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 fast should you change your diet to lose weight?

When it's time to shed pounds, you may want to dive headfirst into a new diet plan. But rethink that strategy. Making dramatic lifestyle changes to lose weight can be challenging at least, and at worst may end in failure. Instead, think about reaching your desired weight gradually. That will allow you to eat many of the same foods you love and slowly master changes in your eating habits that will hopefully last for years to come.   More »

Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”

For people who are extremely overweight, a program of diet and exercise may seem like the healthy way to effect drastic weight loss. But a study of contestants on the popular reality TV show "The Biggest Loser" suggests that's not true. It turns out, drastic weight loss is associated with a slow metabolism and with low levels of hormones that affect hunger. "The Biggest Loser" seemed to offer tremendous hope. People who struggled with extreme obesity (a BMI of 40 or greater) competed to lose weight in a short amount of time. They worked with teams of doctors, nutritionists, and personal trainers. The contestant who experienced the most drastic weight loss by the end of the TV season (just 30 weeks) won the competition. In a 2016 study published in the journal Obesity, researchers followed 14 contestants during and after one season of the show. Contestants experienced drastic weight loss, losing an average of more than a hundred pounds each. By the final weigh-in, contestants' leptin levels had plummeted, so that they had very little of the hormone, rendering them constantly hungry. They also had a slow metabolism. In other words, their thyroid function—which governs metabolism and many other bodily functions—had slowed.  More »

How false assumptions about weight may affect your health

Obesity can affect a woman’s health, even when they’re otherwise healthy. Feelings about weight may prompt some women to skip needed appointments or avoid preventive care. In addition, health care providers may be prone to weight bias, and that may result in women with obesity receiving substandard treatment. (Locked) More »

Why walnuts may help with weight loss

Eating walnuts appears to activate a brain region involved in impulse control. This may help explain why people who eat nuts regularly are less likely to be overweight and have heart disease. More »

Overweight vs overfat: Is your scale lying to you?

For decades, the body mass index (BMI) has been the gold standard for gauging obesity-related heart disease risk, but this tool doesn’t always tell the whole story. BMI extrapolates a person’s the percentage of body fat from height and weight. But BMI misclassifies nearly 50% of normal-weight people who have higher heart disease risk from unhealthy distribution of body fat, meaning that a person can be overfat even without being overweight. More »

Not so fast: Pros and cons of the newest diet trend

The obesity epidemic has spawned a cottage industry of weight loss schemes.  Currently in vogue is intermittent fasting, which involves alternating intervals of extreme calorie reduction with periods of normal eating. Proponents of this regimen claim that it helps shed pounds faster traditional diets as well as reduce inflammation and other heart disease risks. While getting rid of excess body fat will improve a person’s metabolic profile and lower cardiovascular risk, there is no strong evidence that fasting adds health benefits beyond any other weight loss strategy. More »