Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Do diets work?"

ZocdocAnswersDo diets work?


I'm a middle aged guy and I've been trying to get my weight under control for the last few years. Is there actually any diet that's been proven effective at keeping weight off over the long term? Or instead should I just look at more extreme methods, like surgery?


Losing and maintaining weight loss can be a challenge. Primary care physicians can be an excellent resource to help provide referrals to nutritionists for assistance with dietary planning to assist with weight loss. Some clinics or medical practices may even offer weight-loss counseling. When it comes to the role of diet in weight loss, if a person consumes fewer calories than he or she expends in a day, the net negative energy balance will lead to weight loss. In this sense, any 'diet' that leads to more calories expended than ingested will lead to weight loss. Weight maintenance is the result of net even caloric intake and expenditure. People can and do lose weight with one of many different fad diets. However, all of these diets work because they help a person eat less. The more difficult thing to do is make lifestyle changes that result in long-term balanced caloric intake. A nutritionist or dietician can help a person develop strategies for this kind of lifestyle change. Bariatric surgery procedures also lead to weight loss because they mechanically restrict how many calories a person can ingest and absorb. However, any surgery involves risk, and discussion about pursuing this option for weight loss should start with a primary care physician.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.