I've always been an all-or-nothing kind of person. If I'm going to try a new workout, I go all in from the very beginning and probably do it every day for the first few weeks so I can get the hang of it. The same goes for diets. I've tried many different diets over the years, sometimes in the name of weight loss, other times in the search for more energy and less bloating. None of them worked in the long run for me — and trust me, I tried my very best to make them work.
Today I eat a strictly plant-based vegan diet. Personally, I think it's misleading to call it a diet, since it feels more like a lifestyle to me. I don't eat any animal products, refined sugar, or processed foods, and every morning I wake up feeling better than I ever did before I was vegan. Plus, it's extremely important to me to do my part in the fight against climate change and animal cruelty. I had a long, winding road that got me to full-time veganism, and along the way, these are the diets I tried (and strongly disliked) along the way.
Keep in mind that just because these diets didn't work for me, it doesn't mean they won't work for anyone else, including you. Everyone is different and will respond uniquely to dietary changes. As always, though, chat with your doctor before making any drastic changes in your lifestyle.
Two years of my life were devoted to going to CrossFit on the regular, so naturally I fell into the Paleo scene. When I first started eating Paleo, I could see a difference in my waistline pretty quickly. I shed a layer of fat within the first few weeks, which was probably due to the fact that I was no longer eating any bread, dairy, packaged foods, or sugar.
That being said, the Paleo high didn't last long. Because of all the meat I was eating (which was a lot of meat), I was experiencing constipation and frequent exhaustion. All the beef and chicken was weighing me down, and I didn't like the way it made me feel overall. Just as importantly, I didn't lose enough weight to make the whole thing worth it. After my waistline shrunk a little, I didn't see any significant changes. In fact, I was convinced that the excess amount of protein was doing me more harm than good.
You may have heard of intermittent fasting and its many benefits, which extend far beyond weight loss. The 5:2 Diet revolves around eating normally for five days each week and choose two nonconsecutive days where you abstain from eating. Sound miserable? It is — only at first, though. Technically, the 5:2 Diet states that a woman can eat around 400 calories of food on her fasting days. I chose to fast every Monday and Thursday, so I would eat a banana in the morning and a small portion of protein at night.
I'll admit that I was the thinnest I've ever been when I followed the 5:2 plan, which is exactly what happens when you restrict yourself from consuming calories. But the cost it came with simply wasn't worth it. On the two days I fasted, I was really tired and couldn't exercise — and call me crazy, but I'm the kind of person who loves to work out every day in some capacity. Eventually, my fatigue caught up to me and I transitioned into a 6:1 diet. It wasn't long before I returned back to a normal 7:0 program.
All in all, I can see how this diet improves digestion (I went to the bathroom like a champion every single morning) and promotes more self-control over your hunger urges, but the bottom line is that I love food and exercise, and I don't think I should sacrifice either.
After my first time going vegan in 2011, I dabbled in the raw-food diet, which is when you eat all your food raw, or cooked under 118 degrees Fahrenheit. This was by far the most time-consuming, most expensive diet I've ever done. More importantly, it made me feel crappy. I was bloated almost all the time, which is a common side effect of consuming a large amount of raw foods, so it became more uncomfortable than anything else.
I discovered the Dukan Diet when I was in my last year of college. Its method is designed by a French physician who claims that you can lose 10 pounds in the first week of the diet. My naive mind believed this wild claim, so I gave it a shot. The Dukan Diet is a high-protein, low-fat, and low-carb program that gives you 100 different foods to choose from, and you can eat as much as you want from that group. I didn't lose any weight even though I was fully dedicated to the program for six weeks, mostly because your body needs healthy fats in order to shed pounds. More than anything, I think I just really missed having a full, well-rounded meal.
The Petite Advantage Diet
I've always been insecure about my height (I'm 5'2"), and since I was a little girl, I dreamed about growing taller and having long legs and arms. So when I first read about the Petite Advantage Diet, I thought it was going to be my saving grace. Dietitian Jim Karas describes the diet this way: if you fill up a kiddie pool with the same amount of water as a regular pool, it will overflow; the same goes for short women. In other words, we need to eat much less than our taller friends if we want to lose weight.
The program has you eating 1,100 calories for two days, and then 1,400 calories the next day, and you continue forward with this rotation. For someone who works out as often as I do, this calorie restriction proved to be very difficult for me. On top of that, the Dukan Diet relies heavily on simply counting calories, so there is little emphasis put on the quality of the calories you consume. That meant I could eat a packaged string cheese whenever I wanted or a frozen dinner as long as it didn't leave me in a surplus of calories.
It ultimately left me feeling sluggish, tired, and generally unhealthy, and although I lost a few pounds, it wasn't anything I would ever try again (or recommend to anyone).