There are countless varieties of diets out there designed to help one intentionally lose weight, but what weight loss really comes down to is calories in versus calories out. To lose weight and then maintain that loss, permanent changes to diet and exercise must be made.

All of the diet plans touted as being the healthiest consist of some mix of reduction of caloric intake and increase in exercise. Many doctors recommend finding the plan that most appeals to the individual dieter and the one that fits the best with their lifestyle to increase the likelihood of being able to maintain it.

Popular Healthy Diets:

Weight Watchers – The Weight Watchers Points Plus program allows the dieter to make their own food choices within a daily Points range. This plan is easier to follow as no food is out of bounds, it simply can be budgeted for or worked off through exercise points. The emphasis is on making healthy food choices, adding exercise and support from others also working the program. Another important aspect of this diet is that it is a permanent lifestyle change instead of just a temporary fix.

The Step Diet – This is a very simple program to be utilized for weight loss and/or maintenance. The two goals are to walk 10,000 steps a day and to eat 25% less than you were previously consuming. A pedometer helps keep track of all those steps and that alone has been shown to increase weight loss by accountability and reinforcement. There are no dietary restrictions and the amount of steps taken can be increased at level of comfort which make this an ideal plan for a novice exerciser or older adults. The same reasons could also make it an easier plan to maintain.

The Eating Well Diet – This diet provides a meal plan and recipes for a 28 day cycle. There are 3 different caloric levels depending on amount of weight to lose, activity level, etc. All of the meals feature a balance of nutrient dense, healthy foods. This would be a great option for someone with the time and/or desire to cook meals or for a family with a dieter.

The Volumetrics Eating Plan – Another plan that is a lifestyle change, rather than a diet. No foods are off limits, but they are classified by being either low or high density foods. The emphasis is on satiety by eating lots of low density, high fiber foods. The plan offers recipes, encourages exercise and keeping track of food eaten and physical activity.

The Best Life Diet – Also a lifestyle change plan, this one is from Bob Greene and endorsed by Oprah. A no-diet mindset is the goal in this plan and calories are not counted. There is an emphasis on choosing healthy options and slowly phasing out the unhealthy ones. Exercise is also a key component and is recommended to be increased slowly as well. There are three phases to the plan – slow beginning, more aggressive, and maintenance. The last phase deals with the emotional aspect of eating and why overeating became a problem.

The Instinct Diet – This three stage plan ending in lifetime maintenance helps the dieter to understand why they crave certain foods and how to make simple changes that will reduce cravings for unhealthy foods and increase satisfaction in the foods that are being eaten. Recipes and meal plans are included in the book along with many helpful tips for dealing with hunger and avoiding temptation. The plan does not include an exercise component and instead focuses on the consumption of healthy foods.

Intuitive Eating - This theory is an alternative to dieting. Also called non-dieting, the focus is on listening to your body and eating in response to the inner cues of hunger or satiety rather than to emotional needs or convention. This process can allow the relationship with food and body image to be altered and foster a positive sense of self.

Meal Diet Plans:

There are also quite a few diets that come with pre-packaged meals that are delivered to your door or that you can pick up in the frozen section at your local market. These types of diets can help busy people stick to their meal plans without the temptations to eat out or cook unhealthier choices. It can also be difficult to maintain these diets as they can become boring and expensive.

Jenny Craig – This plan focuses on smaller portions of healthy foods, exercise and support. Pre-packaged foods supplemented by fresh produce, whole grains and low fat dairy products teach portion control and is a key component of this plan.

Nutrisystem – Fresh produce and pre-packaged foods make up the bulk of this diet plan. The meals are ordered online and delivered to your door monthly. The cost is approximately $280 a month. Support and nutritional counseling are provided online or by phone. A Mindset Makeover guide which includes tips, motivation and exercises is included.

The Biggest Loser Meal Plan – Another pre-packaged meal delivery plan, but this one is connected to the juggernaut of the weight loss world. Five day and seven day plans are available and the menu is changed consistently to break up boredom. The meals are reportedly gourmet and delicious, although vegetarians may find it more difficult to follow as there are fewer meatless options. Although exercise is a major element of the Biggest Loser plan and lifestyle, the Biggest Loser Meal Plan does not include an exercise plan.

Surgical Diet Plans:

Another option for weight loss is surgery. Surgical weight loss plans are usually last resort options for those who have at least 100 pounds to lose and a BMI of 35-40. These surgeries may or may not be covered by insurance depending on state of obesity and risk to the overall health. Weight loss surgery can help morbidly obese people on the road to improved health and mobility.

The surgeries include:

Gastric Band Surgery – Gastric banding is a surgery performed laparoscopically which makes for a quicker, less painful recovery. It is the least invasive - and reversible - gastric surgery available. The procedure involves a silicone band placed around the upper part of the stomach. Post-surgery, the stomach holds about ½ cup of food at which point the brain is signaled that the body is full. This decreases hunger sensations and allows the satiety to last much longer. The band must be adjusted through a port under the skin as the weight is lost. Patients typically lose one to two pounds a week.

Gastric Bypass Surgery – There are several different variations of this surgery, including one that is performed laparoscopically. All the variants separate the stomach into smaller and larger pouches to restrict the amount of food that can be consumed. Then the small intestine is reattached in different places dependent on the type of gastric bypass being performed. Patients are only able to eat a small amount of food and have to be diligent about meeting their nutritional needs with their food choices. Average weight loss for gastric bypass patients is between 65-80% of excess body weight and has dramatic impact on several weight related illnesses such as Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep Apnea. Depression is a common reaction to the strict dietary limitations as well as to the emotional relationship with food. Counseling is recommended.

Fad Diets:

Deciding which diet qualifies as a "fad diet" is a subjective exercise, and there are many opinions on the topic. A fad diet is one that recommends eliminating one or more food groups, has a list of good and bad foods and/or recommends eating one type of food exclusively or much more than other foods. If a diet is relying on something other than reducing calories and increasing exercise, chances are it’s a fad diet.

Diet Pills:

Over the Counter Pills – These pills have been proven to be largely ineffective and sometimes harmful. The decision to take any kind of weight loss medication should be discussed with a doctor to determine the best and safest course of action.

Prescription Weight Loss Pills – Medications are prescribed only for those morbidly obese people who have a substantial amount of weight to lose and whose health would be affected by not taking off the weight.

Herbal Weight Loss Supplements – It’s important to know that herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and have not been through extensive drug trials. The affects on humans are not substantiated and the pills themselves can vary wildly in the amount of the primary substance as well as in the fillers and binders.

Eating Disorders Associated with Intentional Weight Loss

Anorexia and Bulimia – The most extreme forms of intentional weight loss, anorexia and bulimia are not diets. They are eating disorders that can cause permanent damage to the liver, kidneys, teeth and esophagus. These disorders can also result in death without treatment and/or cessation of practice.

Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviors, such as gorging, following rigid diets, throwing up after meals, and counting calories obsessively; they are more than just an unhealthy eating habit. The core of eating disorders involves self-critical, distorted attitudes about weight, body image, and food, all of which lead to the damaging eating behaviors.

Food, for those with eating disorders, is used to deal with painful emotions. Restricting food (as is the case with anorexia nervosa) is used to feel in control. Overeating soothes sadness, anger, and loneliness. Purging combats feelings of self-loathing and helplessness. Over time, food and weight obsessions dominate the life of someone with an eating disorder.

Related Resource Pages on Band Back Together

Anorexia Nervosa

Body Acceptance

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Image

Bulimia Nervosa

Compulsive Eating Disorder

Diabetes

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorder NOS

How To Help With Low Self-Esteem

Juvenile Diabetes

Obesity

Perfectionism

Self-Esteem

Self-Loathing

Teen Body Image

Teen Eating Disorders

Teen Self-Loathing

Additional Intentional Weight Loss Resources:

National Eating Disorder Helpline 1-800-931-2237

Healthy Eating - NAMI.org put together a page on healthy eating with tips, tricks and ways to eat more healthfully to nourish the mind, soul, and body alike.

The Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) provides links to nutritional information, including a Weight Management and Obesity Resource List.

The Centers for Disease Control provides on-line resources and tools to help manage healthy weight loss.

Nutrition.gov provides links to help kids manage their weight and stay healthy.

The Mayo Clinic provides a comprehensive list of resources and tools for managing weight.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetics Association) provides tips and tools for weight loss, weight management, and how to talk to kids about weight.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides a list of questions to help you select the right weight loss management program for you.