Weight loss: Choosing a diet that's right for you
Don't fall for gimmicks when it comes to weight loss. Evaluate diets carefully to find one that's right for you.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
When it comes to weight loss, there's no shortage of advice. Magazines, books and websites all promise that they've discovered the key to losing weight for good — from diets that eliminate fat or carbohydrates (carbs) to those that tout superfoods or special supplements.
With so much conflicting advice and so many weight-loss options, how do you know which diet might work for you? Following are some suggestions for choosing a weight-loss program that's right for you.
Involve your doctor in your weight-loss efforts
Before starting a weight-loss program, talk to your doctor. He or she can review any medical problems that you have and any medications that you take that may affect your weight, and provide guidance on a program that may be best for you. And you can discuss how to exercise safely, especially if you have trouble or pain carrying out normal daily tasks.
Talk to your doctor about weight-loss plans you may have tried before. Be honest with your doctor about fad diets you may be interested in trying. Your doctor also may be able to direct you to weight-loss support groups or refer you to a registered dietitian.
Consider your personal needs
There's no single weight-loss diet that will help everyone who tries it. But if you consider your preferences, lifestyle and weight-loss goals, you should be able to find or tailor a diet to suit your individual needs. Before starting another weight-loss program, think about these factors:
- Your experience with past diets. Think about diets you may have tried before. What did you like or dislike about them? Were you able to follow the diet? What worked or didn't work for you? How did you feel physically and emotionally while on the diet?
- Your preferences. Do you prefer to diet on your own, or do you like getting support from a group? If you like group support, do you prefer online support or in-person meetings?
- Your budget. Some weight-loss programs require you to buy supplements or meals, or to visit weight-loss clinics or attend support meetings. Does the cost of such programs fit your budget?
- Other considerations. Do you have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or allergies? Do you have specific cultural or ethnic requirements or preferences when it comes to food? These are important factors that should help determine which diet you choose.
Look for a safe and effective weight-loss program
It's tempting to buy into promises of rapid and dramatic weight loss, but a slow and steady approach is easier to maintain and usually beats fast weight loss for the long term. A weight loss of 0.5 to 2 pounds (0.2 to 0.9 kilograms) a week is the typical recommendation.
In some situations, faster weight loss can be safe if it's done the right way — such as a very low calorie diet with medical supervision, or a brief quick-start phase of a healthy-eating plan that offers lots of healthy and safe strategies at once.
Successful weight loss requires a long-term commitment to making healthy changes in your eating and exercise habits. Be sure to pick an eating plan you can live with. Look for a plan with these features:
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- Flexibility. Look for a plan that doesn't forbid certain foods or food groups, but instead includes a variety of foods from all the major food groups. A healthy diet includes vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds. Even an occasional, but reasonable, indulgence is allowed. A diet plan should also feature foods that you can easily find in your local grocery store.
- Balance. A weight-loss plan should include proper amounts of nutrients and calories for your individual situation. Diets that direct you to eat large quantities of certain foods, such as grapefruit or meat, that drastically cut calories, or that eliminate entire food groups, such as carbohydrates, may result in nutritional problems. Safe diets do not require excessive vitamins or supplements.
- Likeability. A diet should include foods you like and that you would enjoy eating for the rest of your life — not just for several weeks or months. If you don't like the diet, if it's overly restrictive or if it becomes boring, you're probably not going to stick to it and therefore won't lose weight in the long term.
- Activity. Every weight-loss program should include physical activity. Exercise plus calorie restriction can help give your weight loss a boost. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including improving your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system and reducing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And exercise is an important factor in maintaining weight loss. People who get regular physical activity may be more likely to maintain their weight loss.
See more In-depth
- Choosing a safe and successful weight-loss program. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/choosing.htm. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Staying away from fad diets. American Dietetic Association. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/staying-away-from-fad-diets. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Aim for a healthy weight. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/index.htm. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Washburn RA, et al. Does the method of weight loss effect long-term changes in weight, body composition or chronic disease risk factors in overweight or obese adults? A systematic review. PLOS One. 2014;9:1.
- Bray GA. Obesity in adults: Dietary therapy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 6, 2015.
- Atallah R, et al. Long-term effects of 4 popular diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2014;7:1.
- Makris A, et al. Dietary approaches to the treatment of obesity. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2011;34:813.
- Barnard ND, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of changes in body weight in clinical trials of vegetarian diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015. [In Press]
- Johnston BC, et al. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults — A meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014;312:923.