The Diets You’ll Actually Stick To In The New Year

6 Mar 2018

The Diets You’ll Actually Stick To In The New Year

If you’re one of the many who commit to diet and exercise right after guzzling down the last of your New Year’s bubbles, you’re also probably among those who abandon their resolution after the first month. More than a third of people who begin a diet or sign up for a gym membership will give up before they’re two months in. Statistics show that 60% of people make it to March, and only 8% actually follow through with their resolution. And every year it’s the same story.

Mental health experts attribute our failed resolutions to setting goals that are too vague (such as simply losing weight, without defining how many pounds we want to shed) or too unrealistic (no carbs! 7am boot camp every morning!). And some experts suggest  that we simply lack discipline. These are all possible explanations. But when we take a closer look at why our commitment fades after a few weeks,we can say with near certainty that lack of motivation or poor self-control are not completely to blame.  Even if experts disagree.

Discipline and  willpower are actually not good motivators when it comes to sticking to a diet or making it to the gym. Can you guess why? The simple answer, of course, is that we need to take pleasure in our goals and activities in order to achieve results.

If you want to see your resolutions through to next year, change the way you think about them. Instead of focusing on what you need to give up and putting yourself down( common attitudes wrongly associated with willpower) focus on what you’ll achieve and how you’ll feel when you succeed in eating healthfully or changing your exercise habits.

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Getting started

Considering that the biggest drop seems to happen between the third and sixth week after January 1st, this is still a good time to rethink your resolutions and make any changes needed to follow through with them. Or you can simply start from scratch. And remember, any time of the year is a good opportunity for us to do something positive for ourselves and our bodies.

Your resolutions for this year should be based on a balanced diet that aligns with your lifestyle, not a fad diet defined by unrealistic restrictions. According to a list of the best diets of 2018, there are two ideal options: the DASH and Mediterranean diets. According to the panel of nutritionists and experts who compiled the list they include real foods, and offer reasonable, flexible, guidelines.

Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at U.S. News & World Report, sang the praises of the Mediterranean Diet: “It's tasty, it's sensible, nutritionally sound, and there's great research that it can help ward off or control a whole host of chronic diseases.”

According to the report, the following diets are considered the best and most efficient in 2018. Note that the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet shared the number one spot this year:


#1 DASH Diet

DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” and it was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the US National Institutes of Health. The diet’s aim is to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels by reducing the consumption of fats, red meats, and sugar and by increasing intake of healthy grains, poultry, low-fat dairy, and dried fruit. Experts have named the DASH diet the best eating plan in general for the sixth year in a row.

#1 The Mediterranean Diet

At the core of this diet you’ll find fruits and vegetables—including olive oil—and as well as grains, herbs, and seeds. The idea is to consume these food groups daily and as the base of all your meals. Fish and seafood are recommended several times a week; poultry, egg whites, and low-fat cheese and yogurts twice a week; and meats and sugars once a week at most.

#3 The Flexitarian Diet

As you probably noticed, “flexitarian” is a portmanteau of “flexible” and “vegetarian.” The general concept is to add five new food groups to your diet (and not take food groups away). These are "new meats" (tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, and eggs); fruits and vegetables; whole grains; dairy; and sugar and spices (including dried herbs, salad dressing, and agave nectar.)

Flexitarians should consume a 1,500-calorie diet, with 300 calories for breakfast, 400 calories for lunch, 500 calories for dinner, and 150 calories allotted to snacks. The meal plan can be adjusted to include more or less calories depending on the individual’s gender, height and weight, and level of activity.

#4 Weight Watchers

This famous weight loss program was developed in the 1960s. It started with weekly meetings of a group of friends in Queens, New York led by founder Jean Nidetch. The goal then—and now—is to support each other and lose weight. The program is based on a points system in which each meal is given a score, and people are assigned the total number of points they must consume each day. High-calorie and fatty foods have the highest scores, while fruits and vegetables do not count towards total daily points and can be consumed freely. Scores for each food can be found in the Weight Watchers guide as well as online, where you can access a database of 40,000 foods and their respective scores. Weight Watchers centers also provide a “Points Plus” calculator tool.

husband and wife cooking together and cutting vegetables on a wooden cutting board
a man and a woman on a run outdoors around the water

#5 MIND Diet

MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” The diet was developed by a group of scientists at the Ruth University Medical Center in Chicago and combines the Mediterranean and DASH diets in order to slow down the cognitive decline that comes with aging. The difference between MIND and the two previous diets is the addition of foods and nutrients that may be effective in preventing dementia, according to various studies. The diet mentions fifteen food groups—ten which are considered “brain-healthy” and five that are not (red meats, butter, cheese, cakes and sweets, and fast food or fried food.) It also emphasizes eating dried fruits, beans, poultry, vegetables, berries, fish, olive oil, and whole grains along with a moderate consumption of alcohol. The MIND diet can help diminish cognitive decline in stroke survivors, according to a preliminary study.

Woman eating a green apple wearing a green shirt

#5 TLC Diet

An acronym for “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes,” TLC is designed to help people lower high cholesterol levels. Adherents to this diet must reduce their intake of fats, particularly saturated fats, and increase their consumption of fiber. The TLC program consists of three steps that include diet, physical activity, and weight control. Meal and exercise guidelines are as follows:

  • Less than 7% of daily calories from saturated fat
  • 25-35% of calories from fat
  • Less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day
  • No more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day
  • Consuming only the calories necessary to maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol
  • Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, like a vigorous walk, ideally every day of the week.

#5 Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan was developed by Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls. It is generally known as more of an eating philosophy than a diet, and consists in reducing the calories in each bite of food. Meals are divided into four groups. The first category (very low density) contains nonstarchy fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk, and broth-based soup. The second category (low density) is made up of starchy fruits and vegetables, grains, breakfast cereals, low-fat meats, legumes, and prepared dishes that are low in fat, such as chili or spaghetti. The third category (medium density) contains meat, cheese, pizza, French fries, salad dressing, bread, pretzels, ice cream, and cakes. And the fourth category (high density) is made up of crackers, chips, chocolate candies, cookies, nuts, butter, and oil.

The principal guidelines of this diet include eating low density foods; tracking food consumption and exercise; and gradually increasing physical activity to 30-60 minutes daily.

 Keep in mind that there is no single universal nutritional plan that everyone must follow. Diets shouldn’t be a way to trick our bodies and drop pounds from one day to the next. Rather, they should be a way of life that allows us to love ourselves more and give our bodies what they need to be healthy. Always ask questions, do your research, and follow diets that are supported by doctors you trust. Your health is worth the extra effort.


Sources:  David DeSteno , “The only way to keep the resolutions”; US News and World Report, “Best diets overall”; Cohrane Database of Systematic Reviews,  “'Mediterranean' dietary pattern for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease

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