Two things must be ingrained in a dieter’s mind: first, “the freedom to choose how to diet may mean less impressive weight loss results”, and second, “the best diet is one you could stick to although it may not be the one you’d pick for yourself”.
These are the findings of a research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that involved 207 veterans. The experimental group which comprised largely of men, were on a prescribed diet for 48 weeks. Half of them were made to choose between a low-carb or low-fat diet while the second half were assigned to specific diets. The choices for this group are as follows: 58% opted for a low-carb diet while the other 42% chose the low-fat diet. All respondents belonging to the study group received guidance through group and phone counseling for the duration of the study. Researchers took down the participants’ weight loss, adherence, attendance and weight-related quality of life.
Surprisingly, contrary to what the researchers predicted, those who had a hand in choosing a diet didn’t improve weight loss nor did it make them any more likely to stick to their diet of choice. In fact, their weight loss was less ( averaging only at 12.5 pounds) compared to the 14.7 pounds average of those who were directed to follow a predetermined diet plan. No other difference however was noted in the two groups where statistics is concerned.
“We figured that if people chose the diet on their own or with assistance that they would be more invested in the diet,” remarks lead researcher Dr. William Yancy, a research scientist at the Durham VA Medical Center. “We also thought that if they chose the diet based on what foods they preferred that that would help them stick to the diet better, but that’s not what we found.”
The rationale behind this is that people tend to overeat when following a diet of their choice which most likely includes foods they like. Another reason could be what Yancy terms as a “personal trainer” effect: people are likely to adhere to a workout program better if instructed (rather than made to select) which exercises to do. “We all know we can go and exercise on our own… but a lot of people still prefer to have a trainer or go to a setting when someone is overseeing what they’re doing,” explains Yancy.
The study recommends future researches conducted along this vein, particularly in the areas of diet prescriptions for individuals. Yancy suggests topics/ areas future studies could delve into such as the possibility of “pairing a person with a diet through personality questionnaires, metabolic profiles like cholesterol tests or insulin tests, or even a person’s genetic profile.”