How to make your diet work
When it comes to losing weight, it’s hard to know where to start. Do you sign up for a program or try to do it on your own? What are you willing to give up, and what’s a deal breaker?
Consumer Reports has done the legwork for you. It asked 9,376 people about diets they’ve tried, and it got the scoop on 13 popular plans.
What did Consumer Reports find? First, be realistic. Your own expectations play a big role in how satisfied you’re likely to be with any diet you try.
Most people don’t have “Biggest Loser”-style outcomes. In the survey, only 14 percent of readers who’d finished their diets came to within 5 pounds of their goal weight. But take comfort in the fact that dropping as little as 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight can make a real difference in your health and well-being. If you have realistic goals, you’re likely to feel better with the weight you lose.
To keep weight off, practice first
Here’s a novel idea: Before even trying to lose weight, practice the strategies that can help you keep the pounds off.
Michaela Kiernan, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, actually tested that idea in a clinical trial and found that it worked. Half of the overweight women in the study got the usual treatment – they followed a weight-loss program for 20 weeks, then for eight weeks received standard advice on how to maintain their weight loss. The other half did it in reverse:
They got eight weeks of advanced training in weight maintenance strategies, then tried to lose weight.
The results were stunning. Both groups lost the same amount of weight after 28 weeks. But a year later, those in the “maintenance first” group had regained an average of only about 20 percent of the weight they had lost; those in the usual-treatment group had regained
an average of 43 percent.
Here are some of the pre-maintenance strategies Kiernan suggests:
• Weigh yourself every day for several weeks to see how your weight fluctuates. Once you know your pattern, you won’t panic if your weight goes up by a pound or two or even three from one day to the next (which is pretty common).
• Pick a target 5-pound weight range that accounts for those fluctuations, and try to stay within it for several more weeks. If your weight drops to the bottom of
your range, you can eat a bit extra to bring it back up.
• It’s not always smart to settle for low-calorie versions of high-calorie foods that make you yearn for the real thing. Try something that tastes completely different but is still satisfying, such as salsa on your baked potato instead of sour cream.
• Learn to eat your favorite high-calorie treats mindfully, in moderation, without thinking of it as a slip-up.
To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org.