Run a Google search for the “best diet for weight loss,” and you’ll get 11,200,000 results. Near all of them will disagree as to what the best diet for weight loss actually is. Some will say that low-fat diets are the way to go, and others will maintain that carbs, sugar or gluten are evil minions that sew your clothes tighter and tighter every night while you’re sleeping. Counting calories is always a popular approach. But, then again, elimination and intermittent fasting diets are all the rage right now.
Pump the brakes and back up the cursor. While there are definite health pros and cons to every approach, in the end, experts and studies agree that getting hung up on those details is a lot like that saying, “not seeing the trees through the forest.” That’s because, simply put, the best diet for weight loss is the one that you can actually stick with. Not for a week or month – but forever.
Case in point: In 2014, when University of Toronto researchers examined 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, they concluded that the best diet is the one that people can adhere to over the long term. What’s more, a previous JAMA study found that people who went on the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone diets for a year all lost similar amounts of weight – albeit modest amounts due to low adherence levels. However, those who stuck to their diets, no matter the type, lost significantly more weight. According to researchers, your ability to follow a diet may be a larger predictor of your weight-loss success than the diet you choose.
“People have these unbelievably strong beliefs against fat or carbs,” says obesity researcher Tim Church, chief medical officer of ACAP Health Consulting and professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. “But despite the never-ending list of best-selling books that exist on weight loss, there is no macronutrient that wins the day.”
After all, when you cut through all of the mumbo jumbo, if you are consuming fewer calories than you are burning per day, you are going to lose weight. So why not cut them in a way that’s actually doable?
“You didn’t gain 20 pounds overnight. It took time. The same goes for losing 20 pounds,” says NYC-based registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist Albert Matheny. “Consistency and change of lifestyle over the long term is what leads to health and weight-loss success.”
Plus, even after losing weight, between one- and two-thirds of dieters gain back more than they originally had lost, according to one University of California–Los Angeles review. Weight regain is a serious issue that many dieters underestimate. And weight regain is simply a result of going off of your diet after hitting the so-called “finish line.”
“If you can’t eat a certain way for the rest of your life, that diet is an exercise in futility,” Church says. “Find a way of eating that becomes your new normal, your new lifestyle. The goal is to find a way of life that happens to improve weight loss. That’s the program that will work.”
What Diet Can You Stick With?
That’s the million-dollar question, right? And, as you can probably tell, it’s different for everyone. However, any sustainable diet has to fulfill a few criteria:
1. It’s healthy.
This might sound obvious, but it’s important not to skip out on certain food groups or live on packaged diet foods just because it’s doable. The best approach addresses not just weight loss, but also health, Church says. Because what good is losing weight if you also end up losing your health?
2. It’s all about small changes.
“A diet should involve making small changes in many areas, rather than extreme changes in one area,” Matheny says. For instance, eating veggies at every meal, reducing added sugar intake and not letting yourself get ravenous between meals is a much more comprehensive and practical approach.
3. It’s based on skills.
Any diet worth its calories doesn’t just tell you what and what not to eat. It gives you tools for dealing with food triggers, learning how to love healthy foods, combating emotional overeating and gauging true hunger, Church says. Those skills are vital to allowing you to stick with your diet.
Scientists Agree This Is The Most Effective Diet For Weight Loss was originally published on U.S. News & World Report.