A weight loss diet is intended to give people who want to lose weight a better chance of achieving their goal than if they relied on willpower alone.
Some weight loss diet programs provide all your meals for a monthly fee. Others provide shakes, snacks, recipes and meal plans. Some even go so far as to assign you a personal coach or counselor who guides you through the program answering your questions and providing encouragement and support.
The following weight loss diets have proven track records and have helped millions of people worldwide. So without further ado, here are the 10 best weight loss diets of 2021.
1. Atkins Diet
In the beginning there was the ketogenic diet, developed to help adolescents with treatment-resistant epilepsy. 50 years later Dr. Atkins came along, saw the potential of the keto diet for weight loss, made a few tweaks and gave the new diet his name.
The Atkins Diet is one of the most successful weight loss diets around because it’s based on the same sound science behind the keto diet, but it doesn’t require the same level of sacrifice that keto does. On the upside, the Atkins diet has a proven record of success and offers a variety of plans to fit individual needs. On the downside, it’s not cheap and depriving oneself of carbs for an extended period of time is not for everyone.
2. Weight Watchers
Who hasn’t heard of Weight Watchers by now? Started almost 60 years ago by then housewife Jean Nidetch, Weight Watchers (recently rebranded WW International) pioneered the idea of delivering special, low cal meals to members and providing them with a wide-ranging support network.
It’s a concept that has helped tens of millions of people worldwide realize their weight loss dreams and it can work for you. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that Weight Watchers also pioneered the tedious concept of food tracking. Otherwise known as calorie counting. But if you can learn how to make it part of your life, you stand an excellent chance of success with Weight Watchers.
3. South Beach Diet
If you’ve researched both the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet and thought they’re a lot alike you’re right. They are. They’re both based on the century-old ketogenic diet concept of eliminating almost all carbohydrates. It’s a sound approach that is practically guaranteed to produce weight loss. If you can stick to it. And that’s the rub.
Since most people’s favorite foods are carb-heavy, sticking with a low-carb diet can be challenging, to say the least. Atkins and South Beach address that challenge in different ways. With the South Beach Diet considered more forgiving. It allows adherents to gradually re-introduce some carbs later in the process and encourages consumption of ‘healthy’ fats. As such, you have a bit more variety in your food choices, especially during the later phases of the program. The downside is you can pretty much forget pasta.
4. Dash Diet
The Dash Diet was developed as a way to help people get a hold of their high blood pressure. Over time it was recognized as an outstanding weight loss diet as well. There are two variants of the Dash Diet. Both go all-in on the fresh fruit and vegetables and discourage red meat and fats. With the standard Dash Diet you’re allowed up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
With the low sodium variant that limit goes down to 1,500 mg per day. (Remember, this was started as a way to lower blood pressure, so low-sodium intake is a given.) The Dash Diet turns out to be fairly simple to follow and inexpensive, with lots of online tools and support. The downside is they don’t deliver prepared meals.
The Nutrisystem weight loss diet plan goes back nearly half a century. It was started by one Harold Katz who offered a weight loss shake and personalized counseling through a brick and mortar shop in his hometown in Pennsylvania. Since then it has grown into a worldwide weight loss diet plan that delivers prepared low-cal meals right to your door.
Their base plan is a 4-week program where you are expected to eat what they provide and nothing else. After that initial period emphasis shifts to building good habits that will enable you to reach your goals and keep the weight off. You are encouraged to continue purchasing their meals, but also given plenty of guidance and recipes should you want to transition to cooking your own meals again.
6. The Slim Fast Diet
Some folks just don’t have time to track every little thing they eat and count calories. The idea of prepared meals doesn’t really appeal to them either. What they need is a convenient way to get the nutrients they need that doesn’t interfere with their busy life. That’s where Slim Fast comes in. Slim Fast has been around for quite a while and most people are aware of the Slim Fast drinks. But not too many are aware there is an entire Slim Fast Diet Plan.
That diet plan is actually the simplest one on the market. All you’re required to do is replace any two meals during the day with either a Slim Fast shake or a bar. That’s it. No prepared meals. No calorie counting or food tracking. Just replace lunch and dinner with a shake and a couple of Slim Fast bars and you’re good to go. The potential downside is that you’re likely to tire of shakes and bars.
7. HMR Diet
The HMR Diet is more involved than Slim Fast. It’s more along the line of Weight Watchers in that it provides an array of premade meals. But it’s not as strict as WW because it encourages you to make your own meals too, as long as you’re able to stick to fresh veggies and fruits, that is. So what you have is a hodge-podge of sorts.
Prepared meals, home cooked meals, and a variety of snack bars and other peripherals to fill in the gaps. On average people on the HMR Diet can expect to pay about $10 a day for the HMR products, which is not bad. If there is a downside it’s that willpower is definitely required if you’re going to avoid undermining yourself when it comes time to cook your own meals.
8. Mayo Clinic Diet
The Mayo Clinic is one of the best rated hospitals in the world. They also have one of the best-rated health-related websites and, as it turns out, the people at the Mayo Clinic have also put together a highly regarded weight loss diet. As you might expect from an organization like the Mayo Clinic, their diet plan emphasizes building healthy habits as much as it does eating this specific food or that.
They take a holistic approach to weight loss intended to endow you with the ability to keep the weight off once it’s gone. The plan consists of dozens of healthy, low-cal recipes, apps, trackers and a journal to keep you focused on the goal. There are also personalized exercise plans designed to help you build those good habits we mentioned going forward. You’ll need to buy the book and pay for the interactive stuff, menus and workout plan. But costs are minimal.
9. MIND Diet
Older folks in particular should consider the MIND diet. The MIND Diet brings together the best of the Dash Diet (see above) and the Mediterannean Diet, while tossing in a few unique aspects. The end result is intended to not only help you lose weight and keep it off, but to use diet and nutrition to fend off the development of dementia.
The MIND Diet doesn’t cost anything and the structure is fairly loose, though you are not given a free hand. To see results you are expected to adhere to the suggested 10 foods in the recommended serving sizes. Those foods include green veggies, other non-starchy vegetables, nuts, berries, olive oil, fish and poultry. Not for everyone, but worth considering.
10. Jenny Craig
The last of our weight loss diets has been around since 1983 and has millions of believers worldwide. The Jenny Craig Diet leaves no stone unturned in its quest to guide you to the promised land of sustainable weight loss. You are expected to restrict your food intake to only what is provided to you by the program.
You are also provided a counselor who will be with you every step of the way providing both guidance and encouragement. If that kind of structure appeals to you, then you have a good chance of attaining your goals. On the downside, eating only what they provide means exactly that: eating only what they provide.
What Is Weight Loss Diet?
A weight loss diet is a program designed to help people who want to lose weight achieve their goal. Weight loss diets take a number of forms and can be very strict, very relaxed and informal, or somewhere in between. Many weight loss diets are for-profit programs that require you to purchase meals and/or snacks from the program provider. Others charge for access to menus and recipes and some give you the option of having a ‘coach’ who will provide support, encouragement and advice. But no matter the structure of the diet program the goal of each one is the same: to help you lose weight and keep it off.
What are the Benefits of a Weight Loss Diet?
Weight loss diets provide structure. Having a structure you can mentally invest in makes losing weight easier. Trying to achieve your goals by simply saying ‘no’ to everything and hoping your willpower holds out is not a great strategy. At some point you won’t be able to summon the willpower necessary and in short order you’ll be back to square one. A structure helps you build good habits that will take over even when willpower fails.
Weight loss diets work. Not every weight loss diet is going to work for everyone. But for the most part, weight loss diets work, as long as people are willing to practice them as directed. When a weight loss diet does not work for someone it’s often because that particular diet plan was not a good match for the person’s personality. And if you think personality has nothing to do with weight gain or weight loss, think again (1).
A weight loss diet takes the strain off your heart. Few things put more stress on your heart than being obese (2). The human body was simply not designed to carry 100 or more pounds of excess weight around day and night. To do so, the heart and lungs both have to work a lot harder. And that can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, as well as premature death (3).
A weight loss diet can reduce your risk of diabetes. Excess weight and diabetes go hand in hand. As the obesity epidemic has spread across the country the diabetes epidemic has kept pace (4). It’s a disturbing development that does not bode well for the future. A weight loss diet can remove you from the ever expanding list of people heading down the road to type 2 diabetes.
A weight loss diet can help cut your medical expenses. Obesity comes with a hefty price tag attached to it. Studies indicate that obese individuals wind up paying thousands of dollars more per year in health care costs alone (5) than non-obese people. That’s because obese individuals are far more likely to develop diabetes, have heart problems, require knee and hip replacements, and suffer an array of other weight-related maladies. A successful weight loss diet can head off these health care costs.
Weight loss diets can save your joints. We just mentioned in passing that excess weight can cause joint problems. And it’s true. Hip and knee joints were simply not designed by evolution to handle the kind of weight many individuals are carrying around these days. And in fact, studies indicate that most people who undergo total knee or total hip replacement are either overweight or obese (6). A weight loss diet can help save your knee and hip joints.
There is a weight loss diet that will work for you. Some folks assume that if one weight loss diet didn’t work, none of them will. But the truth is not so black and white. The South Beach Diet and the Mayo Clinic Diet are very different from one another. As are Weight Watchers and the Dash Diet, and Jenny Craig and Slim Fast. With so many different approaches available there is bound to be one that works for you. The key is persistence.
Some weight loss diets provide the food for you. You may not have the time or inclination to cook all your own meals. Especially if that means learning how to cook dozens of new, low-calorie dishes. But fear not. A number of weight loss diet plans deliver everything you need right to your door. And it doesn’t cost as much as you think, since you’ll drastically cut back on what you spend at the supermarket.
Weight loss diets are good for your love life. Research indicates that being overweight or obese has a detrimental effect on a person’s sex drive and performance. And that goes for men (7) just as much as women. The exact reasons for this are extremely complex and involve mental, physical and psychological factors. But there is no debating the connection. A weight loss diet can help you hit the reset button on your love life.
A weight loss diet will help you look better. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better, or wanting to fit back into your favorite clothes. A weight loss diet can help you do both. While the health benefits of weight loss should be enough to compel a person to look into a weight loss diet, there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight so you can look better too.
A weight loss diet will produce a cascade of benefits. Taken together the above-listed benefits make a compelling argument for taking a leap of faith and trying a weight loss diet. You will feel better, look better, have more vitality, probably have more sexual vigor, give your heart a break, fend off diabetes and much more. Even if you need to try 2 or 3 weight loss diets before finding the right one, in the end it will be worth it.
Are There Negative Side Effects to Losing Weight?
You may wind up with some saggy skin – There are numerous risks to losing weight too fast (8). One of them has to do with the largest organ in your body; your skin. Depending on how much weight you lose and how quickly you lose it you may wind up with saggy skin in some parts of your body (9). To head this off, it is usually best to embrace a modest pace of weight loss. Say, 1 or 2 pounds per week.
Losing weight could change your relationship – You may not like the way you look and feel but your significant other might be just fine with your voluptuous curves. You may be all-in on restricting what and when you eat. But that same significant other may tire of worrying about everything that’s on the table or in the fridge. This is not to say that losing weight and getting in better shape is not the right thing to do. But you should be aware that it might send negative ripples through your relationship (10).
You may be more sensitive to cold weather – The most obvious and impactful reason you’ll be more sensitive to cold weather is that you simply do not have as much insulation standing between the cold air and your core as you used to. You can offset some of that by gaining muscle. That’s because muscle tissue has three times as many blood vessels as fat tissue (11), and that increased blood flow will help keep you warmer.
You might miss your old self – The mental and emotional aspects of weight loss can be every bit as difficult to deal with as the physical act of not eating so much (12). Some people who lose a lot of weight go through an adjustment period where they either have a hard time believing their new body is real, or miss being able to eat whatever they wanted. The key to keeping the weight off is often getting through that adjustment period.
The way you experience food may change – Dieting can have a lot of different effects on a person. But one thing that is pretty much guaranteed is that dieting will change the way you think about and experience food. Instead of just eating what looks good, you’ll assess each dish for its calorie load or sugar content or some other restrictive metric. You’re also likely to notice what others are eating or not eating. And you’ll need to find a healthier way to obtain the comfort you used to find in food.
Are Weight Loss Diets Risky?
Other than the above-listed side effects, it’s difficult to find a downside to losing weight (eating disorders aside, of course). The risks of being overweight or obese typically far outweigh the risks of returning to a healthy BMI (13). In most cases, the biggest risk of a commercial weight loss diet is that you may spend money on a few programs that do not work for you, before finding one that does.
Are Weight Loss Diets Useful for Men Too?
Most commercial weight loss diets are marketed toward women, who tend to be much more aware of weight issues than men. But with some 35 million American men considered obese and another 54 million considered overweight (14), weight loss diets are taking on new relevance and urgency for men of all ages, races, and economic classes. Also, research indicates that obese middle-aged men have a 60% greater chance of dying from a heart attack than non-obese men (15). So engaging in a weight loss diet will not only help a man feel and look better, it may also extend his life.
The Bottom Line
Weight loss diets provide people the tools they need to achieve their weight loss goals. Sometimes those tools are recipes and advice. Sometimes they are snacks and shakes. And sometimes they are a support network, snacks and boxes full of prepared meals delivered right to the front door.
Weight loss diets have helped millions of people shed excess weight, enjoy better overall health, and reclaim their physical and sexual vitality all while reducing their odds of developing diabetes or suffering a heart attack.
The weight loss diets profiled above run the gamut from highly structured to loosely structured and from free to fairly pricey. What they all have in common, however, is that they work. Use the information in this guide to determine which weight loss diet is right for you.
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