A Secret The Diet Companies Don't Want You to Know About

by Suzanne Hiscock

I’ll let you in a little secret the diet companies absolutely do not want you to know:  the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what diet plan you follow!  Take just about any diet plan, figure out the calories in one of their typical meal plans and chances are you’ll see a daily calorie count of around 1400 - 1800 calories for women and around 1800 - 2100 calories for men.  That creates a nice moderate calorie deficit to lose weight for just about anybody. Now, does this mean that I think diets don’t work?  Nope!  I’m going to go against the latest trend and say that diets DO work, IF you find one that works FOR you.  As long as you don’t let yourself get crazy about a diet, to the point where you’re stressing about what to eat, a diet plan can be a great teaching tool.

With a good diet plan, you can learn about:

  • macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein)
  • empty calories and how “bad” carbs (like sugar) affect your body
  • how to make healthy food choices
  • how to plan for and cook healthy meals
  • how to control your portion size

The key is to choose a diet plan that’s pretty close to how you think you could eat for the rest of your life—and then take the elements that work for you (and you can live with) and incorporate them into your life.  It’s all about making changes you can live with for the rest of your life.

Let’s face it, if you love pasta and bread, the Atkins diet just isn’t going to cut it for you, right?  But maybe something like the Mediterranean diet would work better, if you like fish.

Different Types of Diet Plans

Most diets and weight loss programs fall into the following categories:

Fixed-Menu Diet

A fixed-menu diet gives you a list of all the foods you can eat. The advantage of this kind of diet is that the foods are already selected and it’s easy to follow.  The disadvantage of this type of diet is that there is, by definition, a limited food selection and boredom can set in. But you can get creative or, if you’re using a popular plan, there will be lots of recipes to find online. 

Examples of a fixed-menu diet:  Atkins, South Beach Diet, GI Diet, Mediterranean Diet

Exchange diet

An exchange diet works for many because it is a meal plan with a set number of servings from each of several food groups. The structure enables you to plan ahead and offers convenience and it offers enough variety such that boredom generally isn’t an issue.  Within each group, foods are about equal in calories and can be interchanged as you wish. Additionally, with this type of diet you learn lifestyle skills that enable you to keep your weight off permanently. 

Prepackaged or Meal Delivery Diet Plan

These diets require you to buy prepackaged meals, which is a great convenience and a structure that most people can handle successfully.  However, purchasing three meals a day plus snacks can be very challenging.  You do learn how to portion your food but again you don’t want to eat the prepackaged food for ever, so you’ll have to learn how to maintain your weight once you’ve reached your goal.

Calorie restricted diet

Calorie restricted diets work by lowering the amount of calories you eat (which is, as I said, how most diet plans work).  You eat healthy, nutritious foods – just not as much, through portion control.  This type of diet can teach you lifelong habits to lose weight, and keep it off permanently.  Keep in mind, your body needs a minimum amount of calories – typically, 1200 for women, 1800 for men.  Depending on your activity level, body composition, height/weight, you will most likely eat more than that amount a day.  A calorie restricted diet plan will take that into consideration when telling you how many calories a day you should be eating.  Stay away from any plan that has you going below those numbers.  Starving yourself will only hurt your body!

Examples of calorie restricted diets: Jillian Michaels Online, or counting calories on your own.

Choose What’s Right For You

There are so many ways to lose weight—as many ways as there are dieters!  Whether you go it on your own, by eating less and moving more, or by following a diet plan, be sure to make changes in your diet you can live with—and have fun learning about nutrition along the way.  Make your diet work for you!

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About the Author

Suzanne is the owner of FitWatch. She's had strong interest in nutrition and exercise for over 20 years, and is an ACE-certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. Back in 2002, she started FitWatch.com because she wanted to help people lose weight by creating helpful tools and calculators. A huge fan of calorie counting, Suzanne created the FitWatch Fitness Tracker to make it easy for people to count their calories.