Simple diets lead to more weight loss than those that are complex, research suggests.
The reason is that the simpler the diet, the easier it is to stick to.
When choosing between different diets, consider how many rules and plans each has, the study’s authors advise.
Then, choose the one that seems easiest — it is the best bet for long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.
Professor Peter Todd, study co-author, said:
“For people on a more complex diet that involves keeping track of quantities and items eaten, their subjective impression of the difficulty of the diet can lead them to give up on it.”
Successful dieting is about more than just willpower, said Professor Jutta Mata, the study’s first author:
“Even if you believe you can succeed, thinking that the diet is cognitively complex can undermine your efforts.”
The study tested two different types of diets on 390 women.
The first was a popular German recipe diet that provides a straightforward shopping list and meal plan.
It is relatively simple because there are few options.
The other diet tested was Weight Watchers, which involves counting calories.
This is a more complex diet that gives point values to foods and requires adding up the totals.
It is more flexible, but takes greater mental effort.
The results showed that women were more likely to stick to the simpler German recipe list and meal plan.
Professor Mata said:
“If they decide to go with a more complex diet, which could be more attractive for instance if it allows more flexibility, they should evaluate how difficult they find doing the calculations and monitoring their consumption.
If they find it very difficult, the likelihood that they will prematurely give up the diet is higher and they should try to find a different plan.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Appetite (Mata et al., 2010).