The Skinny on Diets

Atkins. Sugar Busters. Blood type. Cabbage soup. What do they all have in common? They’re all diets, and each claims to knock off the pounds if you follow its (often very strict) rules about what, when and how to eat. From the Martha’s Vineyard detox plans to Hollywood cookie regimens, a new trendy diet seems to pop up every week.

But do they work?

Diet Downfalls

Many of the diets do work — for the first few weeks or so. Very low-calorie diets or those that severely limit what you’re allowed to eat artificially restrict calories, so of course you’ll lose weight at first.

But the majority of weight lost at the start of any diet is water. Moreover, such plans don’t provide the nutrients you need to stay healthy, and it can be dangerous (and difficult) to stay on them for long. Most dieters find that as soon as they stop dieting and return to their usual eating habits, the weight comes right back on.

Another problem with many of the hot diets of the day is their lack of physical activity. Exercise burns calories and can raise your metabolism even when you’ve finished working out. Plus, strength-training activities build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat. Physical activity is an important part of losing weight and keeping it off — and provides plenty of other health benefits as well.

The Smarter Way to Lose Weight

It’s easy to lose a few pounds. It’s much harder to keep them off. For most people, successful, lasting weight loss involves more than following a complicated diet for a few weeks or months.

The bottom line is really quite simple: To lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you expend. To maintain your weight, the number of calories in should be about equal to calories out.

That doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie or cut way back on how much you eat. In fact, if you tend to eat a lot of “empty” calories such as pastries, sodas and processed snack foods, you may be able to eat more food than you’re eating now — provided you eat the right ones.

Diet plans that follow the guidelines below can help you lose weight and, at the same time, learn healthier eating habits for the long run:

  • Make healthier choices. Whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat proteins and low-fat dairy products provide more nutrients for fewer calories. Plus, they’ll give you a healthy dose of fiber to help you feel full.
  • Control your portions. Nobody needs super-sized food. Learn what a serving looks like, and realize you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. Ask for a take-home bag or store leftovers in the fridge.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. No food has to be completely off-limits. If you eat smart 80 percent of the time, you can enjoy a small treat every now and then.
  • Keep a food diary. Jotting down everything you eat, from a complete dinner to a handful of pretzels, can raise your awareness of your eating habits and whether you’re eating due to boredom, stress, or true hunger.
  • Move it. Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

Take Action!

  • Schedule a physical exam with your physician to discuss your weight goals. For a referral to a Scripps physician, visit our doctor finder, or call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777) for personal assistance.
  • See our and attend a free weight management, healthy eating or cooking class.
  • See our healthy recipes for delicious, healthful cooking ideas.
  • Our weight management program offers a variety of services to help you achieve your weight loss goals.