Which Weight Loss Method is the Best?
Eat vegan. Eat carnivore. Skip breakfast. Never skip breakfast. Eat multiple small meals a day. Fast intermittently. Ensure you are in the heart rate range for fat loss when doing cardio. Do high-intensity interval training. There are literally hundreds of weight loss methods, techniques, and recommendations out there that promise weight loss. For many people, this advice doesn’t end up working out. For others, things work great! This paradox has led to serious miseducation about how to lose weight. There are countless articles on the internet that contradict each other!
The truth about many weight loss methods is that they work, but many weight loss methods won’t work for YOU. This paradox is solvable however, because of these two truths:
- Any method can support weight loss as long as the diet leads to a person sustainably eating fewer calories than they use.
- Just as importantly, any method can fail if a person doesn’t use the diet to sustainably eat fewer calories than they use. And this can happen with EVERY weight loss method!
Here are two stories that really drive home this point. Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition, proved that a diet consisting mainly of Twinkies could be used for weight loss. His blood health markers even improved with this ridiculous diet. There’s also the story of John Cisna, a science teacher from Iowa, who lost 37 pounds and had his cholesterol levels drop from 249 to 170 in 90 days by eating nothing but menu items from the McDonald’s menu, including the Big Macs and Quarter Pounders with cheese.
Let’s be clear here: I don’t recommend these high-carb, high-fat diets. I state them here to reiterate that a caloric deficiency is an important consideration for weight loss, and there are many ways to do this. Pick a way that is aligned with your strengths!
What Weight Loss Methods Are There?
I bucket the various weight loss methods as below:
- Food-Type Restrictive Diets (Keto, Vegetarian, Vegan, Carnivore, etc.)
- Time Restrictive Diets (Intermittent Fasting, OMAD, Extended Fasting, etc.)
- Mental Methods (Conscientious Eating, Environmental Management, Calorie Counting)
Although there are hundreds of weight loss methods, most can be placed in one of the buckets above.
What’s the best method for you? Well, it is impossible to know the weight loss method that will be best for you without even knowing who you are! You are unique and your situation is unique.
So rather than seek a one-size-fits-all solution, use this post to gain an understanding of the various pros and cons of each type of weight loss method. Connect the pros and cons of each method with how you live your life. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. See which method may be the best one for you to try out. If you try a method and it doesn’t work, reflect on why then use that knowledge to see how you need to adjust. Slightly modify the weight loss method to better fit your situation. Ask for further advice from someone who has used that weight loss method before successfully. Or, try a completely new weight loss method if you feel like things aren’t working out.
It is important to choose a weight loss method that you can see yourself continuing to use once you have reached your weight loss goal, all the way until old age. Permanent weight loss can only occur with a permanent lifestyle change. Odds are high that weight will come back if you go back to your old ways.
Note that for now, I have excluded medical methods of weight loss from this list. I do have an opinion on medical methods and may update this article in the future to include them. For the majority of the population, the methods listed can support a person’s successful weight loss.
Food-Type Restrictive Diets
I’ve never seen a website that buckets the carnivore diet in the same place as the vegan diet, but here we are. Believe it or not, they have their similarities in how they can successfully enable a person to lose weight.
Food-type restrictive diets support weight loss by preventing you from overeating junk, which then allows you to feel full at the proper time. When a body feels full at the proper time, it will stop over-eating.
The keto diet, carnivore diet, and other protein+fat/low-carb diets do this by suggesting (sometimes it feels like forcing) the person to eat high-satiety foods such as protein-rich meats and fat-rich sources of food which make us feel fuller, faster. Yes, there is some science behind how the body then activates ketosis, and this ketosis system then promotes enhanced fat burning, but fundamentally, you lose weight on keto because you eat fewer calories than you did before.
The vegan diet, vegetarian diet, and other protein+fibre/low-fat diets do this by focusing the person to eat high-fibre (which are high-satiety) foods such as leafy greens which also make us feel fuller, faster. There is certainly science behind the benefits of how fiber supports a healthy gut, but fundamentally, you can lose weight on plant-based diets because you eat fewer calories than you did before (see a theme, here?)
Why Food-Type Restrictive Diets Work:
- They can align with your bodily cues in regards to hunger: the odds are higher with these diets that you will feel full before you overeat.
- Some people have bad reactions to certain types of foods. If you pick the right diet that avoids a certain food your body reacts negatively to, that is a good thing for the physiological factors and hormones in your body that impact your weight.
- Food-type restrictive diets typically recommend REAL food, which is healthier than processed food and isn’t specifically designed to hijack your hunger feedback loop.
- They generally help you avoid the need to count calories.
Why Food-Type Restrictive Diets May Not Work:
- You can still over-eat with any of these diets.
- Depending on the diet you pick, you may need to supplement for complete nutrition. For example, it’s important to supplement a vegan diet with sources of iron, calcium, and vitamin B2.
- You may need to change your meal plans at home and may have fewer options to choose from when going out, which reduces the odds of you adhering to the program.
- Generally, you need to do more planning to stick with the diet over a long period, reducing the odds of you adhering to the program.
- If you stop the diet and go back to your previous diet, odds are high you will regain the weight. This is important. Temporary diets don’t work. Diets that change your lifestyle permanently? They often work for permanent weight loss.
Time Restrictive Diets
Time-based restrictive diets such as intermittent fasting all work in a similar way: they reduce the amount of food that we eat. There is a science behind them as well, where the longer you hold off on eating, the longer the body is in a “ketonic” state, where your body will start burning fat for energy.
There are a number of methods people use to achieve this. Some do 16/8, which is often just skipping breakfast and snack times. Others do OMAD, which is short for One Meal a Day. Others do 5:2, where they eat normally for 5 days but then eat much less the 2 other days. There are also people who do extended fasting, where people eat zero calories or close to zero calories for 2-7+ days (extended fasting is an interesting topic, which I’ll elaborate on in a future post, but it’s not a method I recommend for most people. For now, you can read Angus Barbeiri’s story, the story of someone who underwent a medically controlled fast for 382 days and lived for decades after his fast).
The main reason people can successfully lose weight with these methods is that it fixes their terrible snacking habits. This can be the single difference in having a person lose weight or gain weight. If you’re good at following rules, this diet gives you some straightforward rules to prevent you from overeating. And just like every diet, you can still overeat during the timeframe that you’re allowed to eat in, which means the diet won’t work.
Why Time Restrictive Diets Work:
- The rules are easy to understand. Do not eat during set periods of time. This usually helps people execute the method properly.
- They allow one to generally not change their lifestyle and diet.
- Insulin spikes are reduced, improving ketosis.
- They reduce the ability for people to over snack.
Why Time Restrictive Diets Don’t Work:
- If you overeat during the timeframe you’re allowed to eat, you will still gain weight.
- You will feel hungry during the period of time you are fasting, although this feeling reduces over time. Some people may get hungry and angry (hangry).
- If what you eat during your permissible eating period is filled with crappy processed foods, this hunger will be very powerful.
- It requires willpower to not have any snacks during the fasting period.
I put conscientious eating, environmental management, and calorie counting into this bucket.
These types of methods do not put any restrictions on what you eat. Just make some environmental adaptations or process adaptations that will then support successful weight loss. The difference between weight loss and weight gain for some can literally be a few calories a day. Many people don’t need to transform their entire lives to shift the scales in their favor!
When you eat consciously and mindfully, you will be less prone to overeating. Instead of using your lizard caveman brain that feels like it needs to eat every calorie it possibly can because it thinks food is not abundant and there may be a famine around the next corner, you use your logical, rational brain to realize that the amount of calories you’ve eaten will be enough for you to maintain (or lose weight) this day. This is often easier said than done, of course, but can be done.
With environmental management, you change your environment such that your brain gets less hijacked by opportunities to eat excess food. This can be extremely hard sometimes depending on one’s situation, but as mentioned above, small caloric shifts can make a huge difference. Environment often matters more than willpower.
How do you eat consciously and mindfully? Well, weighing yourself regularly with Luuze is one way. Mindful eating reminders, which are also a part of Luuze, is another way. Creating your Defining Motivation is a huge way to do this as well, and Luuze has a feature that allows you to make that defining motivation something that is regularly displayed.
How do you manage your environment? By actively changing your environment such that it is conducive to weight loss rather than weight gain. Removing snacks around the house, or making them harder to access. Finding ways to make being active more natural in one’s life. Here’s a list of micro-environmental changes that can make a huge difference.
Why Mental Methods Work:
- Mental methods can be used in tandem with other weight loss methods.
- They often do not require significant lifestyle changes to stick with, and can often fit with your existing lifestyle.
- There is no need to learn new recipes or choose different places to eat out.
- They are extremely flexible.
- They are often sustainable for the long term, which supports permanent weight loss.
Why Mental Methods Don’t Work:
- You will feel hungry. Using your mind to override your bodily hunger cues can feel unnatural, and overriding this cue can be incredibly difficult, especially if you are trying to lose weight quickly. That’s why going slow is important when using mental methods to lose weight.
- Mental methods may only work temporarily or not at all if there is no methodology or process behind the conscientious eating or environmental changes you make.
- We all only have so much mental energy in our lives. Some mental methods of weight loss take more energy than others. If a method takes too much energy, or our life gets stressful, we may not be able to stick with it. For example, calorie counting can be a huge hassle for people, which then leads them to stop doing it, even though it can work.
- You can still easily over-eat if your brain does not actually recognize if it is overeating or undereating.
I used this method to lose 100 pounds. I feel like it’s one of the most underrated methods for weight loss. Mental methods allowed me to make small, incremental, barely noticeable changes to my lifestyle over time. Eventually, my lifestyle completely transformed over three years, and that permanent lifestyle change supported permanent weight loss. Making mental methods work for weight loss isn’t just as simple as “be more mindful,” though. To make mental methods effective, support systems and tools are often required. I created Luuze to do this. Luuze was designed to be as simple as possible, reducing the mental burden required to stick with the process. The tracking methodology is designed to give feedback without requiring too much effort to maintain.
Exercise is awesome. It is an important factor that supports a person’s vitality, energy levels, and longevity. Unfortunately, it is also probably used as the #1 excuse for people to not start on their weight loss journey, and a major reason people give up on even trying to lose weight.
The fact is, you don’t need exercise to lose weight.
Don’t get me wrong: I think exercise is important. Even without exercise, however, you can lose weight, and weight loss alone can improve a person’s health. My life-threatening blood pressure went down significantly because I lost weight, even though I didn’t exercise at all at the beginning of my weight loss journey.
The excuse that “I was too busy to exercise” was one I always used on myself. Once I realized that I didn’t need time to lose weight, I no longer had excuses to not lose weight. A lack of excuses supported me in finally starting my weight loss journey and I’m grateful that I did because I am so much healthier now.
Another sad fact is that some people can gain plenty of weight even if they exercise like crazy.
Like I said, exercise is awesome, and exercise promotes health. But for many people, exercise just makes them hungrier, and then then they eat more to compensate. For these people, exercise did not help them eat fewer calories than they used. Even worse, some people then give up on both the exercise and the weight loss journey, thinking that weight loss is just not a possibility for them. This sucks!
You burn calories with exercise, and that supports weight loss. Unfortunately, you can gain that weight right back by overeating.
Why Exercise Works:
- Exercise burns calories, which directly causes weight loss.
- It can also increase metabolism, which burns fat, which then causes weight loss.
- You can use exercise in tandem with another weight loss method.
Why Exercise Doesn’t Work:
- Exercise takes time and effort, increasing the odds that a person would give up on doing it.
- Exercise can increase your appetite, which means you may still overeat. Often mental methods to ensure you don’t overeat may still be required.
- The calorie counters on exercise equipment are generally inaccurate. They can provide a person with a false feeling of accomplishment, giving them an excuse to justify overeating.
There are hundreds of methods of weight loss. Picking one that aligns with your strengths and environment will maximize the odds of success.
No matter what weight loss method you pick, its success depends on if you can actually use the method to create a caloric deficit in a sustainable manner.
Some weight loss methods focus more on willpower but provide flexibility, and other weight loss methods focus more on satiety but are less flexible.
Be careful with weight loss methods that are unsustainable or do not eventually create a change in lifestyle. If your lifestyle goes back to your old ways, odds are high you will regain the weight.
For any of these weight loss methods, you can use Luuze in tandem to increase the odds of success!