Most diet systems present one approach that is supposed to work for everyone. They recommend specific changes in foods to eat and the way to eat them, sometimes with extensive amounts of supplements, and often schedules and routines for exercise.

The problem is that they try to fit everybody into that one program, as if that’s the only way to do things right. However, we’re all unique individuals, and what works for one of us might not work for the other.

In my last Sixty and Me article, I offered a special technique introduced in my book, The Best Diet Book Ever: the Zen of Losing Weight.

The technique aims at increasing motivation to start and maintain your nutrition or fitness program, encouraging you to make the positive healthy choices of eating less, eating better and working out.

But what is the best weight loss program for you? How do you choose?

These Glasses Work Great for Me

Imagine going to an eye doctor for new glasses. She sits you down in the examination chair, takes off the glasses she’s wearing and hands them to you, saying: “These glasses work great for me. This is the prescription I give to every one of my patients.”

How fast would you be out of that office? No one would want an eye doctor like that. You need your own prescription, not someone else’s.

Some diet programs recommend scheduling small meals throughout the day, others favor three balanced meals and no snacks. Some people get bored and need variety while others do better with a set menu. One thing is certain: no one diet formula works for everyone.

A Forbes interview at the Mayo Clinic states: “There doesn’t seem to be any ‘right’ diet, and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that one particular diet will work better with an individual’s specific metabolism. There’s no magic diet. We know that pretty much any [reasonable] diet will help you lose weight if you follow it.”

Within the basic framework of eating less, eating healthier and exercising more, individual differences determine what works best for each person.

Watch Out for Food Fads

Most diets tell you what to eat and not eat: high carb, low carb; high protein, low protein; high fat, low fat; lots of grains, no grains; lots of dairy, no dairy – the list goes on. And it seems to change regularly.

Are coffee, wine or chocolate good for you or bad for you? If you don’t like the answer, check back in a few months.

This couldn’t be better illustrated (or funnier) than in one of my favorite movie scenes, from the old sci-fi comedy Sleeper. The setting is the distant future. Two doctors are talking about a man revived from a frozen sleep of 200 years:

Doctor 1: “Has he asked for anything special?”

Doctor 2: “Yes. For breakfast he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.”

Doctor 1: “Oh yes, those were the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.”

Doctor 2: “You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?”

Doctor 1: “Those were thought to be unhealthy. Precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”

Doctor 2: “Incredible!”

Be Your Own Boss

Fad diet programs come and go, and most commonly lead to regaining all the weight you lost, and often more.

That’s why instead of mindlessly following a highly publicized, pre-set program of recipes and schedules, what’s more important is cultivating the attitudes, skills and strategies that can help you choose and practice your own ideal diet regimen, the one that gives you the best opportunity for success.

First, you need to decide that you’re ready to make the commitment to start dieting. Then meet with a qualified health professional and learn as much as you can about the state of your health before you design the new diet and exercise program that will best work for you.

As you proceed, take stock at regular intervals so you can adjust the program for optimal success.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What are my current eating habits?
  • Which foods agree with me and which don’t?
  • What schedule helps me eat only as much as I need, and when do I overeat?
  • What are my current exercise habits?
  • How can I make exercise a regular part of my schedule?
  • What plans for eating and exercise can I adopt that will reinforce what I’m already doing well and provide alternatives to the habits I want to change?

What do you think about dieting? Have you tried any particular diet? What results did you reap? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Joseph ParentDr. Joseph Parent is a highly regarded expert in Applied Mindfulness and Performance Psychology. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, performance coach and media commentator. His latest book is THE BEST DIET BOOK EVER: The Zen of Losing Weight. He offers personal sessions for sports, life and/or executive coaching.

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