The secret to losing weight

By Amy Cowell, Program Evaluator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandJanuary 2, 2013

It's the start of a new year and you are determined to make this the year you stick to your resolution to lose those extra pounds. But with so much information out there, where should you start?

If one does a quick Google search for "weight loss," more than 500,000 results appear, headlined with advertisements for the latest and greatest diets, all claiming to have the new secret to weight loss. So which do you choose? The Atkins, Baby Food, Cabbage Soup, Caveman and Grapefruit diets promise quick and easy results--not to mention the abundance of weight loss pills, equipment and centers that claim to deliver the body of your dreams (for a small fee).

Would you believe that the BEST thing you could do to achieve your goals is to avoid all of these fads? Dawn Jackson-Blatner, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association says, "Don't be fooled into thinking it is because of some magical food, pill or potion. Crazy, unbalanced diets cause weight loss because they are basically low-calorie diets."

These diets limit your nutritional intake, can be unhealthy, and tend to fail in the long run. Follow the ADA's advice and stay away from any diet, pills or products that claim:

•Rapid Weight Loss. Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes. Healthy plans aim for a loss of no more than one-half pound to one pound per week. If you lose weight quickly, you'll lose muscle, bone and water. You also will be more likely to regain the pounds quickly afterwards.

•Quantities and Limitations. Ditch diets that allow unlimited quantities of any food, such as grapefruit and cabbage soup. It's boring to eat the same thing over and over and hard to stick with monotonous plans. Avoid any diet that eliminates or severely restricts entire food groups, such as carbohydrates. Even if you take a multivitamin, you'll still miss some critical nutrients.

•Specific Food Combinations. There is no evidence that combining certain foods or eating foods at specific times of day will help with weight loss. Eating the "wrong" combinations of food doesn't cause them to turn to fat immediately or to produce toxins in your intestines, as some plans claim.

•Rigid Menus. Life is already complicated enough. Limiting food choices or following rigid meal plans can be an overwhelming, distasteful task. With any new diet, always ask yourself: "Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, the plan is not for you.

•No Need to Exercise. Regular physical activity is essential for good health and healthy weight management. The key to success is to find physical activities that you enjoy and then to aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

Here's the bottom line: If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn't about short-term dietary changes. If you want to maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and lose fat, the best path is a lifelong combination of eating smarter and moving more.

Related Links:

American Dietetic Association