There are many different weight loss programs available that all offer their own unique approach to focusing on the things that are truly needed to lose weight in the long term. Successful weight loss requires a comprehensive approach that includes not just calorie management but also healthy nutrition and physical activity.
How to choose a new diet
Deciding on a new diet is a big deal, and it can be tricky to select the right one for you. “One must remember that healthy weight loss is a commitment that takes time,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. “There is no silver bullet. When choosing a diet, opt for one that is an all-food inclusive and not one that is about eliminating foods, especially those you love.”
Amanda Holtzer, M.S., R.D., a dietitian at Culina Health, suggests asking yourself the following question before settling on a new diet:
● Is this diet sustainable for you? “Meaning, can you do it seven days a week, forever?” she says. “Because if not, the second you stop doing it, chances are you’ll gain the weight back.”
● Is this diet overly restrictive? If you’re going to feel deprived, Holtzer says it will be tough to stick with a particular diet. “Eventually, those cravings will take over,” she says. “Oftentimes, this kind of situation leads to overindulgences or even binges.”
● Will you be able to live your life while on it? If you like to eat out with friends, grab ice cream on occasion, and enjoy mimosas at brunch, it’s important to consider if your diet will allow this, Holtzer says. “If you think you’ll have to put your life on hold to execute this diet properly, it ain’t the one,” she says.
● Will you be adequately nourished? Holtzer says this is “the most important” question to ask yourself. “Any diet that prescribes intensely low calories is not the one,” she says, citing diets that want to you to restrict yourself to 1,200 calories. “Remember, the second you stop eating that way, you’ll gain the weight back,” Holtzer says.
Ultimately, Gans says, “a good fit will have many parts to it that become part of your lifestyle, not something that you will be counting the days ‘til it is over.”
How long should you give a diet before trying something new?
Sure, it’s possible to choose a diet the first time that may not be right for you. So, how long should you give it? Holtzer says “not very long.” She recommends doing daily check-ins with yourself to see how you’re feeling on a new diet. A few things to consider, per Holtzer:
- How well you’ve been able to stick to the diet
- What you did well
- What you could have improved on
- Whether you feel satisfied from your meals and snacks
- How much you’re thinking about food on the diet
- How much the diet is impacting other areas of your life
“Even if you finish day one of a diet, and the answers to some of these questions indicate that this diet may not be right, I would say it’s time to call it,” Holtzer says. “Life is too short to be on a diet that takes away from it.” (But, she adds, if you feel like daily check-ins are too much, you can reevaluate every week.)
Gans agrees that you shouldn’t stick with something that doesn’t feel right. “If you are losing one to two pounds a week, then you are on the road to success,” she says. “However, if you are losing weight, but feel you cannot continue for long because it is so darn hard, the time to switch is immediate.”
Overall, Gans recommends keeping this in mind: “The best diet is the one that doesn’t feel like a diet. The plan incorporates all foods groups, teaches you about portion sizes, provides healthy cooking tips, includes dining out strategies, suggest regular physical activity and adequate sleep. The best diet is actually not a diet, but a lifestyle.”
Best Diets To Help You Lose Weight
A vegetarian diet isn’t a guaranteed way to lose weight, but it can be helpful if you are a big meat eater. There are many different types of vegetarian diets, but most shun meat while allowing for things like eggs and dairy products with a heavy emphasis on plant-based foods.
“This diet eliminates fat-rich meats,” Angelone says. “Vegan diets further eliminate cheese and other high-fat dairy. This is especially effective for people who eat a lot of meat, burgers, and cheese.”
How it helps you lose weight: Just ditching meat won’t automatically make you lose weight—especially if you’re not replacing it with nutrient-dense and high-fiber foods to fill you up, Cording points out. But doing a vegetarian diet the right way can definitely lead to weight loss. One study found that people who were overweight and obese who followed a plant-based diet for six months lost about 26 pounds on average.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the lifestyle of people who live in the Mediterranean region, which includes Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. It’s big on plant-based foods and whole grains, along with healthy fats (think: avocados, fish, and nuts). The diet also allows for a glass of red wine day, but recommends that followers limit red meat.
How it helps you lose weight: At its core, the Mediterranean diet is designed to help followers be healthier. But research has found that people on the diet can lose up to 10 percent of their body weight over 12 months. “It’s more of a lifestyle, and very much about daily habits with what you’re eating,” Cording says. “It’s also good for satiety and emphasizes walking and activity as part of the diet.”
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was originally created to help people lower their blood pressure. It zeroes in on fruits, veggies, low-fat and non-fat dairy products, and low-sodium foods, while minimizing saturated fat and cholesterol. “This program is a well-balanced diet plan,” Gans says. Cording says she’s also a big fan, noting that it’s really similar to a Mediterranean diet.
How it helps you lose weight: “By following this diet, you will eat so much plant foods that you won’t have much room for other foods like high-fat meats and cheeses,” Angelone says. Research has also found that it can lead to weight loss: One study of adults with obesity found that those on the DASH diet lose weight and decreased their body fat—and lowered their blood pressure.
The Atkins diet is similar to keto in that it’s very low-carb, Cording says. Followers are encouraged to limit their carb intake—which includes limiting high-starch veggies and high-sugar fruits—and focus on foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber. “You’re encouraged to eat fat, and people can get excited that they can have certain foods that are considered ‘off-limits’ on other diets,” Cording says.
How it helps you lose weight: Limiting carbs also means weeding out a lot of processed foods, Angelone says, including snacks like chips and crackers, along with cereal, bread, pasta, and rice. “Some initial weight loss is water, as the body has to use up some carbs, which hold onto water in muscles,” she says. But, like the keto diet, you really need to continue to limit carbs in order for the weight loss to be sustainable, Gans says.
South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet focuses on eating foods with a low glycemic index, meaning they won’t make your blood sugar spike. The diet is low in carbs and high in protein and healthy fats, but it’s not strictly low carb. “This diet is based on eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables, fish, eggs, chicken and turkey, and nuts but full-fat dairy,” Angelone says.
What is the most effective weight loss program?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for weight loss. Therefore, the most effective weight loss program for you may depend on your goals, needs, and preferences, as well as whether you’re able to stick to it long-term.
Does Weight Watchers work?
WW uses a simple, points-based system to help you learn to make healthier choices. Some research suggests that it may be more effective for long-term weight loss than other methods, such as behavioral counseling or reading self-help materials
How do I keep weight off?
The best way to keep weight off long-term is to make sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle. This may include exercising regularly, eating fewer processed foods, or enjoying more healthy homemade meals instead of dining out.
What do I do if I can’t lose weight?
Many factors can make it harder to lose weight, including several medical conditions.
You may want to consider consulting a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or registered dietitian, to determine whether other factors may be involved and develop a plan to help you reach and maintain a moderate weight.
Guidelines for Losing Weight
Since food equals calories, in order to lose weight you must either eat fewer calories, exercise more to burn off calories with activity, or both. Food that is not used to fuel the body is stored as fat.
A major component of losing weight is to make smarter food choices. Here’s how:
Limit non-nutritious foods, such as:
- Sugar, honey, syrups and candy
- Pastries, donuts, pies, cakes and cookies
- Soft drinks, sweetened juices and alcoholic beverages
Cut down on high-fat foods by:
- Choosing poultry, fish or lean red meat
- Choosing low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, steaming, grilling and boiling
- Using low-fat or non-fat dairy products
- Using vinaigrette, herbs, lemon or fat-free salad dressings
- Avoiding fatty meats, such as bacon, sausage, franks, ribs and luncheon meats
- Avoiding high-fat snacks like nuts, chips and chocolate
- Avoiding fried foods
- Using less butter, margarine, oil and mayonnaise
- Avoiding high-fat gravies, cream sauces and cream-based soups
Eat a variety of foods, including:
- Fruit and vegetables that are raw, steamed or baked
- Whole grains, breads, cereal, rice and pasta
- Dairy products, such as low-fat or non-fat milk or yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat cheese
- Protein-rich foods like chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat and legumes, or beans
Change your eating habits:
- Eat three balanced meals a day to help control your hunger
- Watch portion sizes and eat small servings of a variety of foods
- Choose low-calorie snacks
- Eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied
- Eat slowly and try not to perform other tasks while eating
- Find other activities to distract you from food, such as walking, taking up a hobby or being involved in the community
- Include regular exercise in your daily routine
- Find a support group, if necessary, for emotional support in your weight loss effort
The bottom line
There are many weight loss programs available, so it’s likely you will be able to find something that can work for you.
When picking a diet, look for a program that’s realistic, sustainable, and backed by research.
Be sure to incorporate other healthy habits, such as regular physical activity and mindful eating, into your daily routine to maximize weight loss and improve your overall health.