Consumer Reports Rates the Top Diet Tools and Plans for Your New Year Success
Not surprisingly, “lose weight” is again at the top of the list for the most common New Year’s resolution for 2013. Thirty-eight percent have made this resolution according to the results of a survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. If you are one of those resolving to clean up your diet, Consumer Reports has polled over 9,000 dieters on the successfulness of 13 popular diet tools and plans for your use.
Of the 13 weight loss programs reviewed, four were well-known commercial plans (Jenny Craig, Medifast, Nutrisystem, and Weight Watchers) and nine were do-it-yourself programs and tools. Dieters were asked to freely choose among these 13 plans and decide for themselves how long to stay on them. At the end, the participants provided weight loss data and satisfaction ratings for their chosen plan.
Significant weight loss was achievable on all plans. Almost 80% of the respondents to the survey lost weight – the median being 18 pounds for men and 15 pounds for women. All 13 plans had at least one participant who was successful.
Overall, Consumer Reports found that low-cost, DIY plans received higher scores than the commercial diet programs. The two with the highest satisfaction scores were MyFitnessPal, a free app for your smartphone which tracks calories eaten and calories burned and compares the end-of-the-day result with what your goal calorie intake would be to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, and the Paleo Diet, a diet book authored by Dr. Loren Cordain that instructs dieters to “eat like a caveman”, consuming more lean meats, fish, seafood, fruit and non-starchy vegetables and avoiding processed foods, sugar, and dairy.
Other do-it-yourself diets where participants reported success included the Atkins Diet (or another low-carb diet), the Glycemic Index Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Mediterranean diet and Slim-Fast.
Among the commercial plans, dieters tended to stick with Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers longer, but the Medifast participants lost the most weight.
The lesson from the survey findings is that “there is not one single solution to losing weight,” says Chris N. Sciamanna MD MPH, a professor at Penn State College of Medicine. Satisfaction with a program includes more than just which one provides the most pounds lost. It also includes factors such as ease of use, financial concerns, and your own personal eating style and life choices.
So which of the 13 diet plans rated by Consumer Reports readers will be right for you in the New Year? Here are some clues to finding the best:
• Keeping track helps most – all plans should include some sort of self-monitoring of calories eaten and calories burned through exercise. Plans that say “eat all you want as long as you avoid so-and-so foods” are not as likely to be as successful. Many programs offer online versions of a diet tracker, but you can go old-fashioned with any plan and use a notebook and pen.
• Adjust your expectations – In other words, be realistic. A good diet plan that is successful in the long-term is not one that promises “30 pounds in 30 days.” Losing one to two pounds per week is desirable. Also, be aware that there will be plateaus along the way. Do not be discouraged – continue to eat right and exercise. You are doing this for long-term health.
• Define your eating style – Vegetarians, for example, will not likely be very happy with the Paleo Diet. People who are on a tight budget may not be able to afford specialized food from programs such as Jenny Craig or Medifast. Those who hate to cook may prefer packaged food from Nutrisystem versus making more foods from scratch such as with the Mediterranean diet.
• Although most “diet” plans focus on food, a combination of diet and exercise is best for both weight loss and overall health. Be sure to include this as part of your plan for New Years.
Consumer Reports, "Lose weight your way" - February 2013