The Fitness Zone

Decoding the Diet Dilemma: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Popular Weight Loss Strategies

Nov 06, 2023 | by Renee Curran

With easy access to the internet at any point of our day, the increasing social media platforms, and the ever-growing pressure to be healthier – it can be overwhelming with the amount of information we consume about diet culture on a daily basis.

Although this information is amazing to have at our fingertips, health has become one of the more divisive and controversial conversations being had, particularly online. 

Studies show Australia has a significant majority of the population with the goal to lose weight at 62.2%, making Fad Diets so marketable [3]. 

With platforms such as TikTok and Instagram having high exposure influencers ‘’sharing their day on a plate’’, and advertising companies being just a keyword said throughout your day away – it can be difficult to decipher what is reliable guidance to follow and what can work for you.

Let’s start with the very basics – 

  • We know if our goal is to maintain weight the amount of energy we consume (food & drink) needs to be the same as the amount of energy we exert (exercise & daily tasks)  = maintenance 
  • If we want to lose weight we need to be exerting more energy than we are consuming – whether that we increasing our energy expenditure (exercise) or decreasing our intake (food & drink) = deficit 
  • And if we are looking to gain weight or muscle we need to be consuming (food & drink) more energy than we are exerting (exercise) = surplus [3]

The Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating is a foundation created for the average Australian to follow that ensures we are getting enough of each food group and sufficient nutrients and energy, to live a healthy day-to-day life. 

The Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating encourages a healthy variety of all food groups throughout your diet, and a balanced split of your Macronutrients, which may look similar to this:

  • Protein: 15-25%
  • Carbohydrates: 45-65%
  • Fats: 20-35%

[2]

Reflecting on the idea that 62.2% of Australians have the goal of losing weight, these are some of the most common fad diets you may come across, that people use to try to achieve this – 

  • The Ketogenic Diet
  • Low Carbohydrate Diet
  • Paleo Diet 
The Ketogenic Diet 

One of the increasingly popular Fad diets you may have seen or heard of is the Ketogenic Diet (Keto Diet).

The Keto Diet consists of decreasing your carbohydrate intake to the point that it puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is when your body burns through its fat stores that have been broken down into molecules called Ketones, rather than glucose, primarily sourced from Carbohydrates 

The Keto diet also focuses on your 3x main macronutrients – that are clearly labelled on all packaged food for you to follow – this is Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fats.

A daily breakdown of the Keto Diet may look something similar to this 

  • 5% of your daily intake of energy from Carbohydrates 
  • 20% of your daily intake of energy from Protein
  • 75% of your daily intake of energy from Fats

[4]

Common foods that cater to the Keto diet best could be – Red meat, Fish, Nuts, Avocado, Olive oil, Eggs, and dairy foods such as cheese.

Considering the image above, you can see the lack of colour and nutrients which we source from our Veg, Fruit, and Grains. Without these nutrients not only can deficiencies develop over time, but your energy levels, flexibility around food and general enjoyment will be restricted. 

This diet is not for everyone as we know it doesn’t cater to any of the five guidelines in ‘Australian Dietary Guidelines’ which promotes variety and nutritional adequacy across all food groups and is created to meet the needs of most healthy adults. 

In order for the Ketogenic diet to be most impactful, you need to reach the state of ketosis, making this a difficult fad diet to modify and adjust to be more balanced. 

Low Carbohydrate Diet 

Many different versions of The Low Carbohydrate diet are often talked about very casually, with people saying they ‘’aren’t eating bread right now’’ or ‘’trying to watch their carbs’’. But this diet can be followed consistently under programs such as Weight Watchers or the Atkins diet. 

According to the Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating, we know the suggested Carbohydrate split for your diet is between 45-65%. The Low Carbohydrate decreases this to a range of 15-25% of your overall daily intake and encourages cutting out food groups and particular food sources such as your Grains food group, or your denser starchier vegetables. This diet frequently paints the idea of breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, and oats, as ‘’bad’’. 

The Low Carbohydrate diet although having a different approach, promotes very similar behaviours to your Ketogenic diet. 

With your carbohydrate intake decreasing, not only are you missing out on vital nutrients to keep your body functioning optimally, but the likelihood of increased fat and protein consumption is high. With a high consumption of protein and low consumption of fibrous carbohydrates, you’ll likely experience the same gut and digestive issues you would on the Keto diet over time, and your main energy source for day-to-day function is being depleted. 

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet (sometimes referred to as the Stone Age or Caveman Diet) focuses on whole, unprocessed foods, and works around the idea of what people ate in the Palaeolithic era more than 2 million years ago. As you can imagine, this means mostly naturally sourced foods such as fruit, vegetables, and meat/poultry. [5]

It is quite easy to understand what is and isn’t considered ‘Paleo-friendly foods’, you simply ask the question ‘Is it processed?’

Allowed: Fresh lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, coconut oil, and small amounts of honey.

Not Allowed: Cereals, refined grains and sugars, breads, dairy products, alcohol, coffee, salt, refined vegetable oils such as canola, and processed foods in general.

This diet does focus more on balance which is positive, and offers a plethora of nutrient-rich options, although in our current day and age people still need accessibility and flexibility. 

This diet is considered superior due to the organic ‘clean’ perception – but only 4 of the 5 food groups are considered ‘allowed’ with the restriction of Dairy.

Dairy can frequently get a bad wrap but has a really important purpose in the body. The suggested amount of Calcium for a 18-40-year-old is between 840 mg/day – 1,200 mg/day and the recommended Calcium intake increases as we age to combat conditions such as Osteoarthritis or increase our consumption to further support the body throughout pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. So cutting this out poses another questionable restriction. [6]

We also need to consider what the average person’s lifestyle may include – weddings, parties, holidays, children’s lunch boxes, restaurants, etc, all of these things are incredibly difficult to manage your Paleo diet around, making it not only inflexible but unrealistic for almost anyone to sustain long term. 

Now we have looked closely at the three more common fad diets being used in our society, see below a table that compares these pros and cons to help you formulate your own opinion –  

The theme of fad diets is restriction

And although they offer their own pros and cons, can be an effective method to initially lose weight, and can feel exciting or provide a sense of control – balance will always be the most favorable approach to your diet. 

Understanding that basic bite of information = energy in vs. energy out is the most important. You can still create a surplus/deficit to reach your goals while providing your body with a variety of nutrients, the flexibility around food choices, and the energy you need to be awesome.

As you can see, we always circle back to the Australian Guidelines which promote this balanced approach, and it’s important to understand that if you’re looking for more personal guidance in this space consult with a Nutritionist or Dietician who can provide you with comprehensive advice on how to approach your own goals around Nutrition.

REFERENCES

  1. Batch, J. T. (2020, August 10). Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ketogenic Diet: A Review Article. NCBI. Retrieved June 16, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480775/
  2. Binns, C. (n.d.). Guidelines Dietary. Eat For Health. Retrieved June 13, 2023, from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf
  3. McCay, J. (2023, March 13). What motivates us to lose weight? | Compare the Market. Compare The Market. Retrieved June 13, 2023, from https://www.comparethemarket.com.au/health-insurance/features/what-motivates-us-to-lose-weight/
  4. Roberts, T. (2023, February 23). Keto Rules and and Regulations in Australia • Paleo Foundation. Paleo Foundation. Retrieved June 13, 2023, from https://paleofoundation.com/keto-rules-and-and-regulations-in-australia/
  5. Paleo Diet for Weight Loss | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved August 22, 2023, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/paleo-diet/
  6. Pletcher, P. (n.d.). The Paleo Diet — A Beginner’s Guide + Meal Plan. Healthline. Retrieved August 22, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-diet-meal-plan-and-menu
Renee Curran

Renee Curran

Renee has been with the Australian Institute of Fitness for almost 3 years now and is part of the Training and Fitness team. She has 10 years of Personal Trainer experience and is currently studying for her Bachelor of Nutrition, due to her love of food and her goals to create a really proactive conversation around managing our health and enjoying our lifestyle consecutively.

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