Diet & Weight Loss

A healthy weight is an important element of good health. How much you eat—and what you eat—play central roles in maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight. Exercise is the other key actor.

For years, low-fat diets were thought to be the best way to lose weight. A growing body of evidence shows that low-fat diets often don't work, in part because these diets often replace fat with easily digested carbohydrates.

Hundreds of diets have been created, many promising fast and permanent weight loss. Remember the cabbage soup diet? The grapefruit diet? How about the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle diet, the caveman diet, the Subway diet, the apple cider vinegar diet, and a host of forgettable celebrity diets?

The truth is, almost any diet will work if it helps you take in fewer calories. Diets do this in two main ways:

  • getting you to eat certain "good" foods and/or avoid "bad" ones
  • changing how you behave and the ways you think or feel about food

The best diet for losing weight is one that is good for all parts of your body, from your brain to your toes, and not just for your waistline. It is also one you can live with for a long time. In other words, a diet that offers plenty of good tasting and healthy choices, banishes few foods, and doesn't require an extensive and expensive list of groceries or supplements.

One diet that fills the bill is a Mediterranean-type diet. Such a diet—and there are many variations—usually includes:

  • several servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • whole-grain breads and cereals
  • healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • lean protein from poultry, fish, and beans
  • limited amounts of red meat
  • moderate wine consumption with meals (no more than two glasses a day for men; no more than one a day for women

A Mediterranean-style diet is a flexible eating pattern. People who follow such diets tend to have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other chronic conditions.

Diet & Weight Loss Articles

5 habits that foster weight loss

Everyday habits like making time to plan, shop for, and prepare healthy meals can help foster weight loss. Another beneficial behavior change is eating slowly and mindfully, which helps people make healthier food choices and know when they are full without overeating. Getting plenty of sleep and eating regular, similar-sized meals may also be helpful. And people who weigh themselves frequently are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. More »

Avoiding atrial fibrillation

To help avoid atrial fibrillation (afib) or reduce its impact, people should attain and stay at a healthy weight. Excess body weight can cause the heart’s upper left chamber (atrium) to enlarge, which can raise the risk of afib. Other afib prevention tips include getting regular exercise and keeping alcohol intake to a moderate or low level. People who eat fish a few times a week may have less afib, but taking fish oil supplements has no clear benefit. (Locked) More »

Get cooking at home

Many older men have never developed or have lost touch with basic culinary skills, and thus have gotten used to eating out and becoming dependent on processed and prepared foods. Yet, by learning some basic cooking techniques, older men can make a small number of stable items that can help create healthy, low-calorie, and inexpensive meals at home. (Locked) More »

How it’s made: Cholesterol production in your body

Cholesterol has a bad reputation, thanks to its well-known role in promoting heart disease. Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream is a key contributor to artery-clogging plaque, which can accumulate and set the stage for a heart attack. But to fully explain cholesterol, you need to realize that it's also vital to your health and well-being. Although we measure cholesterol production in the blood, it's found in every cell in the body. The Harvard Special Health Report Managing Your Cholesterol explains cholesterol as a waxy, whitish-yellow fat and a crucial building block in cell membranes. It's also used to make vitamin D, hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), and fat-dissolving bile acids. In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat. (See illustration.) More »

Any benefits to intermittent fasting diets?

Intermittent fasting diets, which severely limit calories for one or two days a week (usually to about 600 calories a day), can be effective for short-term weight loss, but the long-term risks and benefits are still unknown. (Locked) More »

How to maintain weight loss

As reported in the Harvard Special Health Report Health Solutions to Lose Weight and Keep It Off, much of the original research on how to maintain weight loss comes from a long-term project known as the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). - The project has been tracking some 10,000 people who have lost weight and successfully kept it off for many years. While evidence can't prove that the approaches these people use are the key to upholding weight loss success, their habits jibe with many recognized strategies to maintain weight. NWCR participants were able to maintain weight loss of at least 30 pounds for at least one year.  Some of their strategies included: More »

Where the worst type of fat is hiding in supermarket foods

Trans fats are found in many processed foods, such as pastries, crackers, breakfast cereal, and soup. But the Nutrition Facts label can show zero trans fat if there is less than half a gram per serving. To detect trans fat in food, one should look at a food’s ingredient list and look for partially hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats. Some foods that contain trans fat may be surprising, such as frozen fish fillets, cappuccino mixes, and even seasoned bread crumbs.  (Locked) More »