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

How much water should you drink?

By Heidi GodmanExecutive Editor, Harvard Health Letter You probably know that it's important to drink plenty of fluids when the temperatures soar outside. But staying hydrated is a daily necessity, no matter what the thermometer says. Unfortunately, many of us aren't getting enough to drink, especially older adults. "Older people don't sense thirst as much as they did when they were younger. And that could be a problem if they're on a medication that may cause fluid loss, such as a diuretic," says Dr. Julian Seifter, a kidney specialist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. More »

Should I know my percentage of body fat?

Body fat percentage provides valuable information about your overall risk for diseases like heart disease and diabetes, but determining your body mass index and measuring your waist size offer easy the best tools for estimating total body fat.  (Locked) More »

Weight-loss surgery: Moving into new dimensions?

About one in 10 women and one in 20 men in the United States are considered extremely obese and may qualify for weight-loss (bariatric) surgery. These surgeries can dramatically improve type 2 diabetes and other problems linked to heart disease. The growing use of the term “metabolic surgery” for these procedures reinforces their importance for improving health, not just body size. Gastric bypass, once the most popular surgery, has the best results for both weight-loss results and improving type 2 diabetes. But it is being increasingly replaced by the less-invasive gastric sleeve procedure. (Locked) More »

Surgery for weight loss: A standard treatment for type 2 diabetes?

Weight-loss surgery not only leads to dramatic weight loss, it also reverses type 2 diabetes in most people who undergo these stomach-shrinking procedures. In fact, international diabetes organizations now say that surgery for weight loss should become a more routine treatment option for people with type 2 diabetes—even those who are only mildly obese. More »

3 trends worth tapping into

There is increasing evidence that three trends—wearing an activity tracker, shopping at farmers’ markets, and practicing mindfulness—can have long-lasting health benefits. More »

Cutting calories offers benefits for normal and overweight adults

 Reducing daily calorie intake by 25% may improve health-related quality of life even in people who are not overweight, according to a new study. After two years following a specific diet plan, subjects lost an average of 16.7 pounds, compared with less than a pound in control subjects. They also had better mood, less tension, greater general health, higher sexual drive, and better quality of sleep.  More »

How much weight loss is cause for concern?

It is normal to lose some weight as a person ages. In fact, an estimated 10% to 20% of men older than age 65 lose 5% or more of their body weight over the rest of their lifetime. However, losing 5% of total weight in one year or 10% over two years warrants some medical testing. (Locked) More »