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What are some popular weight-loss diets?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

There are so many diets out there. I like the GoBeFull diet which is a based on foods that lead to weight loss and wellness. I also like diets recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit www.eatright.org for other recommendations.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

There's no shortage of popular or fad weight-loss diets—from the cabbage soup diet and the Special K diet, to low-carb diets, high-protein diets, low-glycemic index diets, liquid diets, cleansing diets and the HCG diet. There's even a cookie diet. None are more effective for losing weight and keeping it off than a well-balanced calorie-controlled eating plan. Some popular diets are even dangerous, so buyer beware. According to the National Institutes of Health, the best weight-loss plan reduces calories but does not forbid any specific foods; includes tips to increase moderate-intensity physical activity; includes lower-fat versions of favorite foods; leads to slow yet steady weight loss; and, finally, provides a plan to help you keep the weight off once you've lost it.

An expert panel convened by U.S. News & World Report scored the most well-known diets on a scale of one to five, with five being best. Here's how they ranked:

  1. The Dash Diet (4.8). A diet designed to prevent high blood pressure, DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It's endorsed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It's low in saturated fat and salt.
  2. The TLC Diet (4.7). The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet was developed by the National Institutes of Health. Designed for those with heart disease or at high risk for it, the TLC diet is low in saturated fat (less than 7% of calories) and high in fiber and calcium.
  3. Mediterranean Diet (4.6). Healthy and satisfying, this eating plan includes plenty of fresh produce, whole grains, heart-healthy fish, and olive oil. You can also throw back a glass or two of red wine with dinner.
  4. Mayo Clinic Diet (4.5). This plan promotes eating energy-dense food, so you feel fuller on fewer calories. Recommended foods include whole-grain carbohydrates, lean sources of protein such as legumes, fish, and low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
  5. Volumetrics Diet (4.5). Volumetrics, like the Mayo Clinic plan, is designed to promote satiety through low-density foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, and lean meats.
Dr. William B. Salt, MD
Gastroenterologist

There are many popular diets available, particularly for achieving weight loss, and they often give conflicting advice. For example, cardiologist Robert Atkins recommends a high protein, low carbohydrate regimen that includes considerable saturated fat. Other popular low carbohydrate diets include The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, Protein Power, Sugar Busters!, The Zone and Get Skinny on Fabulous Foods. By contrast, Dean Ornish, MD— an outspoken critic of low carbohydrate diets—advocates an ultra-low fat vegetarian diet. Cyndi Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a nutrition expert at the University of Arizona, says, "We have millions of dollars being spent on these diets, and everyone is throwing rocks at each other over what is the best diet." The United States Department of Agriculture is conducting scientific studies of popular diets—such as the Atkins and Ornish regimens—at their nutrition research center at the University of California, Davis.

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New weight loss diets are popping up every day. The most common include Atkins, Zone, South Beach, and a renewal of the hCG diet from the 1950s. These diets may help you lose weight in the beginning, but most people regain the weight once they go off the diet. The best thing to do is make lifestyle changes. If you are not active, become active. If you are active, move more. Pay close attention to portion control. The real key to losing weight and keeping it off is to include your favorites foods in your diet, but eat everything in moderation. Burn more calories than you consume each day for weight loss and burn the same amount of calories you consume in order to maintain your weight.

If you are unsure about portion sizes and how much of certain foods types you need, check out the new Government guidelines at http://www.choosemyplate.gov or make an appointment with a registered dietician.

There are more weight loss diet options available than personally I can keep track of. And this comes from someone who has tried many of them! What finally worked for me is to forget about quick fix options that I can only sustain for a period of time, usually while on a given diet, and begin to make healthy changes with regard to my nutrition and my exercise that I can incorporate and sustain long term. I suggest as you consider this as you determine the strategy you will take to work towards your weight loss goals.

Robert DeVito
Fitness Specialist

You must restrict calories to trigger weight loss. Restricting calories drives weight loss. The most basic rule of fat loss is governed by energy balance. Energy balance is the relationship between energy in, the calories consumed via cheeseburgers (food) and coffee (drinks), and energy out, the calories burned through daily energy requirements and exercise.

Basically, if you're burning more calories than you're consuming, you should lose weight. This is an oversimplification based on how complex the human body is, but at their roots all successful fat loss diets focus on caloric restriction to drive fat loss.

Examples: 

  • The Slow Carb Diet: The slow carb diet eliminates most starchy carbs, sugars, and fruits to limit the number calories you take in per day.
  • The Atkins Diet (80s), South Beach Diet (90s), Paleo Diet (now): These diets severely limit carbohydrate intake to restrict eating options and drive caloric intake down.
  • Intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting limits the amount of time you can eat in a day, making it near impossible to eat too much.

There are many methods to fat loss, but at the heart of every successful fat loss diet is eating fewer calories than your body burns. This is what causes an energy deficit and drives weight loss.

Maintaining or increasing muscle tissue (metabolism) through strength training and eating the proper nutrition (macronutrients (P,C,F,) is what drives fat loss.

Any diet or eating style can cause weight loss.

Fat loss eating is completely different.

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Weight-loss diets have been around for thousands of years from high protein diets to fasting. Finally, people are starting to realize that quick-fix plans to lose weight don't work. Statistics show that when people lose weight, most people gain the weight back. That's because they aren't changing their lifestyle. Once they go off the diet, they go back to their old habits. I recommend The Food Is My Friend Diet. You slowly change your habits and control, not eliminate, emotional eating. I have found emotional eating to be the biggest obstacle for losing weight. When your head is in the zone, it's easy to lose weight and maintain it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.