Ten Popular Diets — Which Work and Which Are Hype?


100+ pounds lost on The Slow-Carb Diet®.

If you want to lose fat in 2014, how about we do it together?  I need to work off some Danish butter cookies.

Last year, the Lift team helped me test The Slow-Carb Diet® with 3,500 readers.  The result: 84% of people lost weight and the average weight loss was 8.6 pounds over four weeks.  Many people lost more than 20 pounds.  This didn’t surprise me, given the case studies of people who’ve lost 100+ pounds.

Working alongside UC Berkeley, Lift is now launching the largest study of popular diets ever performed.  You can choose from 10 different diets (Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), and the study includes control groups and a randomized trial.  The Slow-Carb Diet is one option.

I will be participating, cheering you on…and advising.  Here’s what you should do today:

  1. Download the Lift app for goal tracking and motivation. Lift now has Android and web versions, along with the original iPhone version.
  2. Visit the Quantified Diet homepage to choose your diet, or to be randomly assigned to one.
  3. If you choose the Slow-Carb Diet, join the community at 4HBTalk or Reddit for support.  I will pop in every once in a while to check things out.  I’ll be following the diet with you, in addition to using biochemical cocktails I’ll share later.
  4. If you want the full monty, get The 4-Hour Body.  You can lose a ton of weight without it, but the details in the book will prevent you from stalling and make everything faster.

For more background on this study, I asked Tony Stubblebine, CEO of Lift, to tell the story.  Here it is!  It’s a quick read, and I suggest it…

Enter Tony

A year ago, we ran 3,500 readers of Tim’s blog through a four-week study of the Slow-Carb Diet, tracking their progress through Lift.

The results were amazing: 84% of people who stuck to the diet lost weight and the average weight loss was 8.6 pounds over four weeks.  Those stats are crazy, right? Some people lose 100+ lbs going Slow-Carb, but I never dreamed that people’s success rate would be so consistent.

After seeing the results, I wondered whether people fail to adopt healthy habits due to lack of independently testing.  Getting people to change isn’t just about giving good advice; it’s also about giving them confidence in the advice. Our study showed that Slow-Carb definitely works. But what about the rest of the diet world?

As soon as we published the Slow-Carb Diet results, a young researcher at UC Berkeley reached out.  The proposal: that we turn the Slow-Carb Diet study into a full blown scientific research project, or, as he coined it, “The Manhattan Project of diet research.”

Tim is unique, in that he had the vision and the guts to put his diet to the test. Very few (probably zero) other diet authors have tried this.  What if we could replicate this on an epic scale with other approaches?  Real objective data?

Unfortunately, academia doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with popular diets. By the time a study comes out, we’ve all moved on to the next thing. The research that we did on The 4-Hour Body was pioneering in its speed. Tim and I conceived the study in October, ran it in November, and published the results in December.

Taking that rapid, crowd-sourced approach to diet experimentation would be like dropping a nuclear bomb on the existing diet industry. This sort of research could completely change our notion of what works…and for whom.

Our UC Berkeley advisors had just one concern: we had to get more rigorous about our experimental design.

This second study, which we’re calling The Quantified Diet Project, includes a comparison of ten different approaches to healthy diet, a control group, and another group going through a randomized trial.

With your help, we can start getting scientifically-valid measurements for all popular diet advice.  What works and what doesn’t?  The results might surprise you.

When you join, you’ll be presented with ten approaches to healthy diet, along with two control groups. All of these approaches have been vetted for healthiness, but you’ll have a chance to opt out of any that don’t fit your lifestyle.

And, of course, if you are a strong believer in The Slow-Carb Diet, you can go straight to that option (Slow-Carb obviously works).

This is a chance to lose weight, increase your health, boost your energy, and make a real contribution to science.  Join the Quantified Diet Study today!  It could change your life and change how scientific studies are performed.  Win-win.

Here’s to an incredible 2014, starting now,

– Tony Stubblebine
CEO & Co-founder the Lift app
Advice, motivation, and tracking for more than 100,000 goals.

Posted on: January 5, 2014.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

140 comments on “Ten Popular Diets — Which Work and Which Are Hype?

    • Agreed, I’m on a ketogenic diet too and would love to see that option in this or a future study. I’d feel dishonest participating and letting my results taint whatever listed diet “comes closest”, though you could side with slow-carb or paleo. Next time keep us Keto people in the loop!


      • We are asking about people’s dietary preferences. Turns out a lot of people modify these diets to combine with some other form of diet. So, we’re not that worried about you being the person who skews results. Plus, some of the data like change in mood/energy or difficulty is something looks like something we’d still like to gather from you.


      • Fastest way to fat loss is the Ideal Protein diet. Biological protein made in a lab has the highest bio-availablity and the least amount of calories WITHOUT losing lean muscle tissue. You must weigh gain/loss of lean muscle tissue every week or you have no idea what your results are !
        Paleo and South Beach will work well if you are willing to put in more cardio to get rid of the carbs in those diets. Weight Watchers and Atkins are a joke and I have weeklt data on 50 clinets that have followed these methods that are a joke.


      • I agree, I’m following Keto as well. The Gluten Free option was chosen for me, which is one of Keto’s guidelines (No grains). But I was disappointed in seeing that wasn’t an option…It’s even mentioned in the 4HB and the 4 Hour Chef.


    • Same, I’m on a high fat low carb (HFLC) diet- basically ketonic diet…

      No option, closest is either Slow Carb (insert registered trademark here ;-)) or the Paleo

      Paleo is closest in my opinion


  1. So I was thinking of fusing the slow carb diet with intermittent fasting and testing for results.
    I’ll eat foods only recommended in the slow-carb but on the eating schedule of a 14 to 16 hour intermittent fast.
    You guy’s thoughts?


    • Jerome,

      I’ve seen that many people on slow carb forums incorporate intermittent fasting. From my own experience a fast day works great post cheat day. Not sure how much benefit you’d get do it more often than that, but it could be worth experimenting.


  2. I think most diets work – it doesnt matter which one you choose, as soon as you stop putting junk into your system (refined carbs and sugars) you will loose weight if that’s what you have been eating. The success of a diet is more dependant on what you were doing before the diet than the diet itself. Everyone claims their diet works and has proof of it, but that doesnt mean its the best diet. How is “success” measured? I’m looking for the most healthy way to eat (I dont have weight to loose so that isnt a valid measurement for me).. After looking at the long term transformations of people like No-Meat-Athlete, Rich Roll, Scott Jurek and many others, I’m going to try move towards a “whole food, mostly plant-based, not too much” diet.. (Sorry; I’m wary of any diet followed with a “®”)

    I wish everyone a successful, healthy, 2014!


    • I totally agree: the current diet is the best predictor of the success of the next diet. I sincerly hope that the Lift team will take that into account, and not just focus on the usual confonding variables (age, gender, BMI). I would be a shame to gather lots of good data only to end up with rubish conclusions because one variable (current diet) was overlooked.


  3. Awesome idea. Just curious: it seems like many of the diets are the same or have very minor modifications. Can one choose multiple diets or a hybrid? I for example am a huge fan of the slow carb diet, but I also enjoy nuts for energy.


    • Martin — You can eat nuts on the Slow Carb Diet.
      I HIGHLY recommend buying a copy of The 4 Hour Body (print edition). It has all the information about the diet, and the print edition will allow you to take notes as you go. I’ve had great success with all the information in the book, not just the diet… Weight lifting, weight loss, endurance, sex, etc..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Tony,
    Do you have any data from the four week study about the age or gender of the participants? I would be particularly interested in the information, both from the previous Lift trial and from this Quantified Diet Study, relating to women 40-50 who have had children and who have less than 10kgs of bodyfat to lose in order to be regarded as lean. I see plenty of results for males and females of all ages who have a lot of bodyfat to lose, they seem to be able to get good fat reductions weekly, and men seem to report quicker and more substantial loss, but there is not much information around women and the group I described. I got 5kgs of bodyfat off with Tim’s SCD almost 3 years ago, (and added 5kg of lean mass) and not one gram of fat will move since. The DEXA scan tells me another 5-7kg of bodyfat off would put me in the lean category (am in healthy category now) so I need to model the success of other women who are similar to me. I’m afraid the results for men, or those who begin from a very high weight, aren’t necessarily relevant for the whole population. Can I urge you to study our group in particular?


  5. Tim, I think it’s great that you’re puttin’ out this weight loss advice, but you might as well just give up. America was meant to be fat, and we’re just going to get fatter anyway. Why go against the grain? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

    I’m from the South (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and everyone here is BIG. Especially the women. I love big beautiful women, because I’ve learned to ACCEPT them for who they are on the inside, not just how much they weigh. It’s time you embrace Fat Acceptance like the rest of us! Get with the program and get your face squashed by a fattie. Eat, Pray, and Love!

    – Nigel Davis


  6. I would like to participate in research like this but for weight GAIN instead… any chances there will be a project for weight gain diets in the future?


  7. Tim, I really appreciate your work – it significantly changed the way i think and it helped me in a lot of different ways, especially with 4HB. This is why I often like to read you opinions on different subjects, and one of them quite important for me – I would like to know your thoughts on vegan eating, would you consider it efficient and healthy in this context? And recomendable? Best regards. S.


  8. I’d love to see Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Diet get in on something like this. I know Tim is at least acquainted with him. Perhaps Dave could get involved if he isn’t already?


  9. As a Dane I really don’t understand the hype around Danish butter cookies. So dry and boring, why not eat Danish instead?

    Anyway, very cool app you’ve got there.


  10. I will have a go at this although I am not hugely overweight so don’t imagine I will lose a lot. Also I am 50 years old so I don’t expect the same results as someone I their 20’s. Having said that I am a young 50. About 13.5 stone post Xmas @around 23% body fat. My aim is body decomposition; gain muscle lose fat and get that body fat %age as low as is realistic but certainly below 20%.


  11. This sounds fascinating! I can’t wait to see the results. I tried the paleo diet for health reasons once and it was one of the toughest things I’d done; mostly difficult from a planning standpoint (grocery shopping, meals, etc).

    Good luck guys!


  12. I have lost 50 lbs over the past 80 days
    on Ideal Protein (Ketogenic Nutritional Protocol).
    I still have 30 lbs to go but I am very confident that
    I am on the right track. The reason that my wife,
    who has lost 35 lbs, and I chose IP is that the actual
    weight loss is only the first phase of four phases. The
    following three phases help to reinforce healthy eating
    in order to ensure that the weight stays off. I was sceptical
    at first but have been amazed with the results.


  13. In my honest opinion, for most people it’s not the actual diet itself that helps, it’s the fact that they are eating consciously and taking note – mental or physical – of their portions and what they’re eating throughout the day.


    • You mean there isn’t “one weird trick” Benny?! That sort of crazy talk doesn’t sell ebooks and launch forums though. Yeah at the end of the day all of these tricks to reduce calorie consumption are worth experimenting with, and any one of them could work for any one individual. But you have to eat less, and do it consciously and consistently, simple but not easy.


  14. Great! another chance to test the slow carb diet. I have was on it for 3 months last year and it was just incredible times. Hopefully with some kind of community this year I can stay on it for longer. Thanks Tim, and Lift(which I am using currently).


  15. The “slow carb diet” popularized by Dean Karnasez and borrowed by others, is nothing more (or nothing less) than basic, healthy eating. It is NOT a diet but rather a lifestyle, one that has been around for a very, very long time.