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A Very Brief, Definitely Not Scientific Guide To Everyone's New Year's Diet Plan

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My favorite word in the English language is "snack." Say it out loud. Snack. Ugh, it's so satisfying to me—that hard K to crunch on at the end. (There's a lot of money in the K sound, it turns out...) This might also be the reason I find the word "diet" so unappealing. Not just the sound, but the act. It's worth noting that I've never successfully dieted. In fact, any time I've tried to give up carbs, I find myself eating only carbs, like I've reverse-psychology'd myself. Turns out, thinking a little less about what I'm supposed to eat and making an effort to grocery shop better works the best for me.

That said, there's no better time to talk diets than now, given everyone and their sister is trying to eat less dairy these days and gave up legumes because they "heard it's bad for inflammation." That might be true! I don't know–writing about nutrition on the internet is tricky business because everyone's got an opinion and a meal plan that works for them. And that's great. This is not meant to endorse any diet in particular. It's more of a lighthearted guide, so you don't find yourself in the middle of a watercooler conversation at lunchtime in the office not knowing what to talk about with Paleo people. When that happens, you want to be armed with more than just your wits. Without further ado, here are the five diets I've had to Google in the past two weeks:

Atkins

Or: Why Kim Kardashian Looks So Damn Good
Atkins is the first diet I remember knowing anything about. Carbs became the enemy in the late '90s and early '00s in such a real way that middle schoolers knew about it. I'm not going to defend the nutritional aspect of this one—it's about weight-loss, plain and simple. It can be split into four phases to jumpstart, balance, and slow the process, which sounds a little like cleansing.

Who it's good for:
People with tremendous willpower who want to lose a dress size fast

What you can eat:
- Protein (animals and nuts)
- Fat (butter, cheese, yogurt)
- A selection of low-carb, leafy greens

What you can't eat:
- Carbohydrates (your grains, your glutens, your rices...)
- Vegetables that are high in carbs
- Simple sugars (soda, fruit, candy)

There's also something called Eco-Atkins that's very specific. You allot 31 percent of daily calories to plant proteins, 43 percent to plant fats, and 26 percent to carbs. I imagine this must require you to carry a food scale around with you and a food scale does not fit in my current bag, so I'm going to respectfully pass.

The Alkaline Diet

Apparently how Victoria Beckham eats.
The article from the Journal of Environmental and Public Health tells me that balanced pH levels are not just required for good skin (shoutout to all those toner users) but for the Earth to continue existing. As the alkalinity of our soil, food, and overall diets change, nutritionists argue that humans consume less magnesium, potassium, and fiber, in favor of more sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. This increases the acid load in the body which is no good. An alkaline diet seeks to reverse that.

Who it's good for:
Anyone suffering from GERD, kidney stones, ulcers, and other inflammatory ailments

What you can eat:
- Most fruits and vegetables
- Chlorophyll
- Nuts and other plant proteins

What you can't eat:
- Grains
- Dairy
- Eggs
- Lentils
- Caffeinated beverages

This diet also pulls heavily on the thesis of raw food diets. If you hate cooking, maybe it's for you!

Paleo

Eating like a caveman!
Not all that different from the alkaline diet, a paleo diet is all about reverting your eating habits away from what Big Dairy, Big Sugar, and Big Junk Food companies want you to eat. The endgame is to increase the amount of nutrients consumed and lessen the glycemic load.

Who it's good for:
People that like HIIT, I think? Also Jessica Biel, Miley Cyrus, and Megan Fox all reportedly do this.

What you can eat:
- Meat
- Seafood
- Eggs
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts
- Fats from things like tallow and lard

What you can't eat:
- Grains
- Legumes
- Dairy
- Vegetable oils like soybean oil and the like
- Sugars, real or artifical
- Anything you couldn't easily make or forage if we dropped you on a deserted island without tools or a lighter

Whole30

What my mom said she's trying this month.
No, this is not a Whole Foods-sponsored plan, though it sounds like it is. The point here is to push the reset button on everything your GI tract touches—so things like metabolism, inflammation, digestion, and energy levels. I also hear you can start to phase things back in after the first month, based on what your body doesn't like. There's some stat about how it takes at least month to make something into a habit, and I feel like Whole30 is really capitalizing on that. I also read that you're not allowed to step on the scale as a part of this diet, which I'm very into.

Who it's for:
People who might be suffering from unidentified food allergies or intolerances. Basically, if you haven't been able to figure out why the food you eat makes you feel so terrible, even if you've seen a doctor and know the difference between Tums, Pepcid, and Gaviscon.

What you can eat:
- Meat
- Seafood
- Eggs
- Fruits and veggies
- Oils from nuts and seeds

What you can't eat:
- Grains
- Dairy
- Legumes (including peanut butter and any soy)
- Sugar of any kind
- Definitely no alcohol
- Nothing you can't pronounce

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

THE TOM BRADY & GISELE BÜNDCHEN DIET!!!
I have nothing to say about this one except that it sounds absolutely miserable and want to go back to writing about Whole30, because that one seemed easier. The Cut did a good write-up here.

Who it's for:
Probably not you. Are you Tom Brady? No? Then definitely not you.

What you can eat:
- Vegetables
- Brown rice
- Quinoa
- Millet
- Beans
- Lean meats

What you can't eat:
- Sugar
- White flour
- Nightshades (Gwyneth isn't into these either, according to my copy of Goop Clean Beauty)
- Anything good
- I didn't see dairy listed anywhere, but I'm assuming you can't eat much of that either

So, question: How do you eat? Why? What works for you? I still eat Cheetos at 3pm every day so I'm not much of an authority... Thanks in advance!

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton

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