Nutrition is not always that complicated, we just tend to make it that way.
What do I mean? I'll let you in on a secret: in the dieting world, everything works.
You heard me correctly. Everything does, and can, work.
Heard about a new juice cleanse? Yes, that can work, but you may hate life as a consequence. Paleo? That can work too, but not if you love bread. You can even make up your own diet that consists of only protein shakes, sardines, and soup....but your hangry (hungry+angry) temper may rub some people the wrong way.
It's pretty simple to say that one diet doesn't work because of X, or another diet does work because of X. But, the truth of the matter is that there are a ton of ways to eat well as the human body is extremely adaptable.
So, how can you tell if a certain diet or way of eating actually works over the long term?
The first rule of thumb is pretty simple: does it sound crazy?
It seems silly, but your intuition will eliminate many of the silly "cleanses" or "diets" that seem to be hot, new, and exciting.
Only allowed 30 minutes to eat every day? You can only eat carbohydrates after 8 pm on days that the Red Sox win? These are exaggerations, but not by much from some of the craziness that's out there.
My second rule of thumb: what is your weight one full year after you began that diet?
I always tend to talk about the need to find something that is "sustainable" for you and your goals. The best way to find out if something is sustainable: Can you keep it going for a full year? Seriously. Can you?
Only time will tell if a new habit or diet really proved to be that effective. Now, that doesn't mean that you should or need to be on the same diet for a full year. But if after a full year you find yourself closer to your goals, or are at least moving in the right direction, you're doing something right. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position that nothing really changed, well, at least you know what not to do the next time around.
Where are you in one year? It's a simple question, only to be answered by the most patient among us.