So here many of us are, pledging as we have before to drop some pounds, get into shape and just generally eat better. Maybe this year! How are we going to go about it -- and keep the weight off over the long haul?
Surprise: Our choices may not always be the wisest. Gluten-free diets will be hot among consumers in 2013, according to a survey of 200 registered dietitians by the health and wellness marketing and PR agency Pollock Communications. But, as this article at FoodNavigator.com explains, that doesn’t mean these diets actually help people lose weight. There's scant evidence to suggest so.
Consumers will also continue to want natural, simple and minimally processed foods, the dietitians predict, and are less likely to embrace low-carb and low-fat diets. The experts also predict that Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers will continue strong.
The dietitians also went out on a limb and said that “eating more fruits and vegetables will have the biggest impact on improving Americans’ diet and health in 2013 and beyond.” Mind you, they aren't saying that Americans will actually embrace this strategy. The survey is a hybrid -- part what dietitians predict and part what they wish.
Consumer Reports issued its own survey on popular weight loss diets, which you can read right here in summary form (you’ll have to pay to read the whole thing, unfortunately). It’s based on a survey of 9,000 readers about 13 different weight loss programs, some of them commercial and others of them do-it-yourself. As a blog by my colleague Mary MacVean described, the survey garnered scores for the following commercial plans: Jenny Craig, Medifast, Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers. And it rated nine DIY diets: Atkins, Glycemic Index, Low-carb (other than Atkins), Mediterranean, MyFitnessPal, Paleo, Slim-Fast, South Beach and SparkPeople.
MyFitnessPal got the highest consumer rating, along with the Paleo diet. The former is a free app and website that allow you to track your calorie intake and how much you exercise. The Paleo diet is the one where you’re meant to eat as our ancestors did before the rise of agriculture. Lots of meat and berries and nuts and no cereal grains, which makes it a low-carb kind of diet, though it has other features as well. Of the commercial plans, Weight Watchers scored the highest.
But note: “Surprisingly, there was only a weak relationship between actual weight loss and subscribers’ satisfaction with the various diets,” the article said. “Instead, they gave higher marks to the diets that helped them maintain their weight loss and prescribed lifestyle changes that were easy to make.”
As it’s often been said, all kinds of diets can work if someone sticks to them. Grapefruit diets. Cabbage diets. Whipped cream and martini diets. (Read about our long, tortured fascination with weight loss strategies in this article I wrote some years ago.) And indeed, all of the plans allowed some people to lose weight, the survey found.
But most successful dieters gain the fat right back, so the issue of maintenance is crucial. Perhaps the most interesting item in the Consumer Reports stories was its description of a Stanford University study that tried a novel approach: Instead of getting people first to lose weight and later on hold their weight steady, researcher Michaela Kiernan turned the idea upside down. First, people had eight weeks’ practice in weight maintenance. Only then did they move on to trying for weight loss.
This group lost the same amount of weight as a comparison group that dieted first and maintained later, Kiernan found -- but a year later, they had regained only 20% on average of their lost weight, compared with 43% in the conventional group.
Some more: Here, from the Huffington Post, is first-hand advice from people who lost weight and managed to keep said weight off. Here is the website for the National Weight Control Registry, where you can read how people not only lost weight but kept it off successfully for long periods of time.
And finally, Rene Lynch of the Los Angeles Times offers up 52 fitness tips for 2013.