Do people need to diet to lose weight?

Published 2:00 pm Monday, April 14, 2014

Amy Pleimling

Amy Pleimling

Dietician’s Digest by Amy Pleimling

While the number of Americans on a diet varies depending on the source, no one can argue that the desire to lose weight is a common one and that we spend billions of dollars each year on weight-loss products.

There are so many diets out there, many with claims of melting away the pounds quickly while eating what you want! Sifting through them and choosing one that will be a good fit for you is a lot of work. You may have one friend that is losing weight following the Paleo diet while another may be losing weight with Weight Watchers. How do you know which is the right diet for you? Or if you should even be on a “diet”?

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While you can follow any diet for a while and lose weight, the reality is that dieting is hard and most don’t work in the long term. Some diets can even be dangerous.

U.S. News recently published its Best Diets of 2014. It had a panel of experts (registered dietitians among them) rank 32 popular diets. The experts rated each diet in seven categories, including short- and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety, nutrition and potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. The government-endorsed DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) snagged the top spot this year.

While I absolutely agree that the DASH diet is a great one and is definitely worth reading more about, do we have to find a specific diet to be healthy or to lose weight successfully? There are certainly very important dietary and lifestyle pieces many of the top-ranked diets and registered dietitians will agree on. You will see lots of fruits and veggies, fiber, lean protein, smaller portions and consistent exercise as part of the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet and the MyPlate government recommendations.

Making healthy changes can involve many things and will not seem alike to each person. Healthy changes are driven by our current habits. One person might exercise daily but eat fast food for lunch every day. Another person might eat plenty of fruits and vegetables but skip breakfast. Each person has different pieces of a healthy lifestyle they do and those they could work on.

But if we are going to achieve success at weight loss, we need to make our efforts ones that can last long term. As a registered dietitian I don’t mind using the word “diet” (it is part of my title). I even will say certain diets (like the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet) provide clear guidelines and a sense of accountability that many people need. But I also think that many of us view a diet as having a starting point and an ending point.

Whether it is a diet or goals toward a healthy lifestyle, one word is common between the two — change. To achieve weight loss or become healthier, a person needs to make some changes — put those good intentions into action. Replace some of those unhealthy habits with positive actions until those positive actions becomes healthy habits.

Change, whether done on your own or by following a diet, should be realistic and something you can stick with. Long-term success with weight loss will come from repeated healthy efforts day in and day out. Once healthy habits are developed, you can set new goals or keep those efforts going, either way, you are living a healthier lifestyle that works for YOU. There is no end to managing your weight through healthy choices. It is the continuous efforts that lead to success.


The DASH diet is aimed at preventing and lowering high blood pressure. The DASH diet is:

• Low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat.

• Focuses on fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

• Rich in whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts.

• Contains fewer sweets, added sugars and sugary beverages and red meats than the typical American diet

• Includes foods rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables

To learn more about the DASH plan contact Amy Pleimling or visit


Amy Pleimling is a registered dietitian living in Albert Lea.