In a Nutshell
- Weight loss diets created by medical professionals, or that start with balanced nutrition, are safest for weight loss
- Some diets target weight loss specifically and of those, many are rarely balanced
- Weight loss diets are not magical, physical activity is required
Diets intended to support general health frequently result in weight loss, though diets with their only goal as weight loss may not support general health and are often imbalanced – lacking in important nutrients or adequate amounts of them.
There are a number of weight loss plans, however, that were developed by medical professionals and aim to fulfill nutritional needs while achieving weight loss; as well as those that were developed on the basis of adequate nutrition but intended wholly for weight loss.
These diets are:
- Mayo Clinic
- Weight Watchers (WW)
- South Beach
- Biggest Loser
These diets aim for lifelong lifestyle changes through emphasis on healthy foods, in regimented portions, along with increased physical activity. And with the exception of the Biggest Loser and Noom diets, all were developed by medical or licensed nutritional professionals.
Scientific & Expert Support
These diets rank among the best weight loss diets year over year, with some consistently in the Top 5, and the Mayo Clinic diet has been adopted by hospitals and bariatric centers throughout the country.
The experts all say the same thing – the key to successful weight loss is a commitment to making changes in your diet and exercise habits, which is founded upon the simple scientific principle that in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. You do this by reducing extra calories consumed through foods and beverages, and burning more calories through activity and exercise.
Just because most of these diets were developed by medical professionals does not mean they are medical weight loss plans. Medical weight loss diets are carefully crafted, highly individualized plans that are prescribed and continuously overseen by a physician. They are used for the sole purpose of rapidly reducing weight because it poses imminent and serious threats to one’s health and even mortality. You should never attempt to engage in a medical weight loss plan without the guidance of a physician. The plans mentioned here are available commercially.
It is important to note that experts do not support the Biggest Loser diet as a sound weight loss program, citing that foremost it is not balanced, and that while contestants on the show do lose weight, they do so with help from paid professionals that people don’t have readily available at home. They also emphasize that many of the contestants, shortly following the conclusion of the show, gain back the weight. This is also validated in the research where studies show that extreme dieting and exercise resulting in rapid weight loss is rarely maintained for more than 6 months, 12 at the very outset.
While the remainder of the diets are balanced and generally safe for anyone to try, some of them may not be the easiest to follow (this includes the Mayo Clinic diet), and a couple are moderately expensive.
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- Anton, S.D., Hida, A., Heekin, K., Sowalsky, K., Karabetian, C., Mutchie, H., Leeuwenburgh, C., Manini, T.M., & Barnett, T.E., (2017). Effects of popular diets without specific calorie targets on weight loss outcomes: Systematic review of findings from clinical trials. Nutrients, 9(8), 822, 15p.
- Freire, R. (2020). Scientific evidence of diets for weight loss: Different macronutrient composition, intermittent fasting, and popular diets. Nutrition, 69, 11p. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2019.07.001
- Harvard University – Harvard Medical School. (2020). Special health report – The diet review. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health Publishing.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, October 10). Diet and exercise. Mayo Clinic – Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/basics/diet-and-exercise/hlv-20049483
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, October 10). Diet plans. Mayo Clinic – Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/basics/diet-plans/hlv-20049483
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, January 16). The Mayo Clinic diet: A weight-loss program for life. Mayo Clinic – Healthy Lifestyle: Weight Loss. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/mayo-clinic-diet/art-20045460