What is the best (most effective) diet for weight loss?

Short answer: There’s no universally “best” diet. (And that’s a good thing!)

This is by far the most common question I, and every other nutritionist, get. And the answer is slightly annoying, so I’m giving you a heads up to the disappointment:

Sorry, no diet works for absolutely everyone.

How diets work for weight loss

Currently, the most scientifically proven concept in our weight change is the concept of energy balance.

I’m sure you’ve heard of this concept. It goes like this:

  • If you consume more energy than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.

  • If you consume the same energy as you burn, you’ll maintain weight.

  • If you consume less energy than you burn, you’ll lose weight.

This is the base of ALL weight loss diets ever. Every single one. They restrict your energy intake by limiting what foods you can eat and how much you can eat, (or in the case of intermittent fasting - limiting when you can eat).

This results in you being in a negative energy balance, so you end up losing weight.

Why diets don't work for everyone

Now, while the energy balance is a straightforward concept, there are many other aspects involved in weight loss than simply calories.

  • Your brain doesn’t care how many calories you’ve eaten today. That chocolate brownie is still appealing.

  • Your stomach hardly minds that pizza you’re about to have for dinner. It’s hungry now.

  • Your hunger hormones aren’t bothered about your weight loss goals. They’re too busy announcing that you’re hungry.

So let’s ask the question again: What is the best diet to lose weight on?

The most truthful answer is: The one that works for you and you can actually stick to.

Sure, if you only have skimmed milk for three weeks you’ll lose a lot of weight. But is a milk diet really a smart choice if you’re lactose intolerant? Or if you’re vegan? Or if you just hate milk?

Three separate women can have very different lifestyles:

  • A mum of three that’s trying to build a healthy family environment probably won’t enjoy explaining why she needs to avoid eating carbs to lose weight.

  • A busy professional jumping from one meeting to the next won’t find it appropriate to eat fish or ribs during their business lunch.

  • A woman in her 50’s who’s been having Sunday burgers for her family for decades doesn’t need to go full-on plant-based and miss out on such a family-bonding tradition.

In other words, you need to consider which diet will fit best with your principles, values and habits.

All in all, the best diet for you considers your own uniqueness.

The fact that it worked for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you. Sometimes, the same approach that has worked for you in the past won’t necessarily work again under new circumstances.

What really matters is that you choose your own diet. The one that fits best for you right now.

The 4 components of the best diet for weight loss

The best diet (for you) is one that hits at least 3 of the following 4 components:

  • It fits with your schedule & lifestyle;

  • It matches your principles, values & traditions;

  • It is appropriate for your budget (because organic strawberries have the audacity to cost a fortune!);

  • It actually helps you lose weight (i.e. keeps a negative calorie balance)

Everything else can be considered as details.

Research shows that you can equally build a strong, lean body on a meat-based or a plant-based diet. You can improve your health & wellbeing both with organic free-range foods or just conventional ones. And you can achieve your diet goals on a tight budget or on a spending frenzy.

All of these routes can take you to your destination - the question is: Which one is right for you?

To sum up:

The best diet is the one that works for you and you can actually stick to.