Which diet actually works? Dieters have been ponding this question for decades. I had the pleasure of attending the Cleveland Clinic's 4th Annual Obesity Summit. Dr. George Bray, the Chief of the Division of Clinical Obesity and Metabolism in Baton Rouge, attempted to answer this very question.
Here is the gist of the study he discussed. Researchers looked at the benefits of varying different macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) to promote weight loss. Most dieters know these types of diets by other names such as the Atkins Diet, Low Fat Diet, South Beach etc. But, the names of these diets were taken away to avoid bias and the subjects were not aware of which type of diet they were on. The same foods were on each plan but varied in portion (ex. 1 slice of bread versus 2 slices). Why do this study? People who want to lose weight are often confused by the very different philosophies. Is it better to go low carb or low fat? They are opposite approaches. It's very confusing.
So, which diet helped people the most? Basically, none of the diets came out ahead of the other. The biggest revelation and overall conclusion of the study: people lost weight with whatever diet they were able to adhere to. So, if they liked the diet and could stick to it, they lost weight. Not rocket science. This is in direct support of what I have been telling clients for years. You will manage your weight and eat mindfully with whatever plan works for you for the long term rather than a fad diet.
People tell me all kinds of unique strategies that they come up that work for them. For example, some people are successful in managing their weight by eating the same foods but cutting down portions (eating half as much). But, this doesn't work for everyone. Other clients substitute high fat food with lower fat versions (ex. leaner meats). Yet, another client cut out all sweets except for those that were homemade every now and then. This cut down on his food intake significantly and he was still satisfied with what he ate day to day. Basically, eating mindfully is not a diet. It is finding a way to balance your eating in a way that you can adhere to happily and for the long run.
Although this Obesity Summit was a collection of top researchers from very different disciplines (lawyers, doctors, economists etc.), they all agreed on one thing. We have to come up with a better way of preventing obesity fast!
According to more than one presenter, obesity is a "pandemic." It is the second preventable cause of death after smoking. Pretty scary statistics. As a psychologist, I focus a lot on the psychological impact of managing your weight such as the impact on self-esteem, motivation, barriers to change, stress management instead of stress eating, helping people build their confidence etc. I was reminded that helping patients get to a healthy weight adds years onto a person's life, avoids health care problems/disease and reduces health care cost. Everyone wins.
So, forget dieting, focus on mindful eating. To learn more about mindful eating go to www.eatingmindfully.com
To read more about this study, see http://www.adaevidencelibrary.com/worksheet.cfm?worksheet_id=254563
Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, Smith SR, Ryan DH, Anton SD, McManus K, Champagne CM, Bishop LM, Laranjo N, Leboff MS, Rood JC, de Jonge L, Greenway FL, Loria CM, Obarzanek E, Williamson DA. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009; 360 (9): 859-873.