06/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Is The Best Diet For You?

It is daunting isn't it? The amount of information is overwhelming. It's everything from diet books to weight loss blogs, from websites devoted to weight loss to weight loss programs to TV shows all about weight loss. Then we have the battle of the diet books. Which diet is better: high protein/low carb, low fat, low calorie, vegan, vegetarian, Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean...? The choices are endless and the passion, with which those who have found the answer speak, is akin to religious fervor. The vegans vs. the Atkins lovers sounds like a new reality show, don't you think?

So, if you have decided it is time to lose some weight, which way do you turn?

My advice is to turn inward not outward. By that I mean, educate yourself about nutrition, food, calories, what your body needs, which cultures have the healthiest diets and are the longest lived. Read about the people who have lost significant weight and kept it off to see what they do. Learn how many calories are in the foods you love and how many calories you should be eating to be the weight you want to be.

The best diet for you is the one you make up for yourself, on a daily basis. Think about it rationally for a moment. Let's say I write a diet book. I am sitting at my computer designing 4 weeks of meals and snacks. I send this out to my agent, who changes some things, and then it goes to my editor at the publishing house. The editor changes things and gives me some notes too. Finally, we have a book that will be published. Eventually the book comes out and gets to you. This can take years. By the time you get the book you will be following a diet I made up 2 years ago while sitting in a Starbucks with my laptop. (By the way, most diet books were not written by nutrionists or registered dietians.)

I can guarantee you that when I was sitting at my computer making up what you should eat today; I didn't take some things into consideration. Things like: what you like to eat, what you ate yesterday, how you are feeling today, if you did or did not work out today, if you are going out to eat tonight and if so what type of restaurant, if you are full before you have finished the amount I suggested, if you are male or female, if you get migraines, if you are diabetic (or have any other health related dietary concerns), if you are perimenopausal, premenstrual, menopausal, young, old, if you would rather eat the dinner food for lunch and the lunch food for dinner, if you hate beets, etc... I made up some generally healthy diet that will create whatever effect I am claiming to give you in my book. This is not the best diet for you.

All you need to know is some basic numbers and you can lose weight on your own. You need to know that to be the weight you want to be you need to balance your energy in/energy out equation so it equals that weight. In other words, if you are female and want to weight l30 lbs., you take that weight times 10 (times 12 for men) to give you your daily allotment of calories without exercise. Therefore, being female if I want to weigh 130 lbs. I get 1,300 calories a day. If I burn an additional 300 calories working out, then I can eat 1,600 and still weigh 130 lbs. It is math.

Food has calories, units of energy, that our bodies burn for fuel. Different foods have different amounts of calories with the lowest being fruits and vegetables and the highest being fats. If you eat low calorie foods, you can eat a lot.

To be successful on your own diet you need to keep track of what you eat, how many calories and how much you burn in exercise. Not fun, I know, but if you are willing to do this you need never buy another diet book, join another weight loss program or listen to anyone tell you what to eat ever again. That is fun. You can also eat whatever you want, within your calorie allotment, go out to eat, travel, never eat beets, eat your dinner food for lunch, etc... It completely frees you. That is also fun. It gives you full responsibility for your own diet and weight. Take control.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about the process of weight loss please visit and take the survey.