Which Diet Will Help My Belly Fat?
Nothing like the holidays to make us aware of excess belly fat. We’ve eaten too much turkey and gravy, nibbled on the non-ending stream of holiday cookies that show up at work, and find ourselves too busy to go to the gym. December is a great time to take a serious look at the popular diets that promise a flat stomach, along with improved general health and a new lease on life! (For a complete review of America’s top 32 diets, check out “Find the Best Diet” at U.S. News & World Report.)
Let’s start with Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, and other pre-bought food diet systems. While you still need to buy extras like fruit and some vegetables, many people seem to have success losing weight if they stick with the prepackaged portions. The question is if 3 or 6 months of controlled eating is possible for you—and if you have learned enough about healthy eating and portion size to change your diet and portions when you are done with these programs.
The latest diet craze are meat-based programs like the Dukan, Paleo, and of-course the more established Atkins diets. The hypothesis is that when protein supplies the majority of a diet, and fats and carbs are all but squeezed out, fast weight loss ensues because the body turns to stored fat as an alternative fuel.
With Dukan, you eat all of the protein you want for about 5 or so days, then slowly add other foods back in while following a strict protocol of what you can and can’t eat. With the Paleo diet, you eat only “pure” meats and vegetables and fruits—no grains, dairy, or sweets. Atkins offers you unlimited meat and eggs, while you mostly avoid simple starches like potatoes, white bread, and rice. Adherents all report weight loss, if they are able to maintain the food limits in their diet, while longer-term research has not been done to determine long-term health effects or if the weight loss is maintained.
More balanced diets like DASH (developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute), the Mayo Clinic Diet, and the Mediterranean diet all focus on eating a diet low in red meat and saturated fat, and high in produce, nuts, and other healthful foods. Not surprisingly, since many of these diets have been developed in medical or public health settings, more studies have been done that confirm both health benefits and long-term weight loss.
For example, a diet think tank at the Harvard School of Public Health has developed a consumer-friendly Mediterranean diet pyramid that emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; and saving sweets and red meat for special occasions—along with an occasional glass of red wine.
So, back to the original question—which diet is best for you to get rid of excess body fat and maintain the health benefits of permanent weight loss? From the tangle of spokesperson comments, research claims, and anecdotal evidence, the only general fact that emerges is that diets that severely limit entire food groups for weeks, months, or years tend to have lower success rates than less-restrictive diets do. Your own personal food preferences and will power to avoid certain foods will have to be your guide in your committing to a diet plan for the new year.
And if you’ve cut carbs, eaten like our caveman ancestors, or have existed for months on prepackaged foods—but still have belly fat you can’t lose? Consider plastic surgery procedures like CoolSculpting and liposuction that can have you looking as good as you feel when you’ve met your personal diet goals.