The Pro’s and Cons of Popular Diets

You might have heard me in the past say “Diets set you up to fail” “Don’t bother your arse dieting” “When you lose it, you’re just gonna put it all back on” which to a certain extent I still stand by. 

When we think about the word “Diet” – we instantly relate it to restriction, deprivation, eliminating “bad” foods and only “eating healthy” for a certain period of time until it becomes too difficult to maintain. (Hence “failing” time and time again) 

The actual word itself means “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”

Habitually being the key word in that sentence. 

A habit is an action or behaviour that you do on a regular basis. Like brushing your teeth.

If your goal is to drop body fat/ lose weight then ALL diets “work” – once you’re in an energy deficit. 

Keto works.

Slimming World works.

Paleo works.

IIFYM works.

Intuitive Eating works.

The Cabbage Soup Diet works. 

Intermittent Fasting works. 

They all have one thing in common – they’re calorie controlled in one shape or another.

However, where most people fall down is they choose a diet that they cannot maintain long term. 

They “go back to their old ways”.

My job as a coach is not to slate my clients dietary choices, but to provide them with enough information to make their own educated, controlled decisions.

Remember, the only failure is not being in control of your own decisions. 

What is it? A high fat, low carb diet. Remember Atkins? Yeah Keto is quite similar. Our bodies naturally use sugar for energy and left over energy gets stored as fat. What Keto does is it depletes your body of sugar so your body is forced to use the energy from fat cells instead. 

Pros: It’s been found to help seizure reductions with those who have epilepsy. Obese people have had some success with it. Easy to follow if you love meat and high fat foods. 
Cons: People often experience “Keto Flu” during the first couple of weeks as their body adapts to ketosis. Very difficult for Vegan/ Vegetarians to follow as a lot of non-animal protein sources contain a high amount of carbohydrates. If you love bread, spuds, pasta & grains, you might struggle to keep up with this one. May need to supplement with a multi-vitamin to avoid micronutrient deficiencies.  Currently, there’s not enough data to disclose long-term affects.

Slimming World:
What is it? A low fat, high carb diet. Controlled by a limited number of “syns” per day. Most low fat/ high carb minimally processed foods are labelled as “free” foods, meaning you can eat copious amounts on the plan. 
: It encourages people to prepare and cook their meals, providing “Slimming World Friendly” alternatives to common fast food dishes. Easy to follow if you can plan and prepare meals.

Cons: While all foods contain calories, people can often misinterpret the plan and serve large portions of “free” foods thinking they can eat as much of it as they like and still lose weight (i.e they don’t). SW have been in hot water recently after the Muller-gate scandal and introducing “guilt free” chips. The max is 15 syns per day across the board, meaning the plans aren’t indiviualised to cater the person’s gender, height, level of activity and starting weight.

What is it?
Stands for If It Fits Your Macros. Meaning you can eat whatever you like, once the nutritional value matches your macro split for the day. Macros are Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats. So if you were on a 1500 calorie per day diet, if following IIFYM, you could have 40% (600kcal) of protein, 30% Carbohydrates & 30% Fat (450kcals each) for example. The calorie limit and macro split are dependent on the individual and goals. 
Pros: No food is off limits, once it fits your macros. Meaning IIFYM is about getting all macronutrients in and not completely eliminating fats or carbs. 
Cons: Most people use My Fitness Pal to help them keep track of their nutrition intake. MFP is like the Wikipedia of dieting, meaning anyone can contribute a food, thus a lot of entries can be highly inaccurate. If using MFP, scan the barcode of the item you’re eating, or if there’s no barcode, look for the tick beside the item which shows it’s been officially approved as accurate. 

Intermittent Fasting: 
What is it?
Having your total daily calorie intake within a window of a few hours. 
Pros: It’s good if you’re busy and only have time for one meal per day (example). However that meal should be substantial enough where you won’t feel hungry outside of the eating window.
Cons: If you enjoy eating at regular periods of the day, this might not be for you. Some people find it physically uncomfortable to have a large meal in one sitting.

Intuitive Eating: 
What is it?
Tuning into your hunger and satiety cues and responding as required i.e eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re no longer hungry. Intuitive Eating focuses on weight management for the long term as it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to count calories/ macros/ syns religiously for the rest of your life. It can be practiced alongside most diets to prevent you “going back to your old ways” when you decide to stop the diet. 

Pros: There’s no calorie counting involved, once your overall diet contains mostly whole, minimally processed food, portioned appropriately. By listening to your body, you can also eat out occasionally without having to worry how many calories are on the menu. Over time, you learn how to “eyeball” portions that work for you, don’t make you feel bloated or sleepy after a meal and don’t make you feel hungry an hour later.

Cons: It can take some time to really grasp the concept. People early on often stop too early at a meal and find they’re hungry again soon after, or leave a lot of leftovers (waste). It can be difficult to leave any food on the plate when you’ve been ingrained to clear the plate every time (thinking of the starving children in Africa). If a meal is extremely delicious it can be difficult to stop eating when your body says you’ve had enough, because it’s just too nice to let go. People can find it difficult to slow down when they don’t like food going cold. Also it can be really difficult to slow down and enjoy the meal when you’re starving beforehand, thus overeating can happen without realising it at the time. Tip for managing this: when you’re halfway through the meal ask yourself “will this next bit make me feel full or stuffed?” If you feel lik it’ll make you feel stuffed, then you’ve had enough.


The thing is, none of these methods will work if you eat when you’re bored. Or often pick at the kids snacks/ leftovers. And they definitely won’t work if you’re an emotional eater. Or have a history of disordered eating. You also have to be very careful that your new dietary choices won’t have a negative impact on your mental health, or physical health. Some people can be so focused on “healthy eating” that they develop a fear of “unhealthy” foods (orthorexia) whilst others can have tendencies to wallow in guilt for eating “bad food”. 

Making drastic dietary changes can lead to lethargy, poor sleep quality and poor brain function. To avoid this, my advice is to look at what you’re eating now, and see where you can ADD highly nutritious foods first before thinking about “cutting out” anything. 

The “best” diet for YOU is one that makes you feel well, both in body and mind, works towards your body composition goals and doesn’t interfere with you enjoying life to the full.

Your dietary choices should ADD to your quality of life, not reduce it. 

SJ x