The Skinny Daily Post™

Short, daily essays on weight loss and fitness
from a really average woman who lost 100 lbs.
and works every day to keep it off.

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Friday, November 14, 2003  

Which Diet Works Best?
The answer may surprise you

Well, hey, there's actually some good news to report on the subject of weight loss: Researchers at Tufts studied Atkins, the Zone, Ornish and WeightWatchers, to see which diet works best, leaves its subjects healthiest. And the ruling is: They all work. They're all reasonably healthy choices. The differences among them are not stunning enough to be worth the extra keystrokes to describe them.

I have further news for you from my own extensive field research, on a population of 1: Cabbage soup, Scarsdale, Optifast, American Diabetes Association, Slimfast, Diet Center, Jenny Craig, South Beach, Subway, ediets, iShape, and the old hotdog, egg, and banana diet all work too. They're not all good for you, and some of them are too gross, complicated, annoying to sustain. But they do work.

They all work. Every one. All diets and bariatric surgery ultimately work the same way: They help you reduce the number of calories you eat. So you lose weight.

And people like all of these methods because they help you lose weight without requiring you to think very much or learn the calorie values of the food you eat. They offer formulas, are not complicated. They are Something New. And at least for awhile, when you hate your body the most, you can follow any diet. Anybody's instructions.

But if you have more than 5 to 20 pounds to lose, you need to choose a weight loss method that you can live with over a long period of time. Or you can plan for your boredom and switch from one plan to another every three months, just to keep yourself interested. Or, you can count calories, read labels, learn about nutrition, and find your own way to manage your own body.

My best advice is to look for a program that promises you continuous learning. If you think your weight gain is mainly due to nutritional ignorance, then pick a program that teaches you to balance your diet and read your labels. (Willett's Eat, Drink, And Be Healthy, WeightWatchers, Atkins)

If you think your weight gain is primarily due to bad habits and an unhealthy relationship with food, then look for a program that helps you manage behavioral issues (Optifast, Overeaters' Anonymous, private counseling)

Or get a group of friends, some good software or a good nutrition counter and start counting calories and nutrients and talking to one another. You will soon learn to make wise choices. You will soon understand the pros and cons between eating a banana and eating a Krispy Kreme donut.

Try different things, remain aware, read and write things down, log your diet experiences, and note how you feel on each diet you try. You may find that Atkins helps you control your hunger and eliminates your heartburn. And that makes it the best diet for you. You may find that WeightWatchers lets you keep your beloved chocolate, and that makes it make sense for who you are. If Ornish's plan makes you feel more secure about the state of your heart valves, well you can't buy that kind of assurance with all the bullion in his bank account. Go for it. Zonies get to work the numbers. And working the numbers is kind of fun if you like numbers.

Trust your own judgment. If you grow too constricted or bored, move to the next diet. Document your feelings, your concerns, your achievements in a log. Keep track of what you like, what you don't, what you find confusing, and what you find comforting. You'll soon know what the best fit is, or whether you need to strike out on your own, learning your own best path to controlled, healthy eating and regular exercise.

However you choose to drop the weight, if you are able to maintain your motivation, at some point you come to the other end of your dieting. When you reach your weight goal, if you haven't developed good new habits and destroyed bad old habits, then you're going to have a very difficult time maintaining your new body. At some point, you will need to drop the formula and learn about your own body and mind and how they react to food and exercise.

So do try on the maintenance programs for each diet you attempt. Don't wait until you've lost all your weight to learn about the maintenance plan. Read ahead and prepare yourself for that phase well in advance of reaching it.

Actually using the maintenance plan would put you in the vast minority of dieters, most of whom read the front third of any diet book only, lose some weight or a substantial amount, and then revert to their old eating habits, quickly regaining the weight they lost. The diet doctors put those maintenance plans in there for a reason, not just to use up trees. Give them a gander and plan ahead to complete a year or two of maintenance work before your new weight "sticks."

Washington Post Covers Tufts Study: Take your pick
Reuters reports on it

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posted by Julie |
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