10 Tips for Finding the Best Diet That Works for You

With so many weight loss diets to choose from, how do you decide?

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's time to turn over a new leaf and resolve to get your waistline under control -- again. Will it be The South Beach Diet, Lose 21 Pounds in 21 Days, Sonoma, Atkins, The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, or one of the gazillion other diet options?

With so many to choose from, it's not easy to figure out which diet will be the best one that works for you. To help the 65% of adults who are overweight, we asked the experts for tips to help you find a weight loss diet that is both healthy and effective.

The Best Diet That Works for You: The One You Can Stick To

All the experts agree on one thing: The best weight loss plan is one you can keep up.

"It doesn't matter how scientifically sound the program is (and many are not), how fast they work (you will regain as fast as you lost), or even how many people have tried it before. What matters is whether you can do what they say forever -- not whether you should, but whether you can." says Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work.

And of course, not all diet plans and programs are scientifically sound.

"Just because it is on the bookshelf, or the name is on a door, it does not mean it is a healthy, well-rounded program," says Judy Rodriguez, PhD, RD, author of The Diet Selector.

Still, it seems that the diets everyone wants are those promising the quickest, most painless results -- which, unfortunately, are usually not sustainable. Weight that is lost rapidly is usually a mixture of water, muscle, and a little fat instead of mainly fat. What's worse, losing is usually followed by gaining.

"Most people go on and off fad diets and fall into the yo-yo syndrome of dropping weight followed by gaining weight," says Rodriquez, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Florida. "The consequence is, you lower your metabolism and end up at a heavier weight than when you started."

The simple (if boring) truth is that losing weight is a simple formula: Calories in minus calories out equals weight loss, gain, or maintenance. Neither potions, detox rituals, nor supplements can change that formula.

"In order to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories and be more active. Cleanses, creams and supplements are just gimmicks and not going to help in the long run," says Tara Gidus, MS, RD, the "Diet Diva" on the nationally broadcast morning TV show The Daily Buzz.

Just how do you know if a diet is healthy and sustainable? Experts say a sound weight loss diet plan should:

  • Include exercise
  • Allow a variety of foods from all the food groups
  • Be created by a credentialed professional
  • Promote slow and steady weight loss
  • Include portion control
  • Allow snacks between meals
  • Not rely heavily on supplements
  • Include small portions of your favorite foods and beverages
  • Be based on science
  • Include a maintenance plan
  • Recommend drinking plenty of water

The Perfect Weight Loss Diet for You

Once you know how to determine whether a weight loss diet is healthy, you'll need to narrow your choice down to one that suits your own lifestyle.

"Evaluate the tenets of the plan to be sure it matches the way you like to eat and exercise," says Gidus, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

It's also important to choose a diet plan that won't leave you feeling hungry. Look for plans that promote foods that are high in water and are fiber-rich, like soups, fruits, and vegetables. These foods fill you up and reduce food cravings to help you stick to your diet plan without feeling deprived.

"The dynamic duo of fiber and water have the ability to fill you up on fewer calories, and when combined with lean protein such as chicken, beans, and fish, can keep cravings at bay and leave you feeling energized for hours," says weight management consultant Dawn Jackson Blatner, MS, RD.

Here's a checklist to help you find the perfect diet for you:

1. Does It Match My Eating Style?

If the plan encourages six meals daily and you struggle to eat two, chances are you won't last on the diet, no matter how healthy it is. Look for a diet that matches the way you like to eat, and ask yourself:

  • Can this diet accommodate my travel or dining-out patterns?
  • Does it have a family-friendly approach that everyone in the household can follow?
  • Does it require special preparation and cooking?
  • Can I stick to the timing and/or recommended number of meals/snacks?


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