As anyone who’s worked to lose weight knows, there’s no one-tactic-always-works silver bullet, despite what some product manufacturers, diet developers and celeb fitness trainers might say. Weight loss requires putting together a personalized approach to food and fitness. That said, there are many times when structure can help.
For example, following a certain kind of diet might be useful if it changes a junk food habit, or a specific exercise program can get you on track toward implementing more activity into your schedule.
There are tons of nutrition plans and fitness efforts that boast about weight-loss effects, but we’ve collected some of the most popular and asked experts whether these approaches are still worth considering — or forgetting.
Particularly after holidays spent feasting and indulging, a “detox” may sound tempting, and detox diets have definitely been the rage in 2017. But they’re likely to sputter in the year ahead, believes fitness and nutrition expert Dan DeFigio, author of “Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies.”
“A typical detox diet or cleanse assumes you’ll wake up on your ‘start day’ and completely change your habits all at once,” he says. “But humans are creatures of habit. Your behavior is not designed for drastic, immediate changes.”
Also, many experts have noted that the body already has a “detox” system and it’s called the liver and kidneys. Gradually transitioning to healthier foods like more vegetables can improve your own natural detox process.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is super hot right now, but it’s really becoming more of a fitness staple than a trend, believes holistic nutritionist and fitness trainer Miriam Amselem. Because it relies on short bursts of intense exercise, followed by brief recovery periods, it’s possible to get a major workout in half an hour — and an emphasis on combining cardio and strength can provide weight-loss benefits as well.
“HIIT is here to stay,” Amselem says. “It boosts metabolism and burns lots of calories in a short amount of time, and studies have shown that even 15 minutes is beneficial. With people so short on time, having a way to build endurance, increase cardiovascular health and burn fat without spending hours at the gym is a big plus.”
Although detox diets may be sputtering, intermittent fasting is gaining more traction, says nutritionist and personal trainer Jamie Logie, author of “Taking Back Your Health.” This technique usually involves only eating within a window of 8–10 hours, then fasting for 14–16 hours (that includes when you’re sleeping).
“Some people are adopting this as ‘time-restricted eating’ and seeing positive health benefits such as improved glucose tolerance, improved hormone levels, decreased body fat and increased muscle mass,” he says. “I think this is a trend that will continue to grow.”
Part of the benefit of intermittent fasting is it can be utilized with other diets like low-carb, Paleo, keto and any others, adds Jason Fung, MD, author of “The Obesity Code.”
“Many of its supposed ‘risks’ have been largely myths,” he says. “There is no evidence that it slows metabolism or burns muscle. In fact, it has been used for millennia without difficulty.”
Mindfulness is mainstream now, with meditation apps and corporate wellness programs that incorporate mindful practices into everyday life. So, it makes sense it would become part of fitness and nutrition as well.
Intuitive eating is likely to gain traction in the year ahead as people shift away from dieting, believes registered dietitian Carolina Guizar. With this approach, no food is off-limits, you’re just encouraged to tune into hunger and satiety cues as well as how food choices make you feel physically.
When you can understand how food makes you feel, it helps you figure out what you’re really craving, Guizar says.
If you really tune in to what your body is craving, 90% of the time it’s healthier foods that are associated with weight loss,” she notes. “And if you listen to your satiety cues, the likelihood of you overeating is very low, even if it is mac n cheese.”
Developed as a way to improve seizure management for epileptic children, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb way of eating that puts the body into ketosis, where fat is burned for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
Keto really hit the mainstream a couple years ago and has been more prominent in the past year, especially as people reported losing weight rapidly by eating this way. But a major drawback is it can feel very restrictive. Also, like Paleo, calorie counts can zoom upward when you’re focusing on energy-dense fats, according to fitness and nutrition expert Mike Clancy, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. That doesn’t make keto impossible to follow, it just requires diligence that can be challenging over time.
“In the next year, I think there will be a shift away from the ketogenic diet and instead a stronger emphasis on calorie management,” says Clancy. “If your goal is to increase leanness and reduce body fat, the most important factor will always be the total amount of energy relative to the body’s needs.”
Verdict: Consider, with modifications
At this point, the Paleo diet — some like to say “lifestyle” since it refers to increasing your activity level as well — is fairly entrenched as mainstream and is often touted for weight loss. That makes sense, since it has an emphasis on whole foods, quality animal protein and healthy fats.
But it’s also come under fire for stalling weight-loss efforts if used incorrectly. For example, if someone eats an abundance of nuts, seeds and avocados — which is easily done through having Paleo “baked goods” that rely on nut flours — then calorie density may go way up.
“I’ve noticed that many do well on a Paleo diet at first, and perhaps even thrive for the first year or two,” says Catherine Crow, nutritional therapy practitioner and founder of Butter Nutrition. “Then things can start to crumble. You could have increased food cravings, blood sugar handling issues and increased food allergies or sensitivities. This isn’t the case for everyone, but I’m seeing it with more frequency.”
Paleo is still on trend, but many people are going “Paleo-ish” or modifying their approach to include non-Paleo foods like dairy or some grains. Look for more of this type of hybrid thinking in the year ahead, Crow says.
The shift from hours-long cardio to more strength-based training with weights is a movement that’s very likely to keep going, says personal trainer, weight-loss coach and powerlifter Robert Herbst.
“Weight training using complex, multi-joint movements like squats, lunges, deadlifts and bench presses will stick around because it’s been proven to actually work for weight loss,” he notes. “Unlike cardio, this type of training keeps the metabolism elevated after you workout, so you burn more calories for 48–72 hours afterward.”
In general, trends come and go, but what sticks around tends to be whatever provides results in a way that feels meaningful to you. Just ask the people still doing Jazzercise, Jane Fonda workouts and ab-roller exercises.
The best approach is to keep an open mind, and focus on health and wellness, not deprivation and food punishment, many experts advise. When you embrace a particular strategy for weight loss, you’re much more likely see benefits that go beyond numbers on the scale.