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The Best Diets for Men

Atkins vs. Ornish, South Beach Diet vs. the Zone: Which weight loss plan really works?

The Best Diet Plan

Disheartening? Sure. But lurking behind the generally glum news about fad diets and popular weight loss programs are individual success stories -- and important information for anyone looking to lose weight.

"If you look at all these studies, you find that on almost any diet, some people do very well and others don’t lose any weight at all," says Janet King, PhD, professor of nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. High-protein diets may have an initial advantage in jump-starting weight loss. But all weight loss plans have one thing in common: They restrict certain kinds of foods and thus limit calories. "Most diets work in the short-term, and the reason is they simplify decisions about what you’re going to eat," says King. "They take variety out of the diet. Some restrict carbohydrates. Some restrict fat. But the end result is that they offer a way to eat fewer calories."

The reason some people succeed is also simple: motivation. "What really matters is compliance, which is another way of saying someone is motivated enough to stick with a diet," King says.

The best diet plan, in other words, is the one that you’re most likely to be able to follow for the long haul. And that’s likely to be different for different people. Men who are basically vegetarians are going to have a tough time following the Atkins diet. Steak-and-eggs men aren’t going to stick with a low-fat, mostly veggie diet plan for long.

Kathleen M. Vohs, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, believes choosing a regimen that most closely matches the way you like to eat is crucial. She offers a provocative reason. "Studies show that self-control is a limited resource," says Vohs. "People may have an easy time giving something up the first time. But when people are repeatedly asked to exhibit self-control, that ability begins to erode."

It’s easier to eat a healthy meal for breakfast, in other words, than to stick with a diet plan once dinner rolls around, especially if it means saying no to foods you love. And by extension, it’s easier to stick with a diet that doesn’t eliminate most of the foods you love.

One Man’s Diet Plan

That’s a lesson Marv Leicher took to heart when he decided to abandon popular diets and fashion his own weight loss regimen. "Basically, I picked and chose from the strategies that seemed easiest for me to follow," he says. "It was no big deal to give up soft drinks and fruit drinks, so I did that religiously. No liquid calories. I’m not the kind of guy who can eat just half of what’s in front of him, so I gave up trying to divide portions. Instead, I decided, no desserts. At lunch, I used to go out with people from the office. Now I bring a cup of yogurt and some trail mix, and if the weather’s good I take a half hour walk and eat a quick lunch. Little stuff like that."

Little stuff. But for Leicher, it adds up to big results. Over the past year, he’s lost 30 pounds. Best of all, he’s keeping them off.

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Reviewed on December 16, 2009

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