When U.S. News & World Report weighed in with their "Best Diet" rankings a few weeks ago, let's be honest: The one thing we all wanted to know was which plan is best for weight loss. Compared to 19 other popular diets, Weight Watchers ranked first with Jenny Craig and the Raw Food Diet coming in second and third.
For some reason the magazine chose to assign equal importance to both short-term and long-term weight loss. I respectfully disagree with this thinking. Most dieters opt for the quick fix approach and ultimately find themselves trapped in a perpetual cycle of lose-gain-lose-gain. This wreaks havoc on self-esteem, metabolism and overall health.
In terms of weight loss, the only thing that truly matters is how you keep off what you’ve shed over the long haul. And on this front, even the top rated Weight Watchers was deemed "moderately effective" and received only an average rating.
Why is it so darned hard to maintain weight loss? It’s a question scientists have been asking since obesity rates began creeping upward in the 1960's. The bleak statistics are that more than 95 percent of people who lose weight – no matter how they lose it – put most or all of the pounds back on and that more than 65 percent of Americans are currently considered overweight or obese.
The "why" may be hard to answer but the "how" is no mystery. People return to their old bad habits. They begin skipping workouts and watching more TV – with one hand on the remote and the other stuffed deep in a bag of Cheese Doodles. They start super sizing portions and stop counting calories.
Most people simply don’t have the wherewithal to stick with the virtuous eating habits that help shrink their waistlines and that's because many of them tend to take their diets to the extreme. After a lifetime of subsisting on pizza, coke and cupcakes, salad and tofu are a shock to the system. Yes, you do lose weight by going cold turkey on "naughty" foods but eventually you feel deprived and cave to temptation.
It’s only natural you’d want to drop the weight that took decades of dedicated slothfulness and overindulgence to pack on. Quick fixes, if not a part of human nature, are certainly ingrained in our culture. But the more realistic strategies you come up with, the more likely you are to keep the weight off for good.
So give yourself a fighting chance in the battle of the budge. Accept that there is no magic formula to dropping pounds; no secret spell to cast upon your metabolism; no short cuts. In the end the only thing that really works is portion control and consistent exercise. The less you feel restricted, the better your chances of succeeding.
Now I’d like to hear from you about your trials and tribulations with dieting and weight loss. How many of you out there have had their weight bounce up and down so many times, you may as well start weighing yourself with a yo-yo? Or maybe you’ve gotten it righ. Tweet me what you think.
Liz Neporent is the best selling writer of 15 health books including The Winner's Brain and Fitness for Dummies, 4th edition. Follow her on twitter @lizzyfit and ask her anything you want to know about getting in shape and losing weight.