Get to a healthy weight by making small, long-term changes in
your eating and exercise habits.
Key points to remember
You may already be at a healthy weight. If
you are, you're better off forgetting about weight loss. Instead, learn healthy
eating and activity habits that will help you stay at a healthy weight.
Diets almost never
work, and they can cause many people to fall into an unhealthy cycle of losing
and gaining weight.
Research shows that people who use a diet plan tend to lose
more weight at first than people who try to lose weight on their own. But after
they stop dieting, most people regain the weight they have lost, and sometimes
more, no matter which method they use.
Not all diet plans are safe
or effective. Some diets can even be bad for your health. It's wise to talk to
your doctor before you start any weight-loss diet.
loss requires lifelong changes in your eating and exercise habits.
Do you need to lose weight?
Many people want to
lose weight. And there are many diet plans that claim to be the best way to
help you do this. But before you consider whether to use a diet plan, find out
if you really need to lose weight.
A healthy weight is the weight
you reach when you're active and eating healthy foods. Many people who weigh a few
extra pounds are still at a healthy weight.
If you practice
healthy eating habits and are active enough to stay healthy, then a few extra
pounds are not bad for your health unless you have other medical
If you are thinking about losing weight, ask your doctor
whether it's a good idea for you.
What are diet plans?
Some people lose weight on
their own by eating fewer calories and getting active. Diet plans are any kind
of structured program you might follow to help you lose weight. There are many
different plans, including those in which:
You follow specific daily menus or you follow
rules about what types of food to eat and what types to avoid. These diets
often come from books, from the Internet, or from friends or
You buy meal replacements (for example, liquid "shakes")
and follow the product's recommendations about what other food you should
You buy prepared meals that are sent to your
You join a group—in person or on the Internet—and get support
and information about how to eat healthy foods.
Ask your doctor about any diet plan you are thinking of
using. You should also think about how well you'll be able to stay with that
plan's rules about what and how much to eat.
How do diet plans work?
When diet plans work, it's because they restrict calories.
Research shows that limiting calories—not the types of food you eat—is what
causes weight loss. Over the long term diets that focus on limiting carbohydrate or
fat will not lead to more weight loss than a low-calorie diet.1
Lasting weight loss
requires lifelong changes in your eating and exercise habits. If you go back to
your old eating habits after you stop dieting, you are likely to regain all the
weight you lost on the diet.
What are the benefits of following a diet plan?
Some people are more successful at losing weight when they have a
structured plan to follow or when they can participate with a group of people.
A well-balanced diet plan that includes all the
food groups may also be a good way to learn about good eating habits. Some
plans can teach you about normal portion sizes. They may teach you the
importance of eating a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables,
low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, and protein sources such as low-fat meats,
beans, and lentils.
A good diet plan will also teach you the
importance of eating regular meals, including breakfast. And it will teach you
how to change your eating habits for good.
What are the risks of following a diet plan?
all diet plans are safe or effective. Some diet plans can even be bad for your
Many diets do not provide a healthy balance of the foods
your body needs. Diets that severely restrict calories or that avoid certain
types of food may not provide enough vitamins, minerals, and other
Most people who diet regain the weight they have lost,
and sometimes more, after they stop following the diet plan. Diets can cause
people to fall into an unhealthy cycle of losing and gaining weight. This is
often called "yo-yo dieting." Yo-yo dieting may be harder on the body than just
Just because a diet plan helps another person
lose weight does not mean that it will work for you. It is very hard to stay on
a diet that includes lots of big changes in your eating habits. If you can't
stay on the diet, you may end up feeling discouraged and give up on trying to
change your eating habits.
You follow a diet plan. The plan may tell you what foods
and what portions to eat. Or the plan may give you guidelines to stay within a
certain calorie, carbohydrate, or fat range each day. The plan may involve
attending meetings or support groups.
What are the benefits?
People tend to lose more weight at first when they
follow a plan.
Some people do better when they have a structured
plan to follow.
A well-balanced diet plan can teach you about
healthy eating habits.
You might be more successful at losing
weight if you participate with a group of people.
What are the risks and side effects?
Diets are hard to stay with and usually
don't work over the long term.
Not all diet plans are safe or healthy.
If you are
not successful at losing weight on a diet, you may give up on trying to change
your eating habits.
Some diet programs cost money over and above
what you pay for food.
Do not use a diet
plan Do not use a diet
What is usually involved?
You gradually make permanent changes on your own to
improve your eating habits.
You may choose to work with a doctor or a dietitian to help
change your eating habits.
What are the benefits?
People tend to have more long-term success at
losing weight when they make small changes over time instead of completely
changing the way they eat all at once.
Some people do better when
they make eating changes on their own.
Improving your eating
habits—without using a diet—can be an effective way to improve your health,
even if you don't lose weight.
What are the risks and side effects?
You may not know how to get started
with changing your eating habits on your own.
You may find that you
need more support to make healthy eating changes.
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These
may help you decide.
Are most people who lose weight on a diet able to keep the weight off after they stop dieting?
YesSorry, that's not right. At first, you may lose more weight using a diet plan. But most people regain the weight they lost, and sometimes more, after they stop dieting.
NoThat's right. At first, you may lose more weight using a diet plan. But most people regain the weight they lost, and sometimes more, after they stop dieting.
I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Key points to remember." At first, you may lose more weight using a diet plan. But most people regain the weight they lost, and sometimes more, after they stop dieting.
Are all diet plans safe?
YesSorry, that's not right. Not all diet plans are safe or effective. Some diets can even be bad for your health. It's wise to talk to your doctor before you start any weight loss diet.
NoThat's right. Not all diet plans are safe or effective. Some diets can even be bad for your health. It's wise to talk to your doctor before you start any weight loss diet.
I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." Not all diet plans are safe or effective. Some diets can even be bad for your health.
If you go back to your old habits after you stop dieting, are you likely to regain the weight you lost?
YesThat's right. Lasting weight loss requires long-term changes in your eating and exercise habits.
NoSorry, that's not right. Lasting weight loss requires long-term changes in your eating and exercise habits.
I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." Lasting weight loss requires long-term changes in your eating and exercise habits.
Decide what's next
Do you understand the options available to you?
Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
Not sure at all
Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
I'm ready to take action.
I want to discuss the options with others.
I want to learn more about my options.
Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
Personal stories about using a diet plan to lose weight
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
I want to
lose weight, but I don't know very much about nutrition. I wouldn't know where
to start with changing my eating habits. I think I need to follow a diet plan
if I'm going to make this work.
Dennis, age 29
tried dieting to lose weight before. It always works at first, but as soon as I
stop eating the "diet food," the weight comes right back. I'd rather make some
small, healthy, permanent changes in the way I eat instead of doing a temporary
I've tried to lose weight on my own. But it
is too hard to plan what I should be eating. I want a diet plan that just tells
me what I should eat.
Alana, age 36
I know that
I need to lose some weight, but I just don't think a diet is right for me. My
job requires that I travel a lot, which makes it hard to stay on a diet. I
think I'll work with a dietitian instead to come up with a healthy eating plan
that I can follow even when I'm on the road.