Ranging from just-juice to just-tea cleanses, these typically short-term plans can be dangerous. “Detoxes and cleanses are usually low in calories, protein, and fiber, all nutrients that our bodies need to function,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, who is in private practice in New York City. “These plans leave you feeling hungry and cranky, causing a rebound food binge once you stop the detox.”
The easier it is to seamlessly fit a diet plan into your life without major lifestyle changes, the better. After all, by focusing on holistic long-term results rather than trendy short-term solutions, sustainability becomes the number one enemy of the feared “yo-yo” effect. During our investigative process, we asked ourselves: What makes a diet plan sustainable? After long hours of research, we decided that the following factors can determine a plan’s sustainability, and thus its odds of success:
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
A big part of weight loss is simply being aware of the decisions you’re making. For example, when out at happy hour with friends, you may lose track of how much you're eating or drinking. But if you take a split second to step back and become aware of that fact, you’re more able to course correct. “The awareness and then planning for what else I can be doing, that might give me the same benefit of eating comfort foods,” says Gagliardi.
Contrary to other low-carb approaches, the South Beach Diet makes a clear distinction between “good” and “bad” fats (avocado oil is good, butter is bad), and only prohibits the consumption of certain, but not all, carbs. This means that, while the South Beach Diet has certain similarities with the keto approach, is not strictly ketogenic, but rather keto-friendly.
"If I had to pick one food for weight loss, I would choose oatmeal. It's a whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrate that sticks to your ribs, so it keeps you full and satisfied. Eating it also leads to a slow rise in blood sugar, which has been shown to keep insulin levels from spiking, leading to less fat storage. The key with oatmeal is how to make it so it's not a calorie bomb. I recommend making it with nonfat milk in place of water, stirring in chopped raw nuts or natural nut butter, and topping with fresh or frozen fruits. If you need some added sweetness, a drizzle of maple syrup should do it. — Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition consultant and founder of Nutritioulicious
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.