Should You Try Your Friend’s Weight Loss Diet?

Many people attempt to lose weight, but only some people succeed. So when a friend or family member loses a visible amount of weight, it is understandable that you would want to know how they did it. What you do with that information, however, needs careful consideration.

Naturally, you may want to try exactly what your friend did. If your friend lost that much weight using that specific diet or approach, why wouldn’t you? But first, use these questions to figure out whether your friend’s diet success could also be yours.

Does it match your diet preferences?

Some weight loss strategies involve changing the way you eat quite a bit. Sometimes those changes are really exciting and appealing – but not always. And making large changes in diet is more difficult than you may realize.

Research shows that many people tend to eat the same way for years at a time. For example, children who are vegetarians in childhood tend to stay that way into early adulthood. And boys who eat a Western-style diet are also likely to continue eating that way into early adulthood. In middle-aged women, dietary patterns are relatively stable for up to about 7 years at a time.1

It’s not that everyone has a consistent diet over time, and some people may be able to switch up what they eat regularly. But it is pretty common to stay consistent, and if you are someone who likes to get into a routine with your food for long stretches of time, you are not alone. People who like to keep the same eating pattern may have a harder time making a switch in what and how they eat.

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Major changes in diet are not natural

In fact, studies have looked at how well people stick to diets that stray far from a typical diet. One excellent study was called the POUNDS Lost study. It measured weight loss stemming from different diets of more extreme macronutrient ratios, such as a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet versus a high-fat, average-protein, moderate-carbohydrate diet.2

What they found was that everyone lost the same amount of body fat no matter what the macronutrient ratios were. But most importantly, at both 6 months and 2 years into the study, no one was reaching the extreme macronutrient targets very well, regardless of which diet they were asked to follow.2

This, combined with my clinical experience, tells me that radical changes in diet just are not a natural thing for most people. So, if your friend’s diet seems really unusual or foreign to you, that’s a sign that it may not work well for you.

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Does it match your body?

I have never written the same weight loss diet for any 2 people. And that is because every person's body has different needs. For example, if you are larger, your calorie and protein needs are higher than those of someone who is smaller, even during weight loss.

So this means that if a diet helped your friend reach a certain calorie and nutrient intake for weight loss, the diet needs to be adjustable to meet your calorie and nutrient intake too. If you try to use your friend’s diet that was based on, say, 1,200 calories per day, that could be inappropriate if you have weight loss calorie needs closer to 2,000 calories per day.

If a program asks for your current height, weight, age, and sex before making the diet, that is a good indicator that it is more tailored to your nutrient needs.

Does it match your priorities?

When you first start on a weight loss program, weight loss will of course be your first priority. But sometimes the true cost of weight loss is not entirely clear when you first get started. And when the cost of weight loss starts adding up, it becomes less clear what is most important. Prioritizing your chosen weight loss method can get more difficult.

For example, we had a client who decided to put his weight management and diet first. When we first started working with him, he told us about how he had lost his job because of a diet he had tried: He found it very difficult to not eat the food at work meetings, which was not in line with his diet. So, he stopped going to work meetings that involved food. He requested alternatives, but his requests were not accommodated, and the job did not work out.

We had another client who stayed very active to maintain his weight loss. He was unusually consistent in going to the gym. He was so consistent that he would decline work meetings, birthday dinners, and holiday gatherings to go to the gym. And as a result of his dedication to the gym, his weight was in control but his relationships were strained.

Both of these clients had decided that their weight management strategy was more important than everything else. So, take a look at what your friend’s diet involves. Can you make it a priority, no matter what the cost is?

Does it involve not eating specific meals or foods that are often involved in your work or personal life? Are you willing to give up those things to make it work? Though these clients are more extreme examples, they highlight a fundamental issue that weight loss will almost always come at the cost of something else. Are you willing to pay the price for your friend’s diet?

If your friend's diet won't work, that's okay

It’s actually pretty unlikely that even if a diet worked for your friend that it would also work for you. Because we are all unique, the way each person loses weight is usually due to their unique set of circumstances. But not to worry – there are many ways to lose weight if you decide weight loss is important for you. You can work with a registered dietitian and team of health professionals to explore what might work best for you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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