When it comes to losing weight, are you your own worst enemy? (Photo: Getty Images)
While it may sound hard to believe, a recent study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine states that dieters who choose an eating plan based on their personal preferences may actually be hindering their weight loss efforts.
Medical experts gathered 207 participants and randomly placed them into one of two groups—the choice group or the comparator group. Those volunteers who belonged to the “choice” group were offered a low-carbohydrate diet without calorie restriction or a low-fat diet combined with calorie restriction. The “comparator” people were simply given a diet without being asked about their likes and dislikes.
During the 48-week trial, everyone was provided with group and telephone counseling sessions. On week 12, the “choice” members were asked if they’d prefer switching to another plan, yet most of them didn’t accept the offer.
As for the results…after 11 months of dieting, the “choice” participants lost less weight (about two pounds), as well as reported similar dietary adherence and weight-related quality of life (the five areas measured included physical function, self-esteem, sexual life, public distress and work) compared to those who were just handed an eating plan.
“Statistically speaking, it was not less but instead similar to the group that was assigned one of the diets,” study author William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, a research scientist at the Durham VA Medical Center and a professor at Duke University, tells Yahoo Health. “Numerically, however, the choice group participants did slightly worse for weight loss and attendance, which surprised us.”
These findings were not exactly what the researchers had anticipated. “We expected that the participants who got to choose their diet would do better,” says Yancy. “We thought they would feel more invested in their diet option and would also be able to adhere to it better given it would likely contain more foods that they prefer.”
He adds that perhaps “they had more difficulty scaling back on their calorie intake because they were eating more foods that they enjoyed.”
So how should someone go about choosing a diet plan? Yancy advises to speak with a doctor or another healthcare professional after having your baseline body and blood measurements taken. “There is emerging evidence to show that certain diets may lead to better weight loss and metabolic improvements in certain individuals,” he explains. “For example, a low-carbohydrate diet may be more effective for individuals with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, with high triglyceride and low HDL cholesterol levels.”
Katherine Brooking, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health, tells Yahoo Health that adherence is key to success. “I do think that whether someone will adhere to a diet that they choose or one that is assigned is very individual,” says Brooking, who was not involved with this research. “I think you have to get to know your patients well and some trial and error may happen before you can create the ‘right’ diet—meaning the one that will result in weight loss.”
Brooking also believes that “eventually, we will have better tools to create plans for people based on metabolic/genetic profile. However, that technology is not fully here just yet.”
Read This Next: Why Some People Can Eat a Lot of Fast Food and Not Gain Weight