Study Shows Diets — Once Again — Aren’t the Best Weight Loss Program


If you read the headlines about the recent Stanford University study that compared four popular diets, you might think the Atkins diet — the infamous very low carbohydrate, high fat eating plan — won hands down over the Zone diet (a reduced-carbohydrate plan), the very low fat, vegetarian-type plan promoted by Dean Ornish, MD, and the dietary-guideline-style diet developed as part of the LEARN program.  At least one news report I read touted the success of the Atkins plan as resulting “in more weight loss over a year than three other diets….”

If you take the time to read more closely, however, you see that women following the Atkins diet shed only an average of 10 pounds during the year, which was far less than judged necessary to bring them to a healthy weight.  But what’s more significant is that the researchers reported the women didn’t even really follow the diet.  They ate nearly triple the amount of carbohydrates allowed on the Atkins diet.

Furthermore, and maybe the real lesson to be learned, is that all women on all the diets had problems staying on the diets — even with the extensive support received.  They didn’t just read the book and follow the instructions.  They also attended weekly sessions with a dietitian for the first two months, and had regular phone and email contact.  AND they were paid for participating in the study.

Of course, this isn’t surprising to most of us, definitely not the women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run.  If we could count all the diets we’ve been on, and failed to lose or keep the weight off if we did lose…well, you get the picture.

It dismays me that researchers continue to invest so much in looking at whether certain diets work or not, or which ones work best.  You’d think with all the dieting Americans have taken part in over the last 50 years, we’d get the hint.  Diets don’t work.  There is more research being done on healthy lifestyle approaches that don’t involve dieting — that use mindful eating as the eating plan — but it’s still just a drop in the bucket compared to time and money spent spinning our wheels over diets.

2 responses to “Study Shows Diets — Once Again — Aren’t the Best Weight Loss Program”

  1. Marsha says:

    I can’t believe it! Just after I finished today’s post, I checked my email to find an article waiting for me to read, from Medscape, an online news service for health professionals. The article: LOW CARB DIETS SAFE AND EFFECTIVE FOR WEIGHT LOSS!!!!! It was all about the study mentioned in this post. To make matters worse, it was an article tagged for continuing education credit; physicians can read and get credit toward maintaining their licenses!

    Very discouraging…..

  2. Cindy says:

    The saddest thing is that no one can really measure the success of a diet because no one can stay on one for more than 3 months, much less a year. Isn’t that the real message? Pick any diet – you can lose weight. The diet is not the issue. It’s that no one can live that way for long. I know you said all that in your post already, but it just irks! I wish there was more work being done on hunger, satiation and cravings. Real or imagined, they are (at least for me) the big bugaboo when it comes to over-eating and bingeing.
    Great post!

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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