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How to Find the Best Diet for You

Ask yourself five questions to find the right program


Updated May 29, 2014

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Don't choose the wrong diet!

Blend Images/John Fedele/Getty Images

The market is flooded with diet plans. Many make promises about easy weight loss, no food restrictions, no exercise and quick results. The claims can be both tempting and confusing. So, how do you sort through the plans to find the best diet plan for you? Ask yourself these five questions before investing any time or money in a weight loss plan plan.

  1. What is my budget? Before you begin shopping for the best weight loss plan, decide if you have money to invest. Then investigate as many diet plans and products as possible. Be sure to evaluate all costs that might be involved. This includes the cost of the food, support services, reference materials and exercise classes. Also, factor in the amount of time you'll need to be on the plan to lose your goal weight.

    The cost of a diet program is not necessarily a predictor of the plan's success; however, there is some evidence that suggests commercial weight loss plans are more successful than trying to lose weight on your own. Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that dieters who followed a structured commercial plan lost slightly more weight than those who followed a self-help plan.

    But if you choose to go it alone, there are great resources available for free. ChooseMyPlate.gov offers an interactive diet plan along with an activity and nutrient tracking service at no cost.

  2. Do I have health issues that need to be considered? Your healthcare provider can help you determine which health issues should be considered when choosing the best diet. Diabetics, for example, have specific nutritional needs that may limit the kinds of diets they can choose. People with high blood pressure are great candidates for the DASH program, which helps limit salt consumption. Patients who are diagnosed with arthritis may be more comfortable with plans that do not involve as much weight-bearing exercise.
  3. Does my schedule allow for food preparation? One of the reasons that many diets fail is that busy schedules get in the way of good eating-habits. It's hard to pass by a fast-food restaurant after working a 10-hour day. But if you know that a healthy meal is waiting at home, making a good choice might be easier.

    Think about how much time you have for grocery shopping and food preparation. Be realistic. If your life simply does not allow enough time to prepare healthy meals, then a program that includes prepared food might be a better weight loss plan for you. These might include:

  4. Do I have social support? An important part of every successful diet is social support. A supportive spouse, a dieting neighbor or a community group can help provide the emotional support you need through your dieting journey.  You can learn how to get social support from friends or family, or look outside your inner circle for a diet buddy.

    Some Y's, neighborhood community centers, senior citizen groups and hospitals offer weight loss support services. Or look for a program at your religious center. A study by the University of Illinois, Department of Medicine, found that adding a religious component to the weight loss programs of some women improved their results.

    If the people around you aren't available, find a commercial plan that includes a social component. Diet programs such as Weight Watchers provide support services at locations around the country. Weigh-ins, recipe exchanges and group meetings provide excellent opportunities to connect with others who are trying to lose weight.

  5. What plans have I tried in the past, and why did they fail? Evaluate your weight loss history and make a list of the reasons that past diets have been unsuccessful.
    • Were the food choices too restrictive? Then choose a diet that teaches good portion control tips rather than specific food restrictions. For example, Seattle Sutton allows you to eat many different foods but in smaller portions. The Atkins Diet, on the other hand, restricts consumption of most carbohydrates.
    • Did you always feel hungry? Then the best diet might be one that allows for greater food intake, but emphasizes consumption of low calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, essential lean protein and dairy. Volumetrics and the Five Factor Diet both emphasize regular full meals.
    • Did you lose motivation? Then choose a diet plan that includes accountability to a friend, a support group or to a weight loss professional. This may help you to learn motivational skills that will keep your diet on track. 

In the process of choosing the right diet for you, try to ignore the claims and advertisements. Focus on your own physical, emotional and lifestyle considerations to find a plan that helps you reach your weight loss goal.


Stanley Heshka, PhD; James W. Anderson, MD; Richard L. Atkinson, MD; Frank L. Greenway, MD; James O. Hill, PhD; Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD; Ronette L. Kolotkin, PhD; Karen Miller-Kovach, MS, RD; F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, MD . "Weight Loss With Self-help Compared With a Structured Commercial Program A Randomized Trial" Journal of the American Medical Association. 2003;289(14):1792-1798.

ChooseMyPlate. USDA. Accessed: November 27, 2011. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed: November 28, 2011. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/index.htm

Weight Control Information Network. Understanding Adult Obesity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed: November 26, 2011. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/understanding.htm

Weight Loss Information Network. Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight Loss Program. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed: November 25, 2011. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/choosing.htm

Medline Plus. Weight Control. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed: November 25, 2011. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/weightcontrol.html

Marian L. Fitzgibbon, Melinda R. Stolley, Pamela Ganschow, Linda Schiffer, Anita Wells, Nolanna Simon, and Alan Dyer. "Results of a faith-based weight loss intervention for black women." Journal of the National Medical Association. 2005 October; 97(10): 1393-1402.

Karen Hye-cheon Kim, PhD, Laura Linnan, ScD, CHES, Marci Kramish Campbell, PhD, MPH, RD, Christine Brooks, Harold G. Koenig, MD,Christopher Wiesen, PhD. "The WORD (Wholeness, Oneness, Righteousness, Deliverance): A Faith-Based Weight-Loss Program Utilizing a Community-Based Participatory Research Approach." Health Education and Behavior. December 15, 2006.

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