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Searching for the perfect diet? Maybe it's time for an attitude adjustment

If ice cream is your go-to favorite food, going on a plan that excludes it won't work for weight loss, says expert.
If ice cream is your go-to favorite food, going on a plan that excludes it won't work for weight loss, says expert.
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

I have a friend who has been steadily dieting for more than five years. She's tried South Beach, modified Atkins, low carb, low fat, counting calories and drinking protein smoothies. She exercises daily, sometimes heading to the gym three times a day. But the scale stubbornly seems stuck (and yes, she even bought a new scale). So what's the solution? I asked Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, author of "The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work," to offer his insights.

"If there were a single, sustainable answer, the world would already be slim," he summed up. And even if a researcher does come up with what he describes as a "scientifically proven beyond doubt right way," that perfect diet would not provide a panacea, says Dr. Freedhoff.

"The reason therein is simple. Food is more than just fuel, it's also pleasure and comfort," he points out.

As a result, if you dash to the bookstore every time a new diet book appears and try to follow it despite the fact that you hate the approved food list, "the chances of you living with it forever more are near zero," Dr. Freedhoff predicted. (Hmm, this may explain why my roommate and I failed on the grapefruit-and-hard-boiled-egg diet in college).

But if you want to lose weight, Dr. Freedhoff isn't saying to surrender to the tempting siren call of triple fudge ripple ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. Instead, he recommends choosing a diet that you (a) enjoy and (b) work.

"The best diet for curbing cravings and providing long term weight loss is the one that you enjoy that simultaneously controls calories, hunger and cravings," he sums up. And depending on your personal preferences, that might mean:

And here's the number one question to answer when you're choosing: ""Could I happily live this way for the rest of my life" with the most important word there being, "happily."

As for the food pyramid? It depends on your goals, says Dr. Freedhoff. "The USDA pyramid isn't designed for weight management, though if following it led a person to control calories, it'd work just fine."

But if you are trying to control diabetes, he explains: "The desired outcome is glycemic control, and again, if the USDA's plate does it for a person, bully for them, but there are many different dietary strategies including low/lower carb that the pyramid would eschew." Read about a new study showing that low carb diets trump low fat plans for diabetes by clicking here.