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To Lose Weight, Change Your Lifestyle

No carbohydrates? No fat? No dice for managing weight

Diets, including those that limit carbohydrates and fat, don't do much to help people maintain a healthy weight and ward off chronic diseases if lifestyle changes aren't included.

That's according to an editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The amount of resources that have gone into studying what to eat is incredible," says Brad Appelhans, PhD, a clinical psychologist and obesity researcher at the Rush University Prevention Center and one of the editorial's authors. "Years of research show that it doesn't really matter what type of diet you choose, as long as overall calories are reduced."

People need to make three lifestyle changes in order to shed pounds, according to Appelhans:

  • Diet. Dietary guidance can help a person manage portions and eat fewer high-calorie foods.
  • Exercise. Exercise counseling teaches a person how to work out effectively and safely.
  • Behavior. Behavioral changes include learning how to stay motivated and understanding hunger.

"Behavioral changes are much more important than the diet you choose," Appelhans says. "The best approach is for physicians to counsel patients to choose a diet plan they find easiest to adhere to in the long term."