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The best diet for you

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

If you need to shed a few pounds there's no shortage of diets to choose from, but which one's the best? It's probably a question the 11 million people currently on a diet in the UK would like an answer to!

You've got the classic weight management favourites that have been around for decades, to the 'quick fix' diet plans that have supposedly transformed this or that celebrity, and there's no shortage of wonder foods claiming to be the new nirvana of weight loss.

"To find the right diet for you it's important to take into account your personal preferences and your lifestyle," says the UK government's obesity tsar, Professor Susan Jebb. "It's far more important to consider your own circumstances than to be seduced into believing that something which worked for a celebrity will work equally well for you."

It needs to be healthy

All of the experts say whatever diet you do, it needs to be healthy. You didn't wake up one morning to find you'd gained 5kg, so don't expect weight loss to be fast. Rapid changes in body weight with fasting is linked to water loss, not fat loss.

Cleanses and weight loss pills aren't part of a good weight loss diet. Yes, you will lose weight on short-term fad diets like the cabbage soup or lemonade diet, but you will put it back on again, so it's self-defeating if you are looking for long term weight loss.

A healthy diet is a varied and well-balanced one. It provides enough protein to meet the body's daily demands. It provides less carbohydrate, fat and alcohol than you need so that weight loss occurs, and it doesn't ignore vitamin and mineral needs, essential for a healthy body.

"When choosing a diet, you need to think about one that ensures sustained weight loss long-term rather than a quick fix," says British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Debra Williams. She warns that losing weight too quickly can adversely affect your metabolic rate.

Think of losing weight as a marathon, not a sprint.

You need to eat fewer calories

It sounds simple, but to lose weight you eat fewer calories. One pound (454g) of body fat has 3,500 calories of stored energy.

"Diets work if they help you to cut your calorie intake," says Professor Jebb from the University of Oxford. "In most cases that means adjusting the type of food to reduce foods high in fat and sugar, and increase fruit and vegetables and developing an eating plan, so you know what you will eat and when."

Can you fit in fitness?

Exercise is an important part of the best diet equation. Exercise burns off calories so if you are being physically active you can chose to eat more calories, or lose more weight. If you do muscle strengthening exercise then your resting metabolic rate, the rate at which you burn calories each day, will go up. It's a win-win approach to weight loss.

If your diet plan involves a lot of physical activity, make sure you actually have the time and the inclination to do it. Plans that include hours at the gym are great in theory, but if you're not a fan of working out, your weight loss plan is going to fail.

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