With every New Year comes the perennial #1 resolution: “I’m gonna lose weight this year!” As a plastic surgeon, I am frequently asked if I have any advice on how best to do that. Patients who are interested in shedding a few pounds before surgery want to know my thoughts. I recently came across an excellent article in the February, 2013 edition of Consumer Reports that was quite interesting. In it 9,000 readers rated 13 diet plans and tools with a number of surprising findings. Here are some of the survey’s highlights:

• On the basis of user satisfaction, the most popular commercial diet plan was Weight Watchers with a grade of 74 out of a possible 100. Even more popular was a do-it-yourself plan called MyFitness Pal with a score of 83! MyFitness Pal is a free smart-phone app and website that allows you to keep a diary of your weight, what you ate, how much you exercised, and also has useful features such as a bar-code scanner and the ability to save and retrieve information on meals and dishes that you eat frequently. Weight Watchers also offers paid-up members weight, food, and exercise trackers on its website and through an app.

• Although most of the survey’s participants lost weight, many had hoped to lose even more. The reality is that even if they fell short of their weight loss goals, many lost 5-10% of their body weight which was enough to yield improved health. The point: Lighten up about lightening up!

• How to choose between diets? Some diets allow you to eat as much as you want from a limited number of foods (Atkins Diet, the Paleo Diet, the initial stages of the South Beach Diet) whereas others allow you to eat an unlimited number of foods but restrict the quantity (Weight Watchers, MyFitness Pal). If you like the idea of being restricted in your food choices but being able to eat as much as you want, choose the first group of diets. On the other hand, if you like the idea of continuing with your current food choices but in more limited quantities, choose the latter.

• Weight Watchers was the most popular diet followed. In fact 43% of those surveyed had used it. The 2nd most popular plan was a generic low-carb diet (non-Atkins) and was chosen by 13%. Weight Watchers was the highest rated commercial plan, but was only 5th in its score when compared with all 13 diets rated by the survey’s participants.

• To get the most out of Weigh Watchers, go to the meetings! The satisfaction scores of the participants were higher and their weight loss was higher than those who followed the diet online. At the group meetings you have accountability to another person. There is also the fact that others at the meetings are losing weight which proves to be a great encouragement and motivator for the attendee.

• If you don’t like to cook or are too busy or lack interest/knowledge in cooking, you may want to consider a prefab meal plan like Jenny Craig, Medifast, or Nutrisytem. Although these plans are not inexpensive and not all people like the taste of the prefab meals, the convenience and time saved may make it a worthwhile choice.

For further information, please check out the Consumer Reports article.

Should you have additional questions, please feel free to contact my office.

George Sanders, M.D.