Diet Detectives: Spotting Sensible Diets
The Keys to Successful Weight Loss
Why Diets Fail
How to Spot a Healthy Diet
- Who is the author of the diet? Make sure that the author has credentials to back her expertise. Even if a diet book is written by a doctor, find out that doctor's area of interest and look for motivating factors that might have prompted him to write the book.
- Are the diet's claims backed by research? Do some digging to find out whether research has been performed, preferably at the university level, Wein says.
- What are the health risks associated with this diet? Make sure a diet lists the health risks involved—even the most sensible diets can be risky for certain groups of people, such as women who are pregnant or people with diabetes. If a diet seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Are all food groups represented in the diet? "If you cut out a whole food group," Wein says, "you miss out on valuable nutrients." Without the right balance of nutrients, you will feel sluggish and will perform poorly throughout the day. Also keep in mind that the key to losing weight is to cut back on calories, not to focus on a particular nutrient. Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health studied four groups of dieters; each group followed a diet that emphasized different nutrients (eg, a low-fat/low protein/high-carb diet). Weight loss was the same for all of the dieters, no matter which diet they followed. The key to weight loss was sticking with whichever diet they were assigned to.
- Does the diet severely restrict calories? Severe caloric restriction should send up a red flag, Wein says. Women aged 19-50 who are physically active, may require 2,200-2,400 daily calories. Active men aged 19-50 require at least 2,800-3,000 calories every day.
- Does the diet recommend something other than a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat? If so, consider finding another diet.
- Does the diet claim that weight loss will be immediate? Remember that slow and steady sheds the weight. Talk with your doctor or nutritionist to find out the ideal amount of weight loss you should achieve weekly.
- Does the diet reveal how many pounds the average person loses? Before and after photographs can be enticing but deceiving. The weight loss industry is largely unregulated and thus appealing photographs do not represent average weight loss.
- Does the diet encourage exercise? Exercise is a vital part of weight loss and management and should at least be recommended.
- Does the diet propose a maintenance plan once you have lost weight? Losing weight is easy for many people, but developing a plan to keep the weight off is key to long-term success. This is why extreme or radical diets generally do not work—they just are not maintainable in the long run.
A Life Change, Not a Quick Fix
American Council on Exercise http://www.acefitness.com/
American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/
Healthy Canadians http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/
Aim for a healthy weight. Guide to behavior change. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose%5Fwt/behavior.htm. Accessed May 9, 2011.
United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, December 2010.
Weight loss: finding a weight loss program that works for you. Federal Citizen Information Center website. Available at: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic%5Ftext/health/works4you/weightloss.htm. Accessed October 17, 2007.
4/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-873.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2011 -
- Update Date: 05/09/2011 -