Weight loss and weight maintenance are top concerns for most of us, but there are so many rumors and fads out there that it's hard to keep track of what really works. We've sorted through the claims by talking to registered dietitians and doctors and reading the most recent studies to give you trustworthy answers to 15 top weight loss questions, including:

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Sugar contains calories but nothing else, and "empty calories" are the last thing you want on a diet, says Stephanie Karpinske, MBA, M.S., R.D. Sugar is also digested quickly so you're hungry soon after you eat it. It raises insulin levels, which promotes fat storage. Plus, it can be addictive because it raises levels of serotonin -- the feel-good chemical in the brain that helps us relax during times of stress. That's one reason why weaning yourself off sugar is so difficult.

We pulled the top 14 of the best commercial diets (marketed to the public for profit) and the top 12 of the best diets overall. We also threw five of the most popular diet apps into the mix. Since these are largely tracking devices that don’t espouse unique eating habits, they don’t appear to meet US News’ definition of diet, but are still potentially effective weight loss tools.
Think of finding the right diet as akin to going on a long road trip. The more tools and guidance you have on your journey, the smoother your trip will be. Losing weight is a journey, not a destination, and along the way you'll learn a lot about yourself. Everyone wants to get there now, but what you'll discover along the way can ultimately be more fulfilling, rewarding, and even enjoyable. Finding the right weight-loss plan takes work and investment, and I hope I've helped simplify the process somewhat.

Skimping on sleep sets you up for a host of health problems, such as increased risk for depression, type 2 diabetes, and stress. Here's one other benefit to spending enough time in bed: You're more likely to be a healthy weight. University of Chicago research revealed that dieters who were well-rested lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived.
OnlinePlus provides tracking as well as community through WW Mobile’s clean and sophisticated Connect news feed, and it costs you just under $36 a month. If you like the idea of getting together IRL, Meetings+OnlinePlus costs about $77 a month. Our tester found the meetings genuinely nice, if a little cheesy. And if you need extra help, there’s a Personal Coaching option for about $107 a month. At every level of membership, you have access to a live coach via Expert Chat.
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
There are several ways to drop a few pounds, but one thing's for sure: Exercise helps you lose the weight and keep it off. Carving out enough time for aerobic exercise and strength and flexibility training (including yoga and/or pilates) will help you increase lean muscle mass and get fit. Aim for five days a week of moderate to intense exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day. To lose weight, make sure two to three of those workouts include strength training.
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
This popular plan recently underwent a rebranding to create a more balanced program, changing its four-phase approach with the help of a science advisory board. The Atkins Diet is still low-carb, but you won't be chowing down on steak and eggs all the time to promote weight loss. Lean protein is still key, but there's more of a spotlight on fiber, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.
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