What is the Best Diet for Weight Loss

One of the most frequently asked questions in my private practice is “what is the best diet to lose weight?” or “what is the best diet to go on?” Since there is not one diet that is best for weight loss, I am going to encourage you to think about your thinking.


Below are three key principles and questions to help you discover your “food personality” and what will realistically work for you to help with weight loss

  1. The best weight loss diet is the one you can live with for life.

If you can’t see yourself following a diet plan or meal plan you are looking at in a book or online weight loss program FOREVER, weight loss is doomed to fail. The idea you can restrict now, and then return to having a life later just won’t work to sustain weight change. This is the most common reason weight will yo-yo up or down.

This may sound obvious but having worked with individuals struggling to lose weight for many years, I am often astounded by how frequently people will choose a crash diet to lose weight fast. The results are always the same though.   There is initial weight loss but soon enough they find themselves back at their old weight or even heavier than where they were before. The most difficult part of the yo-yo cycle is the psychological damage it causes with feelings of failure, body hatred and worsening food relationships.

What can you actually enjoy versus tolerate?

  • If you despise legumes and love meat, then a strict vegetarian diet is clearly not for you.
  • If you are a carb lover and want to support sustainability efforts for the planet then a Paleo plan certainly isn’t your best bet.
  • If you have a chronic dieting or eating disorder history a system that meticulously has you tracking points or numbers in your smartphone will often increase obsessive thinking and steal the joy away from a healthy food and body relationship.

My suggestion is that you “take the die out of diet” and instead remove this word from your vocabulary and go for an eating lifestyle full of as much variety and as few restrictions as possible. After all, there is a basic psychological principle that we all want what we can’t have. Keep your options open and free and of course, ensure you consider your overall health since if you don’t take care of your body where are you going to live?

  1. You can eat anything, just not everything.

It’s all about choice. Nothing is off-limits. Calories are the currency of weight loss. Just like budgeting your finances you need to develop the skill and awareness of spending and saving where it counts. Similar to our bank account, what we choose to spend our calorie currency on is highly individual. There will always be key basic needs we must spend on (similar to a basic level of nutritious foods that need to be consumed for health and productivity in our day). Then we have some money left to spend on fun stuff (just like we have some calories left to spend on soulful foods chosen for taste and enjoyment rather than any type of nutritional need).

What do you love? What is really worth it? What non-negotiables do you need to live a good life?

My suggestion is to think of your basic nutrition needs for health and productivity as a daily requirement but moves to think about your soulful food intake as a weekly goal to allow yourself the most flexibility to have less some days and more at other times such as weekends and social outings.

  1. What small effort creates MOST of the results?

One of the things you have heard me ask again and again is “What bite-sized change can lead to supersized results?”

You may or may not have heard about the Pareto Principle which was first established by what was learned in the auto industry and then later tested to be a valid prediction of nature. The Pareto Principle (that is certainly important for nutrition change) states that:

The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.

Richard Koch in his book The 80/20 Principle further defined Pareto’s Principle by the notion that 20% of your causes, inputs or efforts leads to 80% of your results. Success comes from doing what matters most and being consistent.

What 20% of your nutrition habits can you change that will lead to 80% of your weight loss results?

The most important nutrition habits often don’t yell the loudest. They also don’t tend to be sexy or revolutionary. Chances are they are no-brainer ideas you already know but just need to be reminded of.

As I have thought extensively about what key habits lead to the greatest results for weight loss. Here are some of the most important efforts that lead to BIG results:

  • Learn how to meal plan. Answer the question “what is for supper tomorrow?” Determining the plan daily or weekly means that you have thought about groceries and time to prepare meals which are all key for success. It also means you have the intention to eat well tomorrow (after all you won’t want to waste the chicken you pulled out of your freezer that is now thawed). You will also be more likely to avoid quick-fix convenience suppers not conducive to your weight loss plan.

  • Learn basic culinary skills. You don’t need to be a chef but in order to lose weight, you need a handful of easy recipes you enjoy that you are confident cooking. Basic fundamental cooking knowledge also saves you time in the kitchen and allows you skill to make all food (including veggies) taste good. Most weight loss happens in the kitchen (not the gym) so if you hate cooking and are reading this rolling your eyes, book an appointment with a dietitian to help you make this process as time-efficient and as easy as possible.

  • Build-in accountability and rewards. We all need a system to track our wins, measure progress and keep us encouraged when we fall. Find a friend, co-worker, support group, online community or nutrition coach for help so you are not alone. Think about systems you can build in for accountability such as a weekly meal planning meeting with your spouse, reusable grocery shopping list or food journal that may be helpful. Think about ways you can reward yourself for positive progress with your efforts (not the number on the scale).

Did this information help you to think about your thinking? How will you approach weight loss differently?

Don’t know where to start or want to explore building a nutrition plan you can live with for life?