Health Buzz: Weight Watchers Is Effective

Best Diets methodology: How U.S. News rated them. Plus, how to stick to a diet.

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Study: Weight Watchers More Effective Than Doctors' Advice

Want to shed pounds? Weight Watchers works better than standard weight-loss care, a new study suggests. Researchers tracked 772 overweight and moderately obese people who either followed Weight Watchers or got weight-loss guidance from their primary care doctors. After 12 months, those in the Weight Watchers group had lost 15 pounds, while those in the doctor-care group dropped 7, according to a study published today in the Lancet. Weight Watchers dieters were also more likely to stay on the wagon: 61 percent stuck with the program for the study's duration, compared with 54 percent in the standard-care group. (That means nearly half the participants in that group quit the study and no longer wanted to receive diet care from their doctors.)

[Weight Watchers is ranked No. 1 in U.S. News's Best Weight-Loss Diets and also in Best Commercial Diet Plans.]

Why so effective? Researchers speculate it's because Weight Watchers holds dieters accountable with regular weigh-ins and provides motivation and support through group meetings. The study was funded by Weight Watchers, but an independent research team was responsible for all data collection and analysis. "Weight Watchers sees thousands of people each week and the capacity to deliver lifestyle advice is greater than with healthcare professionals, who are often over-stretched and find it difficult to allocate additional time for weight management," said study author Susan Jebb, of Britain's Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research Unit, in an interview with Bloomberg.

  • Best Diets
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  • Best Diets Methodology: How U.S. News Rated Them

    Diets come and go, teasing and tempting with visions of that new, hot, slimmed-down body sculpted in a flash from the old, formerly pudgy and mirror-averse You. Eat what you want! Pounds melt away! The reality, as legions of frustrated dieters can affirm, is that dieting is hard and that most diets don't work. Some, in fact, could put your health at risk. Getting at the facts about diets and dieting has long been grueling enough to burn off a pound or two by itself.

    Now, though, Best Diets cuts through the clutter of claims and half-truths to deliver the facts about 20 diets, including many, such as Weight Watchers, that are household names and others, such as the DASH diet, that should be.

    A U.S. News team spent six months researching the diets, mining medical journals, government reports, and other sources. An in-depth profile was then drawn up for every diet that explains how it works, whether its claims add up or fall short, and what risks it might pose, along with insights into living on the diet, not just reading about it.

    A carefully selected panel of 22 recognized experts in diet and nutrition and specialists in diabetes and heart disease reviewed the U.S. News profiles. Then the experts rated each diet from 1 to 5 in seven categories: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, how easy it is to follow, its nutritional completeness, its safety, its ability to prevent or manage diabetes, and its ability to prevent or manage heart disease. U.S. News also asked the panelists to comment on which aspects of each diet that they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in on what they think people considering the diet should know. [Read more: Best Diets Methodology: How We Rated Them.]

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    • How to Stay on a Diet to Lose or Maintain Weight

      A diet is only as good as your ability to stick to it. Research has found that most plans will help you lose weight, regardless of type—low-fat or low-carb, for example. What counts is whether you can stay on it long-term. And with restaurant meals, dinners with friends, and hot fudge sundaes to tempt you, adherence is an understandable challenge. Here are five tricks for making your diet stick:

      1. Gather the troops. You need support, be it from a friend, a group like Overeaters Anonymous, or even an online community. Research suggests those who go it alone are most likely to fall off the wagon. That's why some diet plans have a formal support component—Weight Watchers connects dieters via weekly meetings, while Jenny Craig members are assigned counselors for advice and encouragement. If you're not comfortable talking about your weight face-to-face, log online. By signing up for the free program PeerTrainer, for example, dieters can interact and track each others' weight-loss progress, pose questions, and swap diet and exercise tips. "It's important to have people who will pick you up when times are tough and cheer you on when you have successes," says registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet. Plus, she adds: "Healthy habits are contagious." [Read more: How to Stay on a Diet to Lose or Maintain Weight.]