How to Choose a Weight-Loss Plan

plate of food representing how to choose a health diet plan

Most diet experts agree that when choosing a weight-loss plan, you should pick one that you can live with and follow, day after day, without giving up on it.

Everyone has their own eating style. So when choosing a weight-loss plan, you should look for a plan with healthy choices that reflect your preferences, culture, traditions, and budget. In whatever diet plan you choose, make sure it includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein foods to fill your nutritional and caloric needs. Aim for inclusion of each food group and limits on saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

Remember: Everything you eat and drink matters!

What and how much you eat and drink, along with regular physical activity, can help you manage your weight and lower your risk of disease.

Choose a Diet You Won’t Give Up On

Can you follow the diet’s recommendations forever?

Maybe; maybe not.

Most people get caught up in the unrealistic temptation of fad diets. On the magazine stands, wherever they are (supermarkets, drugstores), the headlines scream: “Lose 20 pounds this week!” or “Boost Your Metabolism!” The list could go on and on.

And most people fall for those promises, fake though they may be. We fall into the trap of yo-yo dieting; we lose weight and gain weight – over and over.

Weight-wise and health-wise, we are going nowhere. Indeed, just the opposite. Many studies have shown that yo-yo dieting is harmful to our health and to our attempts to lose weight. Yo-yo dieting actually lowers the metabolism, so we end up heavier than we began.

The truth!

There is no magic potion. To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn.

Always Keep YOU in Mind

Choose a weight-loss plan, along with exercises, that work best for you and in your lifestyle. Don’t try to take on a fitness routine that tortures you each time you do it.

Again, don’t try to force yourself to eat food you can’t stand. Focus on what you love to do, not what you hate to do.

Take a look at your lifestyle, your personality, and what you want from your diet or workout. What will help you to follow through? What will discourage you? And don’t focus on past failures.

Quite simply, there is no one-size-fits-all way of eating.

The ideal diet for you depends on your lifestyle – activity level, body type and other factors – and your goals. Do genetics matter? Not as much as other factors. Research has shown that genetics can mostly be overcome.

So how do you choose a diet from among the thousands and thousands of selections available? You can spend hours and hours trying to sort through so many options.

The No. 1 rule is “choose a weight-loss plan that’s right for you.”

If you can’t stick with your plan—or your plan isn’t working, it’s not your fault. It’s just not the right plan for you. You may think, “But it worked for so and so (fill in the name of a Hollywood star you admire or your best friend). That doesn’t mean it will work for you. We’re all unique, so why try to squeeze into someone else’s plan.

Whether you’re a first-time dieter or one who has been going around and around the track for years, you’ll be happy to know that it is possible to pick a plan and stick to it until you reach your weight goal.

The best diet is not a diet at all. It’s a lifestyle. So you must pick the food you enjoy, exercise you love or can learn to like, and healthy habits you can do daily. Then, you’re on your way to choosing a weight-loss plan you can live with.

That’s what I did after years of dieting and going from one fad diet to another. Only after I started to pick what I could live with for life did I lose 50 pounds.

Here are a few tips on how to choose a weight-loss plan you can live with for a lifetime.

Tips for Choosing a Weight-Loss Plan

First, choose a weight-loss plan that’s not too strict for you. You know the kind: They specifically limit carbs or proteins or anything that’s the color white. Many plans have these nonsensical rules.

Dieters who lose weight long-term have learned to live in a world where nothing is off-limits, but moderation is crucial. Moderation means eating –

  • Fruits and vegetables every day (at least 5, preferably 9 to 12 servings);
  • Both carbs and protein (and, yes, it can be veggie protein, which is better for you than animal protein) in small amounts;
  • A baked potato once or twice a week – and even French fries, but only on rare occasions, say once every month or two; and
  • Dessert once in a while, but not every day.

Some diets have plans where you’re supposed to start and stop again and again until the weight comes off.

Tedious? You bet.

Not only are they tedious, but the extreme highs and lows will send you on an emotional and physical roller coast.


This type of diet forces your body to adjust to the new circumstances again and again.

Instead, try to find a weight-loss plan that shows you how to eat healthy for a lifetime. If you know it’s okay to sometimes have a special treat, or indulge in a glass of wine, then you won’t have to go from one end of the spectrum to the other. You’ll be on a balanced course that’s safe for your body and easy on your emotions. And you’re less like to binge.

Fasting and bingeing (even on healthy foods) is a sure way to develop poor eating habits. Moreover, it confuses your body because your diet choices are giving it mixed messages. One minute you’re devouring pound after pound of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and carbs. The next minute, you’re surviving on nothing but hot water mixed with honey and red pepper.

Consider Your Personal Needs

Just as one size does not fit all, one weight-loss plan will not help everyone who tries it.

First, consider your preferences, lifestyle and weight-loss goals. Jot them down on a piece of paper. This will then become your guideline to find or tailor a diet to suit your needs.

Before you start another weight-loss plan, think about these factors and write your answers:

  • Past diets:
    Which weight-loss plans have you tried before?
    What did you like or dislike about them?
    Were you able to follow the diet?
    What worked or didn’t work for you?
    How did you feel physically and emotionally while on the diet?
  • Preferences:
    Do you prefer to diet on your own? or
    Do you like getting support from a group, either online or in person?
  • Budget:
    Will you have to pay for the weight-loss plan (e.g., Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig)?
    Does the diet require you to buy supplements or meals?
    Will you be required to visit weight-loss clinics?
    Does the cost of such programs fit your budget?
  • Other considerations:
    Do you have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, or allergies?
    Do you have specific cultural or ethnic requirements or preferences when it comes to food?

These are important factors that should help you decide which diet to choose.

Consider the Weight-Loss Plan’s Promises

A safe, effective, and reasonable weight-loss plan should offer down-to-earth rules. Empty, unrealistic promises just don’t work and could be dangerous.

  1. Is it a “pie in the sky” diet that promises rapid and dramatic weight loss? or
  2. Does it offer a slow and steady approach that is easy to follow and keep up?

The second option usually beats fast weight loss in the long run. Option 2 diets typically promise weight loss of 0.5 to 2 pounds (0.2 to 0.9 kilograms) a week. This is the option usually recommended, and it is the healthiest approach.

Sometimes, faster weight loss is safe if it’s done the right way. For example, a very low-calorie diet with medical supervision, or a brief quick-start phase of an overall healthy-eating plan.

Nonetheless, successful weight loss requires a long-term commitment to making healthy changes in your eating, exercise, and lifestyle habits. Be sure to pick a diet plan you can live with.

Features of a Good Weight-Loss Plan

Look for a plan with these features:

  • Overall:
    – Promotes slow and steady weight loss.
    – Covers portion control for your body type and lifestyle.
    – Calls for small, gradual changes.
    – Is based on sound scientific studies.
    – Provides a maintenance plan.
    – Recommends drinking plenty of water.
  • Lifestyle:
    – Accommodates your travel or dining-out patterns.
    – Has a family-friendly approach that everyone can follow.
    – Doesn’t require special preparation and cooking.
    – Fits your work and/or recreation schedule.
    – Tackles your bad habits.
  • Flexibility:
    – Doesn’t forbid certain foods or food groups.
    – Includes a variety of foods from all the major food groups.
    – Allows occasional, but reasonable, indulgences.
    – Encourages snacks between meals.
    – Features easily found foods (local grocery or health food stores).
  • Balance:
    – Has enough nutrients and calories for your body build and lifestyle.
    – Cuts calories realistically.
    – Includes all food groups.
    – Doesn’t require excessive vitamins or supplements.
  • Likeability:
    – Allows foods you like and enjoy eating.
    – Not overly restrictive or boring (like eating only one or two foods).
    – Offers easy-to-prepare and tasty recipes.
  • Activity:
    – Discusses several easy-to-do exercises, like walking or Qigong Tai Chi.
    – Encourages meditation or other mood enhancing or mindfulness exercises.

Choose a Lifetime Weight-Loss Plan

Before you choose any diet, evaluate it as a lifetime plan. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you comfortably follow the diet for the rest of your life?
  • Can you exist without ever eating another morsel of sugar again in this lifetime?
  • Can you turn away bread at every meal for the next 30 years?

Humans need flexibility. We’re not rigid creatures, so an inflexible plan is one most of us can adhere to over a lifetime. Yet some diets make it seem like their unyielding rules are ones you can conform to forever.

But most of us can’t.

We cave in and then regain the weight we lost. Worse, we gain even more weight when we become discouraged and give up.

No diet plan is 100% comfortable when you’re used to being able to eat with freedom anything you choose when you choose. Still, many plans offer sensible ways to eat where you never have to leave an entire food group off of your plate.

Don’t follow a fad – instead, follow your good sense. Make up your mind to choose a healthy diet you feel comfortable with and can follow for the rest of your life.

More Help

If you need more information on healthy weight loss and dieting, talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian. Ask your doctor about your “ideal” weight and the number of calories you must eat to lose pounds and keep an ideal weight.

If you visit a registered dietitian, take with you a three-day diary of what you typically eat. This will help you dietitian come up with a plan customized to your specific needs.

I also highly recommend visiting Best Diets 2018 to help you cut through the clutter of claims.  Each year, U.S. News and World Reports assembles a panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease.

This panel reviews many diets and comes up with the 40 best diets. The report covers how easy the diet is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.

“Diets come and go, teasing and tempting with dreams of that elusive hot body.”
Source: U.S. News and World Reports

So go get that hot body now – and improve your health and wellbeing in the process.

Please leave me a comment about this approach to “Choosing a Weight-Loss Plan.”

Here are a 3 diet books that were rated as the top 3 diets by U.S. News and World Reports in 2018.

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