When it comes to weight loss diet, there is no shortage of advice. Check any magazine rack or bookstore, and you are bound to discover that latest and greatest cure for being overweight. Some even work for a while. Unfortunately, people often find diets hard to sustain, in part because they tire of avoiding certain foods, loading up on others, or feeling deprived and hungry. And their diet is often temporary, something to endure for a while before returning to former ways. As a result, any lost pounds come right back once the diet stops.

Here is a summary of six common weight-loss strategies, and the questions to ask yourself to determine if any of them will help you make the lifestyle changes required to maintain a healthy weight.

Low-fat diets
Cutting down on high-fat foods can help you cut down on your daily calories and thus help you lose weight. So why do not low-fat diets always work? Even a low-fat diet can lead to weight gain when people ignore the total amount of calories they are eating and regularly exceed their daily calorie goals. Too many calories from any source, low-fat foods included, can add pounds.

Low-carb diets
Followers of these eating plans believe that a decrease in carbs results in lower insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy. Initially, when you follow a low-carb diet you may lose more weight than if you followed a low-fat, low-calorie diet. However, this advantage slowly decreases after the first six months. After one year, the amount of weight loss is about the same between the two diets.

A low-carb diet does not appear to be any easier to maintain than are other diets. Studies comparing low-carb diets and low-fat diets have found that after a year, people drop out of both diets at similar rates. This suggests that the low-carb diet, like so many diets, is no easier to stick to long term. Well-known low-carb diets include the Atkins diet, Zone diet and Protein Power.

Glycemic-index dietsweekly diet plan
The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effects on blood sugar. Similar to the theory behind low-carb diets, most low-glycemic-index diets claim that lowering blood sugar levels leads to weight loss. You may have difficulty following a diet that emphasises only foods with a low-glycemic-index ranking. Many factors other than food influence your blood sugar level, including your age and weight, the type of food preparation, and the portion size. The South Beach diet is an example of a low-glycemic-index diet.

Meal replacements
Some meals provide less calories, but are nutritionally complete. You replace one or two meals a day, such as breakfast and lunch, with a low-calorie shake or meal bar. Then you eat a healthy third meal, between 600 and 700 calories, of your own choosing. Meal replacements  if used as directed  can be as effective as other weight-loss diets.

Meal providers
Some people have a difficult time knowing what they are supposed to eat. Busy schedules leave little time for meal preparation. In such cases, relying on ready-made meals eaten at home may deserve consideration. These services can be expensive.

Group approaches
You do not have to lose weight alone. Group programmes can support your efforts, giving you eating plans, exercise recommendations and support from others on the same dietary path. After joining, expect regular weigh-ins, group meetings and activity sessions.

Does the plan fit your needs?
How do you know if a weight-loss plan fits your needs and lifestyle? Ask yourself these questions. Does the programme:

* Include various foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains (particularly whole grains), low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, beans and other legumes), nuts and seeds?

* Include foods you like and that you would enjoy eating for a lifetime � not just for several weeks or months?

* Feature foods you can easily find in your local grocery store?

* Allow you to eat your favorite foods, or better yet, all foods?

* Fit your lifestyle and budget?

* Include proper amounts of nutrients and calories to help you lose weight safely and effectively?

* Encourage regular physical activity?

If you answer no to any of these questions, the weight-loss programme is not right for you, as you probably will not stay with it. Successful weight loss requires permanent changes to your eating and physical activity habits. This means you need to find a weight-loss strategy that you can embrace for life. By Dr Tareq Salahuddin