Losing weight can be a lifelong battle. No matter how much you exercise or watch what you eat, the scale never seems to tip in your favor.
Turn to friends for advice and most of them will come back with only one suggestion – “cut carbs out of your life.” Yes, low carb diets are the new rage in the multi-million dollar weight loss industry. But what exactly do low carb diets mean and are there any diets that actually deliver on what they promise?
Our food is comprised of three main nutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Low carb diets refer to dietary plans that restrict the consumption of foods that are high in carbohydrate for weight loss and control.
There are several low carb dietplans – some have been tried, tested and promoted by celebrities, while others are just beginning to make their presence felt. Here’s an overview of some popular low carb diets:
Atkins Diet: The Atkins diet, started by Dr. Robert Atkins, is a four-phase diet program and each phase has a controlled carb intake. The first phase is called the Induction phase, which kickstarts the program and allows the intake of only 20 grams of net carbs per day. People experience rapid weight loss in this phase. The second phase is called the Ongoing Weight Loss phase in which more food types as well as low carb diet foods areslowly added to the meal plan. You continue to lose weight, just not as rapidly as the Induction phase.
The third phase is called the Pre Maintenance phase where again the carb intake is increased when you are just about 10 pounds away from your target weight. The diet enters the fourth and final phase when you reach the goal weight. This phase is called the Lifetime Maintenance phase and is marked by eating foods that can help you remain at your goal weight.
While the Atkins diet has worked well for some people, there’s a question mark on the long-term effectiveness of the ketosis process, on which this low carb diet plan is based. The opponents of this diet plan have also criticized it for being too liberal with fatty foods and its reliance on prepackaged meals and snacks. This diet plan is difficult to follow as it requires dieters to count net carbs consumed at each meal from day one of their diet and also leaves it for them to figure out how many carbs they can eat in a day to maintain their ideal body weight.
South Beach Diet: TheSouth Beach diet was designed by Dr. Arthur Agatston and consists of three phases. Phase 1, which lasts for 14 days, is designed to stabilize blood sugar levels and eliminate cravings by restricting foods that are high in saturated fats and carbohydrates. So things like potatoes, fruit, bread, rice, cereals, pasta, as well as sugary & starchy foods are completely off the table in the first phase of the South Beach low carb diet plan. The phase is supposed to jumpstart weight loss for people who are more than 10 pounds overweight.
Phase 2 of the diet sees gradual reintroduction of some of the previously banned foods such as fruits, whole grains and some vegetables. This is the phase lasts as long as it takes for dieters to reach their goal weight. Like Atkins, the weight loss is steadier, though slower in Phase 2 of South Beach Diet.
The final phase of South Beach diet is based on the assumption that by now dieters can make healthy food choices, so it allows all food types in moderation. However, it’s recommended that you return to Phase 1 of the diet if you find yourself off track.
What works in favor of this program is that it’s a healthy low carb diet with a good mix of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. But some people have reported that the first phase of the diet is too restrictive. A diet that is too restrictive in the initial phase can turn dieters off quickly. The diet plan is also criticized for recommending meals that take too long to prepare, making it tough for dieters to stay on course over a long period of time.
Dukan Diet: The Dukan Diet low carb diet was first introduced in France in 2000, where it got tremendous response. The diet program was brought to America in 2011 by its creator Dr. Pierre Dukan to fight the obesity epidemic in this country.
The Dukan Diet also has four phase beginning with the Attack phase (which lasts 3 to 5 days) wherein dieters are allowed to pick from 68 high protein foods and ends with the Permanent Stabilization phase,which lasts for the rest of dieters’ life and recommends maintaining healthy food habits along with physical activity.
In between come the Cruise and Consolidation phases. Cruise is the second phase of the Dukan Diet low carb diet plan, which takes the dieters to what the Dr. Dukan describes as their True Weight”. This phase sees the addition of all non-starchy veggies and involves alternating between pure protein and pure protein + vegetable days.
The Consolidation phase, which was created to prevent the gain of‘rebound’ weight, allows dieters to slowly return to previously forbidden foods and two celebration meals per week when they can eat one serving of an appetizer, entrée and dessert of their choice along with a large glass of wine
The positives of this diet include realistic expectations about weight loss. The program works towards achieving the “True Weight” of dieters, which is realistically attainable and sustainable over the long term. Where it really scores over Atkins is that it does not require counting of any sorts. Unlike Atkins, dieters on this program do not have to record the amount of carbs they consumeevery day. Additionally, there’s no portion control and they can eat as much as they like so long as they follow the plan.
Another huge advantage of this diet over the other two plans is that it is simple to follow. Dieters don’t have to wrack their brains over what foods to eat and which ones to avoid. They are provided a list of 100 natural food items from which they can pick. They also are encouraged to cook their own meals instead of relying on prepackaged foods like bars and shakes.
But the biggest plus of this diet is the personalized, interactive plan that individual dieters receive on a daily basis, which takes into account their specific situation. As part of the plan, they receive tips,exercises, a diet menu for the day and have access to hundreds of quick and easy Dukan Diet low carb diet recipes. All they need to do is follow the instructions on their daily plan and report back that evening – on which their plan for the next day is based.
Now that you have the necessary info about the various low carb dietstheir individual pros and cons; and how they weigh against each other, you can choose the one that you think will work for you. After all, you are not just choosing a diet, but a lifestyle you can stay committed to!
Sydney is a successful nutritionist who lives in Illinois. As a nutritionist, she has provided weight loss coaching to many of her clients. She loves to share her experience and knowledge on benefits of healthy weight loss through her writings and is a great believer in structured weight loss programs.