The Case To End Dieting Forever
The Mediterranean diet. Atkins. Juicing. Low-carb. Low-fat. There are so many diets out there, too many. And one UMass professor wants to let you know that there is very little difference between them all.
“The perfect diet does not exist,” says Dr. Sherry Pagoto in a new article published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Pagoto is a licensed clinical psychologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She specializes in health with an emphasis on nutrition, fitness, weight management, depression, stress, cancer prevention, and type 2 diabetes. You may also know her as a co-creator of the #plankaday revolution happening across the country on social media.
Pagoto says that losing weight isn’t necessarily about a particular diet, and that we should be focusing on behavioral changes. In the JAMA article she writes:
Numerous randomized trials comparing diets differing in macronutrient compositions (eg, low-carbohydrate, low-fat, Mediterranean) have demonstrated differences in weight loss and metabolic risk factors that are small (ie, a mean difference of <1 kg) and inconsistent. In the past year alone, 4 meta-analyses of diet comparison studies have been published, each summarizing 13 to 24 trials. The only consistent finding among the trials is that adherence—the degree to which participants continued in the program or met program goals for diet and physical activity—was most strongly associated with weight loss and improvement in disease-related outcomes.
Pagoto says that she and her co-author wrote the study because they started to see these meta analysis studies—a study thats studies the overall outcome of a bunch of trials, she says, so basically studying a study—and the outcomes were not very compelling. “One diet did not rule the day,” Pagoto says. “In the real world, is that going to have a clinical advantage? There is no clear diet that seems to be any better than the others.”
Now, before the Paleo converts and the Mediterranean preachers start sending hate mail, the study does not say that all diets are awful. It just says that the diet that you are obsessed with may not be any better then the one your best friend prefers. “There are people that are very wedded to certain diets,” Pagoto says. “They feel very strongly about it. If it works for them that is fantastic. But then they have this feeling like this is the diet that everybody should be on.” Diets are individual and personalized and just because something works for you does not mean that it will work for everyone. What everyone should be more concerned with, rather than their particular diet, is their behavior towards their diets.
“I work with patients and we are not actually talking about the ratio of carbs to protein, we talk about changing habits,” Pagoto says. “It’s the behavioral modification strategies we work on. The point of our paper is not about managing your weight and it’s not about what you are eating, it’s more about your habits and how you eat.”
Pagoto’s apropos-named blog, FUDiet gives a detailed comparison of all the diets and exactly how much (if at all) they differed. The bottomline? “No single diet consistently comes out as better than the others,” Pagoto says. “The diet you can stick to that will be the perfect diet for you.”