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It depends on where the person is starting, as many of us can improve. The diet has to fit with their lifestyle and budget. Some are doing better if they cut out the 2-liter bottle of Coke every day, and they can work on other things later. Others eat a traditional ethnic diet, and can lose weight if they eat no snacks, no seconds, only fruit for dessert unless it's a special occasion, and exercise more.

In general, I recommend: exercise more, eat less, decrease fat, increase fruits and vegetables, decrease processed foods, and drink little to no alcohol. For some people, several small meals work better. For others, no snacks except fruit or vegetables, no seconds, and dessert only on special occasions (unless fruit) seems to work better. For those who eat where they work or eat out a lot, and clean their plate, I recommend balancing their diet over a day, so that if they eat a lot of meat and starch at one meal, they just eat salad and vegetables at the next meal.

When people who eat a lot of fast or unhealthy food ask me for the name of a specific diet, I often say ADA diet ( partly because there is information readily available where I work. For many Americans, a diabetic diet is a healthy and realistic place to start. The ADA diet also makes people look at portion size. I refer people to a dietician. I try to get people to figure out what their "triggers" to eat are, and work on healthy alternatives.

For those doing well with their diet, but wanting to do even better, I recommend more whole grains, more soy, more fruits and vegetables (especially cruciferous), etc. For those with family history of heart disease, I recommend Ornish diet (a variation of old Pritikin). This is a relatively healthy vegetarian diet the last time I looked at it.

Often you have to figure out how to decrease calories without making people feel deprived. Some are helped if they can fill up with fruits and vegetables. Some do better if they can figure out what the smallest amount of their downfall is, and make a special exercise trip to go get it (ie 5 Hershey's kisses per day or whatever). Many people do better if they can keep sweets, chips and sodas out of the house, and have an alternative (fruit) when cravings start at work.

I try to also give positive reinforcement and set realistic goals like one pound per month. Many of us would do well to lose 12 pounds a year. Usually people gain weight slowly, and it's actually healthiest to lose it slowly, too.
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