We recently attempted to determine how many diets exist, as there are far too many.

On the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, we counted 102. These ranged from high-protein and low-carbohydrate to low-protein and high-carbohydrate. Some diets involved only fruits and vegetables, others only meat consumption. One stated that eating food and drinking water is optional!

It can really make your head spin trying to unravel the mystery of diet and weight loss.

Before commencing this journey, we should ask ourselves several questions: Why do I need to diet or change my eating habits? Do I want a short-term diet or a long-term lifestyle change? How quickly should I lose weight? Why am I unable to lose weight? Is it just my current diet and activity level, or is there another underlying problem? What benefits or risks are there to my weight loss regimen? Where can I go to get help and support?

These are some examples of the self-directed questioning that should occur, especially before a life-altering event. You may not be able to answer all these questions at this time, but asking should get you to reflect on why people make certain choices.

Most people gain weight or are unable to lose weight because they have poor energy balance. This means that energy intake (food) is greater than energy expenditure (physical activity), causing the extra energy to be stored in our body as fat.

What many are often unaware of is that a number of other medical and lifestyle factors can play a significant role in why people gain weight and are unable to lose weight despite dieting. Some of these factors include high stress, various hormone abnormalities associated with peri-menopause or menopause in women and similarly andropause in men, thyroid deficiency, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, sleep deprivation, inadequate daily water consumption, inactivity, reduced dietary fiber and other conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the initial weight loss and sustainability of three broad types of diets. It compared the low-carbohydrate diet, the low-fat diet and the Mediterranean diet (a moderate-fat-restricted, low-calorie diet that incorporates poultry and fish in place of red meat). All three diets had significant variable weight loss for the first several months but no significant difference after two years, as many of the study participants could not maintain the diets.

It is therefore most important to make lifestyle changes that you and your family can maintain. A safe amount of initial weight to lose per week is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 pounds until you reach your goal. Most health providers agree that consuming more natural foods with smaller portion sizes and more frequently is a good start. 

Focus on the food pyramid, where a majority of the food consumption is from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but don’t forget to include lots of water. Less often, consume low- or non-fat dairy and lean meats and, least frequently, high-calorie fats, oils and sweets.

Remember that being overweight or obese increases the risk for many preventable diseases. Talk with your doctor to see which treatment plan is safest and right for you. 

Learn more

Visit these Web sites for more

information about dieting and health:



Centers for Disease Control and


U.S National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Healthwww.nlm.nih.gov

This article is general and should not be used as a substitute for individualized professional medical care.

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