Atkins, South Beach, Dukan -- wondering what diet type is best for losing weight? Actually, forget the word diet and focus on lifestyle changes, US researchers say.

In an editorial published online Aug. 20 and in print Wednesday, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers say that there is no perfect diet, because they are all equally as good or as bad in helping people trim excess weight.

"We really wanted to shine a light on the fact that there seems to be this focus in the media and in the scientific community on the pursuit for the ideal diet," said Dr. Sherry Pagoto of University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass. She adds that none of the diet research is "game changing in terms of obesity management, but we're spending a lot of time talking about it and we are spending a lot of time researching it."

Along with Dr. Bradley Appelhans of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Pagoto advises calling an end to the diet wars and focuses on lifestyle, rather than diet types, to prevent weight gain and curb risks of chronic diseases.


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"We need to shift our conversation away from what exactly should people be eating to how do you change behavior, how do you get people to make long-term changes." Pagoto said. "Why are focusing on exactly how many carbs, protein, and fat grams people are eating and why aren't we focusing on the bigger picture of why are we eating so much and how do we change behavior?"

Researchers say that there is no perfect diet plan, because they are all equally as good or as bad in helping people trim excess weight.
Researchers say that there is no perfect diet plan, because they are all equally as good or as bad in helping people trim excess weight. (Tatiana Popova/shutterstock.com)

"And when it comes to weight, diet isn't the entire story -- we also have physical activity," she added. "We should be understanding the contexts and factors that go into how people make behavior changes around physical activity, too."

Their approach is to focus on three lifestyle interventions: learning how to control portions and reduce high-calorie, fatty foods; learning how to set exercise goals, and learning how to stay motivated and to understand hunger.

Challenges? Pagoto said the top five obstacles to weight loss are having no time to cook or exercise, being stressed, having family members bring junk food home, not having an exercise partner or feeling awkward when working out, and feeling hungry all of the time, LiveScience reports.