Thinking of Going on a Diet? Here's How to Figure Out Which One Is Right for You

Most Americans at one point or another have attempted to go on a diet. Whether it be to detox the system, or to lose a few pounds, there are a plethora of diets out there, so the question always becomes: Which to choose? (See also: If You're Eating These 6 Things, Your "Diet" Is Doing Nothing)

While we each have our favorites and may have strong opinions about others, here is my list of the most popular diets, and what they can (and cannot!) do for you.

Low Carb/Atkins/South Beach

Best for: Quick fixers, Diabetics.

Probably one of the best known and most controversial diets, Atkins is based on the idea of a severely limited carbohydrate diet. The diet has three phases with varying levels of restrictions. For some, the results are impressive at the beginning, due to the strict diet restrictions, but dieters may find that the weight bounces back once more carbs are introduced back into the diet. South Beach Diet is a similar program, with more emphasis on watching saturated fats and allowing starchy vegetables. Low carbohydrate lifestyles are also ideal for diabetics, as the lifestyle often requires a drastic sugar reduction, as well.

Master Cleanse/Detoxes

Best for: Those who want a reset.

Severe detox diets like the Master Cleanse often require a near-complete removal of solid foods from a diet for a period of time. The theory behind these cleanses is that you will be able to "reset" your body and remove built up toxins from the system. These are meant to be a temporary solution, because they are so drastic, and not a lifestyle, so if you decide to do a cleanse, make sure you have a plan for after the cleanse.

Low Calorie

Best for: Those with good self-discipline, those in it for the long haul.

Arguably the best known way to lose weight, cutting calories can be very effective. Popular diets like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers have similar tenets, with points being used instead of straight calories, although their outcomes are essentially the same. Now that there are numerous apps, like SparkPeople, MyFitnessPal, My Plate, and countless others, cutting calories has never been easier.

Living a low-calorie lifestyle can also help you learn about food consumption and nutrients, as you begin to read more labels and account for what you're putting into your body. Keep in mind that low-calorie may not be a fast way to lose weight, and you should never go below a healthy caloric level for your body. Try using calculators like "If it fits your macros" and TDEE to find the best range for your body and lifestyle.


Best for: Those with open-minded families.

If you're interested in trying a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for health or moral reasons, consider the rest of your family before making the leap. While incorporating more vegetables and legumes is a great addition to any diet, restricting meat consumption can throw a kink into family dinners. If you've got a supportive family, though, a vegetarian lifestyle is a great choice for adding more essential nutrients and vitamins. But if the thought of giving up protein scares you, keep in mind that there are varying levels of vegetarianism (including those who consume eggs and fish), and many legumes contain sufficient levels of protein, too.

Gluten Free

Best for: Those with Celiac Disease.

Gluten-free has become a popular diet in the last few years. The gluten-free lifestyle involves removal of most-to-all gluten in your life. However, if you choose this diet for weight loss instead of for health-reasons, keep in mind that "gluten-free" options are not always the healthiest choice available, either. Gluten-free breads and foods will contain additional additives and ingredients to produce the same results that gluten would, so binging on gluten-free cupcakes won't help you lose weight any easier.

Nutrisystem/Subscription Meal Services

Best for: Those who can't cook well or want everything taken care of.

I first learned of Nutrisystem in college, when a roommate decided that it would be easier for her to begin a Nutrisystem diet than to budget time for meal preparation. (Coincidentally, she is now a clean living and diet guru.) The theory behind subscription meal services is that everything is taken care of for you, meal-wise. You pay for a certain number of meals, which are pre-packaged and delivered to your door. These meals are carefully calculated to offer a decent amount of daily needs, while still maintaining enough of a caloric deficit to induce weight loss. My roommate would complain of boredom when it came to the meals, however, and she did have some sodium level spikes due to the preservatives, so make sure the subscription service has enough options for your lifestyle. If you prefer something a little less constricting, services like Blue Apron that deliver unprepared meals and recipes that are great to use as a sporadic meal here and there, rather than an entire diet.


Best for: Clean lifestyle enthusiasts.

The theory behind Paleo diets are fairly simple: If our ancestors didn't eat it, you don't need to, either. Paleo has some low carb/Atkins tenets, but it's much more restrictive on the additives you can and cannot have (things like Splenda or any other unnatural additive are not allowed on Paleo, while they are allowed on Atkins). You may also notice fans of Crossfit are also Paleo-enthusiasts, as they both promote clean living.

What diet has been successful (or unsuccessful) for you? Please share in comments!

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