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Help! I need a diet plan that really works!

If quick weight loss is your goal, there are a whole slew of diet and weight-loss plans that may work for you. However, if you're looking for weight loss that is maintained for the long term, the answer is more complex.

The answer to which diet plan is most effective for you depends on your lifestyle and weight-loss goals. While everyone's personal expectations for a weight-loss plan will vary, most people agree that the primary factor for weight-loss success is measured in pounds lost followed by how quickly we lose those pounds.

For example, according to US News and World Report, the No. 1 diet plan for weight loss in the United States is Weight Watchers. This plan is focused more on slower, sustainable loss and not "quick" loss. Two different research studies show that, on average, you can expect to lose 13-15 pounds after one year on the plan. For some of us, losing 13-15 pounds in a year may meet our criteria of being effective. But for others this wouldn't be enough weight lost in a year.

Consult your doctor or a nutritionist before beginning any diet plan. For the best chance of success to lose and then maintain your weight loss look for a plan that: 

Avoids a quick fix. As much as we recognize that a diet plan should include a path to long-term success, most of us are impatient and quickly frustrated by slow results. While it is hard to accept, keep in mind that a successful and healthy diet plan must include weight-loss maintenance. 

Helps you manage your weight. An effective diet or weight management plan should include education on nutrition as well as on physical activity/exercise. It is key that you keep a healthy mindset toward the idea of "managing your weight." This steers your thoughts away from being "on" and "off" a diet and moves it toward long-term balance. 

Helps you maintain positive behavior changes. Accountability, support and regular self-monitoring should be included in any long-term weight management plan. Most of us need these regularly to maintain behavior changes. It's important to make a plan for when you do go off track. Because you will...go off track. Look for a diet that helps you handle the inevitable off-track behaviors, which are different for each of us. Your plan should help you by promoting realistic expectations, preventing a negative overreaction and making it much easier for you to get back on track.

If you'd like to learn more about the pros and cons of individual diet plans, check out US News and World Report's annual list of best diets. The list is ranked by a panel of the country's top dietitians and physicians in their field. The top weight loss plans for 2018 are:

  1. Weight Watchers
  2. Volumetrics 
  3. Jenny Craig (tie) and Vegan diet (tie)

The US News and World Report's annual list also contains links where you can get more information about each specific plan. You can meet the experts, learn why a plan works, see pros and cons of each plan and find details and research about a plan's effectiveness.

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