Myth No. 6: Going on a Diet Is the Best Way to Lose Weight
The theory: Switching to a prescriptive plan temporarily is the smartest way to drop pounds.
The reality: Short-term, you do lose weight on any plan that results in your eating fewer calories. But temporary changes don't lead to permanent losses. "A diet won't work if you think of it as doing a different thing for a while and then you're going to stop doing it," says Christopher Gardner, an assistant professor of nutritional science at Stanford University School of Medicine. "If you have a new way of eating and think, I'm going to eat like this forever, that's the way to lose weight." And keep it off.
The best advice: Don't go on a "diet"―a quick fix that begins on New Year's Day or before bathing-suit season. Instead, change the way you eat. Find a satisfying eating plan that you can live with long-term, and make sure you're eating the right amount of calories for weight loss. Then, when you've taken off some weight, don't go back to eating as much as you did before you cut calories. "To maintain a lighter weight, you have to eat a little less than you did to maintain your heavier weight before," says Gardner. Besides, dieting alone won't work as well as dieting plus exercise―a little bit of exercise, or maybe a lot. Since 1994 the National Weight Control Registry has followed and analyzed the habits of successful weight losers (defined as people who have maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for a year or more). Among its findings: Those who kept weight off exercised―with brisk walking or some other moderate-intensity activity―an average of one hour a day. "One of the most important aspects of weight maintenance is a high dose of physical activity," says Rena Wing, Ph.D., a cofounder of the registry and a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School, at Brown University.