Eat clean. No carbs. Lemonade only for a week. Eat raw. Substitute this delicious shake for lunch and dinner. Move more, eat less.
Weight loss is on the minds of millions this time of year, but a visit to the diet book section of the bookstore could have you running for comfort food. And every year, a new crop of weight-loss plans inundates the market, claiming newer, easier, yummier and quicker ways to shed those pesky pounds and possibly to kick a weight-related illness in the process.
The truth is, there is no magic pill, no quick fix.
However you choose to lose weight or get healthier, you should start with an attitude that to lose weight and keep it off, a lifestyle change is necessary. It's not a 50-yard dash; it's more like a marathon, said Pam Patty, a registered and licensed dietitian at Integris.
“It's a much more involved process, and it's going to take time,” Patty said. “But who wants to hear that answer?”
Recently, U.S. News and World Report evaluated 32 of the most popular diet plans, how they work and for whom they work best.
The report named the best diets for weight loss, diabetes and heart health, commercial diets, ease of following, and plant-based diets.
A standout on the list is the DASH diet, an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH plan received top honors for Best Diet Overall and Best Diet for Healthy Eating.
“It's kind of the same old song that we keep telling people,” Patty said.
The DASH plan is simple: Eat the foods you've been told to eat — fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy — and leave the processed, sugary and fatty foods at the grocery store.
But DASH is not specifically aimed at weight loss. Instead, the diet's goal, as the name implies, is to improve heart health by reducing inflammation that leads to hypertension. Weight loss is a bonus from following this diet.
Inflammation, Patty said, is the root of many health problems that can be improved or even eliminated by eating properly and exercising. Inflammation can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, the leading cause of heart attack) and diabetes.
For diabetics, the DASH plan placed second to “The Biggest Loser” plan, which is based on calorie restriction and exercise. There are several “Biggest Loser” books to choose from that will guide you through the plan.
And for weight loss, “The Biggest Loser” plan placed second to Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers' PointsPlus program focuses on the value of foods with a point system. Dieters are given a number of points to tally; nutritionally-dense foods that fill you up longer cost fewer points than empty calories.
Jenny Craig was a popular commercial diet, second to Weight Watchers. And the Ornish and TLC diets got some top honors on the list.
Sometimes, just getting started on a more healthful eating plan is the hardest part. Tosca Reno, fitness model, mother and author of “The Start Here Diet” hopes to gently help people get off their couches, making better food choices and moving more. Reno's “Eat Clean Diet” was on The New York Times best-sellers list.
Reno wasn't always a fitness model. At her heaviest, she was 70 pounds overweight, and her health was a mess. Having transformed her own body and lifestyle through her Eat Clean Diet, Reno's latest book is aimed to help people sort through the emotional triggers that cause them to overeat and to overcome those triggers.
In the book, she covers the three steps she followed in her journey: dive inward to identify your emotional triggers for overeating; uncover your hidden foods, the ones you think you can't live without that are your go-to snacks; and move a little — if you don't think you can, start with a five-minute walk and work your way up, she says.
The Eat Clean Diet focuses on eating simple, uncomplicated, healthy foods with very few ingredients.
“The Start Here Diet” takes a touchy-feely approach to losing weight.
A dose of attitude
Another new diet book for 2014, “Thinner This Year” by Chris Crowley and Jen Sacheck, takes a more direct, often humorous, sometimes snarky tone to motivate readers.
“‘Fat' is some square-butted honey down at the All-You-Can-Eat Cafe. ‘Fat' is some guy in forty-four-inch bib overalls down at the feed store,” the authors write. “‘Fat' is someone else, for God's sake.”
Nope, it's you, if you fall into the 70 percent of Americans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are overweight or obese. But the good news is, you can fix it, they write.
“For bright, responsible people like you, being overweight (and idle) really is, at the core, a misunderstanding. You did not understand ... how rotten ‘The Great American Diet' is for you ... how fat it was making you.”
Reno agrees about the rotten “Great American Diet.”
“It's far more sinister than it ever used to be,” she said, referring to the array of genetically modified, processed, sugary and fat-laden foods Americans seem to love.
What about Atkins?
Another new diet book on the market is “The New Atkins Made Easy,” by Colette Heimowitz. The popular diet plan is based on drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake while increasing your protein intake. The Atkins Diet was scored by the U.S. News roundup as No. 29 of 32.
From health.usnews.com: “Many of our experts found the popular low-carb Atkins diet leaves much to be desired, at least as an all-purpose diet. Although our expert panel concluded that it could outperform nearly all of its competitors in short-term weight loss, unfavorable marks in other measures — including long-term weight loss, nutrition, safety, and heart health — yanked down Atkins in the standings.”
The new Atkins book includes detailed shopping lists, recipes and instructions on implementing the diet to lose up to 15 pounds in two weeks.
“My concern with that is when people adjust their food intake and follow many diets, they usually do achieve what they're trying to do with their weight loss. But the problem is they stop the diet and their body has now been shifted metabolically, and now it's going to revert back to gaining weight,” Patty said.
Patty said she encourages anyone considering a high-protein diet to make sure their kidneys are healthy enough to handle it.
“When the body has a high load of protein, it's going to put a lot of pressure on the kidneys to metabolize it,” she said. “And what we know about people that have a prediabetic condition is that it could be they need to make sure their kidneys aren't having a challenge at this early stage.”
Whether you want to lose weight to improve your looks, your health, or both, it's important to choose a diet that is right for you.
With the help of a dietitian, exercise trainer, support of family and friends and a strong will, you can arm yourself with all the weapons to fight fat and change your life.