Weight — the loss, the gain, the maintenance — should be a matter of simple arithmetic: caloric input versus output, right? Not exactly. The number on the scale is typically linked to several factors including genetics, activity level, and eating habits, all of which make weight management difficult to navigate. That difficulty is often exacerbated by the mountains of information available on the best ways to lose weight. “I always applaud someone attempting to modify their lifestyle,” says Julie Feldman, MPH, RDN, dietician at Thrive Nutrition and Wellness in West Bloomfield, “but for me, intermittent fasting, the keto diet, and other fads can attempt to address a multifaceted problem with a quick fix, and it’s important to be aware of that.” We did the research and unpack the biggest diet trends of 2019 here.
It’s all about timing
Intermittent fasting has been practiced for years as a form of weight control, but has skyrocketed in popularity, especially over the past decade, due to an increase of literature hitting the market. In 2012, journalist Kate Harrison released The 5:2 Diet, which detailed her own experience losing over 30 pounds, and was followed by Dr. Jason Fung’s 2016 book, The Obesity Code, a robust, evidence-based case for intermittent fasting. But what even is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a form of dietary control that emphasizes timing as opposed to a particular set of foods, proportions, or caloric restrictions. Adherents are free to eat what they please as long as they do so within a restricted time frame, and that time frame is also variable. If someone decides on an eight-hour feeding window that spans from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., they can only eat between those hours and must fast for the remaining 16 hours. The 16:8 is a common feeding-to-fasting ratio, but there’s ample room for personalization. The 5:2 method, as followed by Harrison, involves eating normally for five days a week, and adopting a calorie-restricted diet (say 500-600 calories) for the other two days. Another option is alternate-day fasting, summed up by the name. The possibilities for intermittent fasting are endless. Ultimately, it all comes down to the ratio.
The 16:8 is a common feeding-to-fasting ratio, but there’s ample room for personalization.
The Ketogenic Diet
How fat can actually jump-start weight loss
Fat is one of the most contested topics in the weight-management space. That’s because the narrative surrounding fat is constantly shifting. In the 1960s, scientific studies began to link saturated fats with heart disease and weight gain, which spiraled into a stigmatization of all fats. Low-fat diets became the only acceptable way to eat. That trend has started to reverse in recent years with breakthrough books like The Big Fat Surprise by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz, which became the first publication to argue that saturated fats were not harmful to health. That opened the pathway to reimagining the relationship between fat, both saturated and unsaturated, and weight. Originally conceived as a way to calm epileptic seizures, the ketogenic diet takes this notion to an extreme by espousing a high-fat diet that can actually lead to weight loss. Keto dieters may derive up to 90 percent of their daily calories from fat alone, though most typically stay around 60-70 percent. The idea is that this diet will send one’s body into ketosis: a metabolic state in which the body is forced to turn away from traditional forms of fuel, the glucose from carbohydrates, and rely instead on ketone bodies, which is a product produced by the liver during the metabolization of fat. It’s important to remember, though, that keto can often cause nutrient deficiencies due to the lower-than-average fruit and vegetable intake necessary to maintain the right fat-to-carbohydrate ratio. Other side effects include confusion, kidney problems, or worsened existing liver problems if not monitored closely.
Keto dieters may derive up to 90 percent of their daily calories from fat alone, though most typically stay around 60-70 percent.
That new diet you haven’t heard of … yet
As is fitting for our times, Noom operates solely out of a phone app. Launched in 2010, Noom treats weight loss as a holistic health issue — one that straddles nutritional and physical elements, in addition to psychological ones. The app aims to help users reach their numerical goals and alter the mindsets and habits that may have been problematic. No foods are restricted in Noom — instead, the app groups foods by calorie densities and assigns each group a color. Foods like apples, coffee, egg whites, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes are green and should compose the majority of one’s diet. Yellow foods like avocados, beans, hummus, and quinoa should be consumed in moderation. Meanwhile red foods like beef, bacon, French fries, and nut butters should be eaten in “limitation” — constituting of a quarter of one’s diet. Users log their meals and exercise daily. Each user is also matched with a personal health coach to help forge some form of structure. Coaches guide users through their weight loss journey, ensuring they stay on track, and talk them through the more emotional aspects of the process. Noom is currently available on all iOS and Android phones at $59 per month.
Noom treats weight loss as a holistic health issue — one that straddles nutritional and physical elements, in addition to