vegetarianism may be traced back to the origin of mankind, the modern-day vegetarian movement seems to have sprung up following the decision by the British Vegetarian Society to refer to people who adhered to a strict plant-based diet as vegetarians (Greeley, 2009).
People choose to become vegetarians for different reasons. Some are driven by health concerns. Others are influenced by religious beliefs. For others, the main reason is a concern for animal welfare. Many activists who are enthusiastic about environmental conservation tend to turn to vegetarianism as a way of raising awareness about their cause in society. Others stick to this diet simply because their special needs demand it. Examples of such people include diabetics and professional athletes. It is also common for elderly people to adopt this diet as a way of reducing susceptibility to chronic and lifestyle-related diseases.
One of the biggest concerns is that the vegetarian lifestyle is too restrictive, such that one may not easily get all the nutrients required by the body for healthy living. However, most experts insist that this diet can provide the recommended daily nutritional intake for a human being (Greeley, 2009). A major problem is that all vegetarians do not adhere to the same diet regimen. Therefore, it becomes impossible for dietitians to recommend a diet plan that is ideal for the dietary needs of every vegetarian. For this same reason, it is strongly recommended that vegetarian visits a nutritionist or dietitian often for advice on nutritional and healthy diet plans.
With the right advice and efforts, a vegetarian can get all the different nutrients he requires to live a healthy life. However, no single diet can provide these nutritional requirements. One must be ready to bring into perspective a combination of different foods. This combination may vary depending on one’s caloric requirements and activity levels. In most cases, the caloric requirements of older people tend to be lower than those of younger people. On the overall, vegetarians are required to adhere to a strict diet plan that is founded on access to nutritional information and sound advice from nutritionists and dietitians. Failure to adhere to these practices may lead to malnourishment. Adherence to these requirements leads to healthy living and protection against chronic diseases.
Vegans avoid eating any kind of food originating from all types of land and sea animals (McDonald, 2000). In other words, they fall in the strictest category of vegetarians. They are so strict that their lifestyle extends beyond dietary issues. They even avoid wearing clothes made from animal products. In addition to dietary reasons, vegans often seek to pass a message of defiance to a culture where the normative practice is for humans to exert dominance and superiority over all types of animals.
Vegans often accuse vegetarians of inconsistency for eating daily products and yet they claim that it is wrong to eat animals (McDonald, 2000). According to vegans, dairy products and eggs should not be eaten because such a practice amounts to participation in systematic exploitation of animals (McDonald, 2000). The view being expressed in this regard is vegetarians should do more to stop cruelty against animals by shunning all foods originating from animals. In vegans’ view, efforts by humans to seek pleasure through diet should never translate in a scenario where animals are subjected to cruelty, suffering, and death. Vegans go as far as to suggest the banning of industries that thrive on the exploitation of animals. They argue that the need to protect animals should go beyond efforts to ensure that they are not killed for food. In their view, killing is merely one of the aspects of animal exploitation.
According to McDonald (2000), the decision to embrace veganism is one that involves a long process of soul-searching and psychological transformation. Every individual who chooses to become a vegan does so not just for diet-related reasons but also for ethical reasons. It is true that many people have been compelled to adopt a vegan diet for health reasons. Nevertheless, this diet has become more popular because of the ethical and environmental reasons propagated by vegans. This has made the diet seem like some sort of a “status passage” for many people. For instance, adolescents who choose to become vegans often perceive a sense of passage into a new status. In this new status, they expect many changes to occur in terms of the way they lead their lives.
Meanwhile, like vegetarianism, veganism is associated with numerous health benefits. This diet is highly recommended for people with vitamin deficiency. Vegan diets also contain less cholesterol. This makes them attractive for people who are concerned about the emergence of chronic diseases. Moreover, they contain more fiber and less saturated fat making them more appealing in terms of health benefits. These dietary characteristics explain why vegans are more likely to be thinner. It also explains why they are less likely to suffer from heart disease. However, these people also suffer from nutritional deficiency by virtue of doing away with all animal-related food types. For instance, many vegans suffer from the problem of calcium deficiency. To solve these problems, they are compelled to add supplements and fortified foods into their diet. They must be careful to purchase these additional food types to ensure that they do not suffer from nutritional deficiency diseases. Although this diet plan is ideal for weight loss, it poses a risk of health problems arising from nutritional deficiencies.
The South Beach diet emphasizes the importance of choosing the right carbohydrates and the right fats. It differs from the Atkins diet, which requires people who want to lose weight to cut back on the consumption of all types of carbohydrates. Proponents of the South Beach diet also instruct people who are fighting weight problems to eat more lean proteins and foods rich in dietary fiber. A highlight of this weight loss diet is the need to do away with processed carbohydrates. This is because much of the excess weight that many people grapple with is as a result of processed carbohydrates such as bread, chocolate, hamburgers, ice cream, and biscuits. Through processing, fiber is removed from these foods. This affects the manner in which they are metabolized.
By increasing the intake of good carbohydrates, the human metabolic process is able to operate at optimal levels and no insulin resistance is encountered. Moreover, the intake of animal proteins and the right fats is encouraged since it provides an avenue through which the body gains access to essential nutrients. In this case, individuals are encouraged to consume more polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil. The best sources of proteins according to the South Beach diet include chicken, fish, cheese, and turkey. The right carbohydrates are those that are contained in whole grain rice, wheat flour, and maize flour. These carbohydrates should not be processed since processing interferes with their nutrient content. Moreover, processed carbohydrates tend to have low fiber content, which is very important for weight loss. To maintain a high level of dietary fiber, all grains and vegetables should be unprocessed.
In the South Beach diet, fats have an important role to play: they influence the satiation process. People tend to become satiated more quickly after consuming foods rich in fats. The feeling of satiation is important in the process of losing weight since it discourages the overweight person from overeating. In contrast, refined and processed carbohydrates tend to stimulate hunger instead of triggering satiation. This is simply because they trigger rapid changes in the levels of blood sugar in the body. This explains why people who consume processed carbohydrates end up overeating. The glycemic index is commonly used to measure the contribution of particular foods to a rise in blood sugar levels, thereby contributing to weight gain. People who adhere to the South Beach diet tend to take a special interest in the specific contribution of different foods to their overall weight gain or weight loss process. Such people may prefer to take table sugar to white bread since the former triggers a faster rise in blood sugar levels according to the glycemic index.
The South Beach diet is a very attractive weight loss diet because it encourages people struggling with weight problems to understand how their bodies operate. It also encourages them to choose carefully what they eat without imposing restrictions that may not augur well with the body’s daily nutritional requirements. This diet provides a scientific platform in the form of the glycemic index, which assesses the suitability of specific foods to a person’s digestive systems in relation to the underlying objective of losing weight.
The Paleo diet is based on the dietary habits that our human ancestors used to adopt. It is founded on the view that the diet of our ancestors who used to live as hunters and gatherers is the one that the human body was designed for. However, at some point, the human diet went horribly wrong. The diet went wrong with the onset of civilization. The Paleo diet is conventionally viewed as an attempt to return humankind to the healthy diet of his ancestors (Cordain, 2002). In this regard, efforts are often made to stress the medicinal value of Paleo diets.
Advocates of this diet argue it is the only ideal lifestyle for our genetic makeup. Unlike the post-modern generation, our Paleolithic ancestors were very healthy, fit, and lean. Anthropological records create an impression of strong and fit hunter-gatherer ancestors. This diet attempts to restore these characteristics and create a world where people are strong, fit, muscular, and fit. The main food types that overweight people are encouraged to eat in this diet plan include organ meats, game meat, salmon, shellfish, nuts, cherries, seaweed, and plant foods such as berries and melons. Overweight people are also encouraged to eat foods rich in Omega 3 fats. Emphasis is on proteins because of their weight-loss benefits as well as their tendency to blunt hunger.
In conclusion, the choice of a weight loss diet depends on one’s personal situation. It also depends on individual preferences and ideological inclinations. The Atkins diet may not be attractive to people who are reluctant to cut back on carbohydrates. Moreover, some people may shun it for lack of scientific evidence in terms of weight loss outcomes. The vegetarian and vegan lifestyles may seem too restrictive to many people. Moreover, one may face a risk of missing out on crucial nutritional requirements, thereby impacting negatively on health and wellness. In contrast, the South Beach diet gives the individual some freedom to choose the right carbohydrates depending on the dietary requirements and the progress being made in the weight loss process. The Paleo diet is also worth trying although it may be difficult to find some of the aforementioned food types. The best weight loss diet for me would be the South Beach Diet.
Astrup, A., Larsen, T. & Harper, A. (2004). Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: Hoax or an effective tool for weight loss? The Lancet, 364(9437), 897 – 899.
Cordain, L. (2002). The Nutritional Characteristics of a Contemporary Diet Based Upon Paleolithic Food Groups. JANA, 5(3), 15-24.
Greeley, A. (2009). The Everything Guide to Being Vegetarian: The advice, nutrition information and recipes you need to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Avon: F+W Media Inc.
McDonald, B. (2000). “Once You Know Something, You Can’t Not Know It”: An Empirical Look at Becoming Vegan. Society & Animals 8(1), 1-23.
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