What’s the best diet for weight loss?

What’s the best diet for weight loss? Adkins, the Zone, low-carb, high-carb, low-fat, no sugar, wheat-free, dairy-free, low-cal, Paleo, vegan, HCG?

There are a lot of diets out there promising to be the answer to your weight loss prayers. All you need to do is buy their books or supplements or prepared meals and the pounds will start falling off. Many claim to have scientific research to support their views on nutrition and health.

Yet most fail to be the panacea they represent themselves as.

While it’s certainly possible to find people who’ve lost weight following each of these diets, there are also lots who haven’t lost a pound. Perhaps we only hear about the success stories. When was the last time someone told you they had religiously followed a popular diet and failed to lose weight?

Recently, I attended the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference in Denver, Colorado. For me, the biggest take home message of the conference could be summed up by the following slide (taken from Dr. James Hill’s presentation, “The Importance of Evidence Based Approaches to Health and Wellness”);

Dr. James Hill

Source: Sacks FS. et al. NEJM 2009;360(9) 859-873.

On the left (circled) at the number of people who lost weight; some ‘big’ losers, a few moderate losers. On the far right are the people who gained weight; as much as 5 kg by the end of the study. Most people are in the middle; at about the same weight they were when they started the diet. Note that the people in the study were all obese (BMI > 30), not those aiming to lose the ‘last 10 pounds’.

(What this figure doesn’t tell us is how hard each of the diets is to adhere to; however, sample sizes in each group are the same, so all of the individuals pictured above made it to the end of the study. Perhaps I should write a post about diet adherence)

The take home message? Macronutrient manipulation is not important to weight loss for the clinically obese. Reducing calories is. Unless you have specific dietary issues (e.g., allergic to gluten or dairy or nuts), any calorically restrictive diet you choose will be equally likely to lead to weight loss.

So, what’s the best diet for weight loss? Any diet that you can stick with for as long as it takes the weight to come off.

Eat less, move more, forget cutting out entire food groups and don’t worry so much about your carb to protein to fat ratio.


Have you ever tried one of the diets pictured above?

What type of results did you get? Was it hard to stick to? 




  1. GREAT post!!! Me, I am all for what works for the person. Yes, recent new stories are all about how low glycemic is better than low fat & low carb for losing…. and heck, if you are eating mostly whole foods – well.. 😉 BUT it does come down to finding what works for you & as you wrote: So, what’s the best diet for weight loss? Any diet that you can stick with for as long as it takes the weight to come off.

    BUT Also, a lifestyle you can live with long term, not just lose the weight because to maintain, you are going to have to eat well long term.. ya can’t go back to the old ways or the weight comes back on. Maybe some people use a program to get started & then modify it into a long term solution for them. Ya got to be bale to do it for life.. yes, you may change things long the way but a “diet” should be a lifestyle change. 🙂

    When I lost my weight, I knew I had to keep the lifestyle changes I made forever.. I never ever thought of it as I do this & then I am done & go back to as before.. never even entered my mind. I knew I had to change my lifestyle…
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Holiday/July 4th Planning; Giveaway Winner & Coupon Code!My Profile

    • Jody,
      I think adherence is the biggest challenge for those who lose weight. Losing the word ‘diet’ from our vocabulary would be a great thing! It really is about finding what you can do long term, without feeling deprived and angry at life for not being able to eat what you want and stay slim.

  2. Hear hear. I am happy to see your thoughts on this. People can get drawn into diet plans that have no evidence of efficacy and end up depriving themselves as a result. Simply reduce the calories, at least in the beginning of the process, as you point out, and make smart choices. There’s no point to eat fried chicken when a grilled breast tastes just as good and is a much better option. When plateaus are reached, however, some other changes may be in order.
    crubin recently posted…Views On Vegas: Magic, Debauchery, and Where’s The Freaking Door?My Profile

    • One of the other main points I took away from the conference was that what works at the beginning of a weight loss journey doesn’t necessarily work during maintenance. I’ll be writing about this soon (with math!)

  3. GREAT message, Tamara! And great way of getting your point across. So many people are looking for a diet or quick fix!
    Paige @ Running Around Normal recently posted…30 Minute Boot Camp WorkoutMy Profile

    • Thanks Paige!
      I’ve actually had clients tell me that if they could pay me to exercise and eat well for them they would! If only I could bottle it!

  4. Agree fully! Whatever works for you FOR LIFE is the best plan. I just saw something this morning for a new diet fad – The OMG diet. Really, really horrible advice but it’s author just signed a seven figure book deal. Everyone wants the quick fix!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…Vegan Zucchini-Lemon CookiesMy Profile

    • I’ve never heard of the OMG diet; going to Google it now!
      Really bugs me how much money some people are making off diet books. It does a complete disservice to the health and fitness industry and is basically stealing money from people who want a quick fix.

  5. Great post! You hit the nail on the head. I agree that the best diet is the one that you can stick with, and I’d add that it is the one you can stick with (in a modified manner) forever, or, as we all know, those pounds will come right back.

    I’ve never tried any of the ‘popular’ diets. I am vegan, but I don’t view it as a weight loss diet. My son and daughter in law eat paleo, but, though they swear by it, I’ve not seen a whole lot of change there.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Southwest Salad with Black Beans, Avocado, and QuinoaMy Profile

    • Ha, ha! I’m sure you haven’t told them that!
      In my opinion, paleo is a really hard one to adhere to; you have to be really committed and prepared to feed yourself wherever you go.

  6. That was my biggest take-away from the conference too – Its all about what works for you as an individual and sticking with it. Im sure not feeling deprived moved people from the middle to the left of that chart. So, stick with moderation, reduce those calories, and move throughout the day.

    • I hear so many people tell me they feel deprived when dieting; hard to stick to when you feel like you’ll never be able to have chocolate/cookies/cake/ice cream again!

  7. I can totally relate to this. I tried a million and one “diets” before I discovered WW and felt a true lifestyle change come from within me. I need to get back to that place again because I feel like I have been slipping! Thanks for the nudge!
    Talia @ Bite Size Wellness recently posted…Anywhere Arms Routine: A Firecracker WorkoutMy Profile

    • So glad WW worked for you! I’ve had clients who weren’t able to sustain after they finished their program because they never learned how to eat healthily; only count points.
      One of the biggest secrets to weight loss maintenance is exercise!

  8. I believe it’s all about making lifestyle changes that you can stick to…it’s not about “how fast can i lose 15 lbs?”. The right question is “how can I lose 15 lbs and keep it off forever?”
    Brad Gouthro recently posted…My Stretching RoutineMy Profile

    • Totally agree. There shouldn’t be a time limit placed on weight loss. Slow and steady and for the longterm.

  9. the one we will actually DO!
    Miz recently posted…Meditation doesnt change things.My Profile

  10. I believe that we should slowly change our diet, and as long as we eat healthy, have more fruits and vegetable, we will lose weight over time. If you diet to hard, it might not be healthy as well.
    david recently posted…Diarrhea after eating: What should you do?My Profile

    • Healthy eating is really important, but for people who are clinically obese, caloric restriction with healthy foods has to happen as well. Portion control is oh so important!

  11. You said it, sister – find what works for you and then DO it! And keep doing it! And don’t stop doing it!
    elle @ fitness bloggers recently posted…Fitness Bloggers Make An ImpactMy Profile


  1. […] Tuesday, I wrote about weight loss. Specifically, what I learned about the best diet for weight loss at the recent Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference. Today, I’d like to expand on that post […]

  2. […] OWN research and the strategies that I've found to work for MYSELF and MY clients. Remember that there is no single diet that is better than all others for losing weight or maintaining weight loss; finding something that works for you and sticking […]