It’s a no-brainer that diet and exercise are both crucial to your well-being and your waistline. And that generally adhering to recommended guidelines (like getting regular doses of aerobic activity and resistance training, filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and eating lean protein) is the best way to optimize your health overall. But what if you want to achieve something specific—to drop a dress size, say, or stave off heart disease? Research shows that, in certain cases, focusing on one over the other will give you better, faster results. Real Simple asked experts to consider five common goals. Here are their verdicts.
If you are struggling to eat enough or are eating too much, nutrition counseling may help you get essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals into your diet and maintain a healthy body weight. Ask your health care team for a referral to a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Dietitians and other members of the health care team work with people to meet their nutritional needs.
This high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb fad diet sends the body into a state of ketosis, in which the body uses stored fat for energy. Research published in Clinical Cardiology suggests the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet can be an effective weight loss method, but to be successful, you must follow the plan consistently with no cheat days — otherwise, you’re just eating a high-fat diet that may be high in unhealthy fats for no reason. (1) (A pro tip? If you're planning on doing the diet, consider perusing this complete keto food list and reading up on the healthiest fats for keto diet followers.)
The Mayo Clinic Diet provides practical and realistic ideas for including more physical activity and exercise throughout your day — as well as finding a plan that works for you. The diet recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day and even more exercise for further health benefits and weight loss. The diet also emphasizes moving more throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator.
The Mayo Clinic Diet is the official diet developed by Mayo Clinic, based on research and clinical experience. It focuses on eating healthy foods that taste great and increasing physical activity. It emphasizes that the best way to keep weight off for good is to change your lifestyle and adopt new health habits. This diet can be tailored to your own individual needs and health history — it isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.
“As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise. An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only six over about 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off. For example, if you eat a fast-food steak quesadilla, which can pack 500-plus calories, you need to run more than four miles to ‘undo’ it!
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The Council on Food and Nutrition of the American Medical Association defines nutrition as "the science of food; the nutrients and the substances therein; their action, interaction, and balance in relation to health and disease; and the process by which the organism (i.e. body) ingests, digest, absorbs, transports, utilizes, and excretes food substances." The purpose of our diet is to consume foods that provide the six essential nutrients:
These types of back-and-forth weight fluctuations can contribute to disordered eating, Kizer says, or can worsen an already unhealthy relationship with food. “I think this diet appeals to people who have issues with portion control and with binge eating,” she says. "And in many cases, what they really need is a lifestyle coach or a professional counselor to help them get to the bottom of those issues."
Swanson, a professor of neurology who has researched the impacts of ketogenic diets on inflammation in the brain, got curious about the ketogenic diet when trying to treat the inflammation that persists for days after a person suffers a stroke. When he tried inducing a ketogenic state in mice with stroke injuries, he said, “I was overwhelmed by the effect.” Blocking glucose metabolism worked to suppress inflammatory genes, which in turn helped stroke healing.
And there's another benefit to using exercise as a weight-loss tool. If you lose weight by only reducing calories from your diet, you also run the risk of losing muscle and water in addition to fat. But exercise not only burns calories - it can also help you to increase your lean muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are at rest, adding exercise to the mix can help make you a lean, mean, calorie-burning machine!
Sure, your yoga sports bras works great for downward dog—but when it comes to running, you'll need one that's designed to lock them in for all that pavement pounding. So what should you look for? "The best sports bras are loose around the chest so you can expand your ribs and diaphragm more effectively. But they should also be form-fitting," says Deena Kastor, an American marathon record holder and 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist. Just make sure the cup is made of comfy material (like a soft compression fabric; look for descriptions that include the terms "breathability" and "compression")—you don't want to be itching at mile two!
Lose It! This two-week phase is designed to jump-start your weight loss, so you may lose up to 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) in a safe and healthy way. In this phase, you focus on lifestyle habits that are associated with weight. You learn how to add five healthy habits, break five unhealthy habits and adopt another five bonus healthy habits. This phase can help you see some quick results — a psychological boost — and start practicing important habits that you'll carry into the next phase of the diet.
“This is a great way of eating that I highly recommend to many clients, and I even model in my own life,” says Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, who is in private practice in San Diego and is the co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook. “Since the premise of the diet is designed to help people who have high blood pressure, low-sodium foods are recommended. But considering that most Americans exceed their daily sodium levels anyway, it’s not surprising that dietitians recommend this style of eating for treating many different conditions, such as heart disease and obesity.”
Of course, there are so many more reasons to exercise, and physical activity is amazing for your overall health and wellness. It’s just that if you want to lose weight, it may not be the best or only answer. “Honestly, I think people just don’t know where to start,” says Mangieri. “It’s easy to say you’re going to go to the gym for an hour. It’s much harder to think about what you’re eating all day, every day.” She recommends setting goals that are just as specific and achievable for healthy eating, which could be as simple as drinking a big glass of water right when you wake up, getting protein at breakfast, filling half of your plate with colorful vegetables, or going for a walk in the evening, instead of eating ice cream on the couch.
The MIND diet, or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a sort of hybrid between the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. It features foods meant to slow the progression or development of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia and an incurable neurodegenerative condition that more than 5 million Americans are living with, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. (12) Some research backs up this notion, including a study published in September 2016 in Alzheimer’s Dementia that found a link between following the MIND Diet and a reduced risk of the disease. (13)
Yet the new study found that after one year of focusing on food quality, not calories, the two groups lost substantial amounts of weight. On average, the members of the low-carb group lost just over 13 pounds, while those in the low-fat group lost about 11.7 pounds. Both groups also saw improvements in other health markers, like reductions in their waist sizes, body fat, and blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
The classic ketogenic diet is not a balanced diet and only contains tiny portions of fresh fruit and vegetables, fortified cereals, and calcium-rich foods. In particular, the B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D must be artificially supplemented. This is achieved by taking two sugar-free supplements designed for the patient's age: a multivitamin with minerals and calcium with vitamin D. A typical day of food for a child on a 4:1 ratio, 1,500 kcal (6,300 kJ) ketogenic diet comprises three small meals and three small snacks:
Ultimately, all of these carbohydrates are broken down and converted into glucose. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and provide fiber, so they are the best source of carbohydrates. This does not mean that fruit or milk is not a healthy source. The skin and the seeds in the fruit are sources of fiber, so they contain both simple and complex carbohydrates. Milk sugar has been shown to enhance calcium absorption, making it an asset to your health. Again, the quantity consumed is going to be the key.
Since getting on the right medications, she’s seen a positive change in her hormone levels and her weight. The model went on to say, “Although stress & excessive travel can also affect the body, I have always eaten the same, my body just handles it differently now that my health is better. I may be ‘too skinny’ for u, honestly this skinny isn’t what I want to be, but I feel healthier internally and am still learning and growing with my body everyday, as everyone is.”
Trans fat has been found to be the most dangerous for our health. It's so dangerous that the guidelines are not to consume any in your diet. Recently, trans fat has been added to the food labels so that you can now determine if there is any present in the food. The one limitation is that you will only see foods with over 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving list any trans fat on their label. This means that if the serving size is two cookies and there is .4 grams of trans fat in two cookies, the trans fat content will be listed as 0 grams. However, if you eat eight cookies, you will actually be consuming 1.6 grams of trans fat. The way to determine if there is any trans fat present is to read the list of ingredients and look for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
The popular low-carb diets (such as Atkins or Paleo) modify a true keto diet. But they come with the same risks if you overdo it on fats and proteins and lay off the carbs. So why do people follow the diets? "They're everywhere, and people hear anecdotally that they work," McManus says. Theories about short-term low-carb diet success include lower appetite because fat burns slower than carbs. "But again, we don't know about the long term," she says. "And eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return."
To become what she is today — one of the most sought-after models in the industry — took some family pedigree (her mom, Yolanda Hadid, is a former model who also starred in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Lifetime’s Making a Model With Yolanda Hadid) as well as a lot of hard work. British Vogue called Gigi part of “the new age of models” because of her “strong work ethic, good manners, and the ability to speak out.”
Whether or not you need specialty bars and other packaged goods formulated with probiotics is another matter. “Science has not shown that probiotics improve general health,” says Dr. Shira Doron, infectious diseases physician and associate hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center. “Certain diseases and conditions have been studied, with varying results, some of which suggest that probiotics can mitigate symptoms. If you’re taking a probiotic for a specific condition, it is critically important that you use the same strain, formulation and dose that were shown to be effective in clinical trials; otherwise you cannot assume you will experience the same positive effect,” she explains.
In February, after internet commenters were attacking Hadid for her slimmer-than-usual figure, she fired back on Twitter, explaining that being diagnosed — and then treated — for Hashimoto’s has played a role in her weight fluctuations: “For those of you so determined to come up w why my body has changed over the years, you may not know that when I started @ 17 I was not yet diagnosed w/Hashimoto’s disease; those of u who called me ‘too big for the industry’ were seeing inflammation & water retention due to that.”
Many diets, including Atkins and the keto diet, fit into this umbrella. A typical low-carb diet limits carbs to less than 60 g daily, but this can vary, according to the Mayo Clinic. (15) In a September 2015 review published in PLoS One, people following low-carb diets saw modest weight loss — although study authors note that long-term effects of the diet require further research. (16)