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Which Diet Is Right for You?

Here's the skinny on six top diets to help you achieve weight loss success.

Weight Watchers

Although Weight Watchers has evolved over the years, its core message is the same: Live a healthy lifestyle and you’ll lose weight. You can eat whatever you want, but each food is assigned points, and you’re limited to a certain number of points each day, based on your weight.

For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you can eat between 22 and 27 points a day. Points are calculated based on the fat, calories, and fiber in each type of food. Eat an English muffin, and you’ve used up just two points. A large slice of veggie pizza will set you back six points.

Essentially Weight Watchers is nothing more than your basic low-fat diet, meaning lots of low-fat protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, but it does offer one benefit.

Weight Watchers provides group support

"To me the big advantage of Weight Watchers is the social support network," says Donald K. Layman, PhD, professor emeritus of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During group meetings members share their successes and encourage one another.

But the meetings can be a detriment if you have a demanding schedule, says Fernstrom, although you can choose to do Weight Watchers completely online. Another downside to Weight Watchers: Points don’t discriminate. It’s up to you to decide between the scoop of ice cream and baked chicken breast with four points each. 

Bottom line? Weight Watchers is a healthy long-term plan if you can stick with it and watch your calories. If you don’t like counting points, the diet also offers a more flexible point-free plan, which eliminates the counting and instead focuses on foods that fill you up quickly (such as brown rice, lean meats, and avocados).

The Volumetrics Eating Plan

The Volumetrics plan, created by nutritionist Barbara Rolls, PhD, is based on the idea that people get hungry, and when they’re hungry they want to eat. Volumetrics aims to satisfy that hunger, but instead of filling up on energy-dense foods such as crackers and cookies, which pack a lot of calories for their size, you load up on foods with a low energy density, like vegetables and soup, which are high in fiber and water and low in calories. Then you can eat healthy low-fat meals without feeling deprived.

Fernstrom says the idea of the Volumetrics diet is rooted in good science. "It’s based on 25 years of scientific evidence showing that people will eat less, for example, if they have a big salad or bowl of tomato soup. The way you fill up is by having foods that are high in fiber and high in water," she says. "It’s certainly reasonable, and it’s the fundamentals of a diet plan for life."

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