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Weight Loss, Satisfaction Not Linked

"Weight loss didn't correlate well with satisfaction," Metcalf says. Dieters balanced weight loss with other factors, she says, such as how easy the plan was to follow.

Overall, men lost more than women did, she found. Overall, the median loss (half more, half less) was 18 pounds for men and 15 for women. However, that loss was often enough to move from the obese category to overweight or the overweight to healthy weight category.

Those people on Medifast lost more than those on any other diet. Men lost 20 to 43 pounds; women, 14 to 40.

Lessons From Dieters

Dieters were most satisfied with plans they could stick with, Metcalf says.

That suggests that people considering weight loss plans should look at the approach before deciding, she says. For instance, would you fare better on a plan in which you do most of the cooking? Or would you be more likely to follow one that provides the food?

Research suggests those who track their intake do better, Metcalf says. Some programs, including MyFitnessPal and Weight Watchers, emphasize that and make it easy, she says.

Two Experts Weigh In

"This study provides a good view of weight loss in that it acknowledges that no one diet is for everyone, realistic expectations result in greater success, and finding an eating pattern that meets your lifestyle is key to long-term success," says Connie Diekman, RD, MEd, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

"The study identifies what we have long known: Losing weight is not the goal. The goal is keeping the weight off,'' says Diekman, a past president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

To do that, she says, it's crucial to know your likes, dislikes, routines, and challenges to your routine.

Next, assess what you need to lose, what changes you can make, and then find the ''right'' program that fits your life, she says.

The survey will help dietitians understand what people are looking for and what diet approaches work for them, says Andrea N. Giancoli, RD, MPH, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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