According to a recent Gallop poll, 55% of people would like to lose weight, while 43% of people worry about their weight either some or all of the time.
If you find yourself in this category and are considering a weight-loss program to support your goals, there are some factors to consider and pointers to increase your chances of success.
Learn the top-ranked diets for weight-loss according to the U.S. News & World Report 2022 Best Diets — and how to pick the best one for you.
The best diet programs for weight loss:
WW (Weight Watchers): WW (Weight Watchers) is the best "commercial" diet plan for weight loss. Specialists in nutrition, diabetes and heart disease think the plan is the easiest way to lose weight, and they rate WW’s eating principles as healthy and sound. Experts also say it’s among the most effective weight-loss plans for short-term and long-term results.
Jenny Craig: This could work if you want help in the form of pre-packaged meals delivered to your home. These meals are supplemented with fruits, veggies and dairy foods (or their equivalents), so the diet gets high marks for healthfulness. However, once you ween off their packaged meals, experts think weight regain is a serious possibility.
Mayo Clinic Diet: This diet is all about habit formation and great for people who like to track their progress toward a goal. The 12-week program is broken down into 2 phases and focuses on building new healthy habits (like eating breakfast) and breaking old, less-healthy habits (like eating in front of the TV).
It's worth noting that the two diets tied with WW for best diet for weight loss aren't weight-loss programs at all:
Flexitarian diet: Notably, the best diet for weight loss, according to U.S. News, isn’t a commercial program, it’s the flexitarian diet, based on the book by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. The flexitarian diet’s emphasis on fruits, veggies, whole grains and plant-based proteins makes this a nutritional standout. And these foods happen to be among the best for weight loss since they're higher in fiber and lower in calories per bite, so you can eat filling portions while lowering your overall calorie intake.
Volumetrics: Created by Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls, volumetrics is less of a "diet" and more of an approach to eating. The eating philosophy categorizes food into low, medium and high-density categories based off their caloric density. People are encouraged to fill their plates with high-volume, low-calorie foods like fruits and veggies, grains and lean protein, and limit high-calorie foods like meat, dairy, fried and processed food and sweets. Although, no food is off limits.
Should you follow a weight-loss program?
There’s no single best way to lose weight, but what all weight-loss plans have in common is that they produce a calorie deficit, meaning you’ll either eat fewer calories than you previously ate, or boost the number of calories you burn through exercise, or a combination of the two.
Rather than focusing on the macronutrient breakdown of a plan (say, high protein or low fat), it’s better to consider a plan that matches your needs since adherence is the main driver of weight-loss success. For instance, if you dine out or travel frequently, a weight-loss program, like Jenny Craig, that emphasizes pre-packaged meals and largely limits these activities isn’t going to be the best fit. Here are 10 additional questions to ask yourself to narrow down the best diet plan for your needs:
How much cooking are you willing to do, and does the required cooking suit your skill level?
Does the diet eliminate any food groups, and if so, is that an eating pattern you can sustain? Think beyond the first few months and imagine living and eating this way for the next few years.
Are you looking for a weight-loss meal plan that guides you through breakfast, lunch and dinner or one that offers general advice?
What’s the cost involved? Consider the cost of the weight-loss program itself, as well as any requirements for specific foods. For instance, a weight-loss plan that emphasizes plant foods will be less expensive than one centered around meats.
What’s the time commitment outside of cooking or planning meals? Do you have to attend weekly meetings or track your food? Is the amount of time required realistic for you?
What type of support is built into the plan, and does the support match your personal needs? For instance, if all the support is text-based and you don’t want to be tied to your phone, this may not be the right fit for you.
Does the plan teach you how to change your behaviors? Unless a weight-loss plan addresses behavioral change, it’ll be hard to sustain any results.
Does the diet plan address your health problems? Say you have type 2 diabetes: Will you learn proper eating strategies to manage your condition?
Can the plan accommodate your dietary restrictions? If you’re a vegetarian or following a gluten-free diet, for instance, can you find enough variety among what’s offered, or will that be an additional challenge?
How does the weight-loss plan address exercise, and are the activity recommendations doable for you?
In addition to these questions, it’s also worth considering what (if anything) worked for you in the past and when and why it stopped working. Maybe you had successfully lost weight on a program but changed jobs or went through a breakup that interfered with your ability to lose weight at that time. Were there elements that you liked about the program? If so, you may want to re-enroll or find another weight-loss plan that will help you re-engage with those strategies.
Maintenance is the key to long-term success
Unsurprisingly, losing weight is easier than keeping those excess pounds off. Despite the challenge, there are things you can do to improve your odds of success. Here are the factors that help.
Follow the weight-loss plan. Keeping the weight off is tied to how well you adhere to the program, which includes the diet plan as well as attendance at group meetings (if offered), food tracking and so on.
Track what you eat and what you weigh. Numerous studies link these self-monitoring methods to maintaining weight loss.
Set SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. An example of such a goal is to try a new vegetable side dish twice a week.
Develop a weight-loss mindset. This involves replacing negative, self-limiting beliefs with more helpful thoughts. Research suggests that self-compassion enhances motivation and resiliency, and it can help you adhere to a healthier diet.
Reduce the time you spend in sedentary activities, like watching TV.